Mystery Shopper and Fake Checks
There is a scam out there that combines two classic scams of "mystery shopper" and processing "fake checks." To start off this does not mean that all mystery shopper employment opportunities you see are scams or that there is not any legitimate work at home opportunities available. Many retail companies do employ mystery / secret shoppers. They need to for quality control of their stores but also to see what their competition is doing to stay competitive. As usual there are scammers out there who are finding a new twist to make some dishonest money.
Here is how the scam works. The soon to be victim receives an email or responses to an ad they see to apply for a position as a mystery shopper. The person who has applied to the position is required to submit a resume and there is also the impression given that a significant back ground screening conduced, sometimes with references actually being checked by the scammer. This adds to the appearance of legitimacy to the soon to be victim.
Once the person is "hired" for the position that they receive a check (fake) and very detailed guidelines to shop at specific retail locations, for a certain amount of time, purchase certain items, etc … they also receive instructions and training on what to note about the store (environment, colors, special items, employees' appearance and more). The victim then has to report this all back to the scammer who is still thought to be a legitimate employer.
This is where they get you. One part of the evaluation of the retail site is the ease of being able to wire money from the location. The money that is to be used for the wire is from the check the victim received minus what was spent on purchasing products and the applicants pay.
Now when the bank finds out that the check the victim used to buy the retail items and wire the money is fake the victim is liable for all the money and the fees that are incurred.
The other variation on this Mystery Shopper / Fake Checks hybrid scam is that that they ask for all your banking information so they can deposit the money directly into your bank account. Of course they now have all the information needed to completely clear all the money out of your bank account.
Here are the simplest ways to avoid this scam. But extremely these are good general rules to avoid 99% of scams online.
Do not respond to spam email. No, you did not win $ 1,000,000 lot in France that you did not even know you entered. Why would a Barista in Haiti contact you to help him get his 42 million dollar inheritance?
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Whether it be fake checks or other scams, most can be avoided if just some common sense is applied.
No legitimate company will pay you with a check then have you subtract the operating costs and your pay, then wire them back the remaining money. Real Mystery Shopper programs send you gift cards to the specific retail locations that they want to shop and then pay you with a check after they receive their required documentation from you when you complete the assignment.
In these tight financial times more people are looking to make a little extra money now more than ever. The scammers know this and take advantage of it. By protecting yourself with information and a little common sense you can avoid these scams.