Every summer the BBB gets more inquiries on “work at home companies”. The BBB has been receiving an increased number of consumer inquiries regarding “Mystery Shopper” and “Mystery Consumer” opportunities; now this one has a twist.
Consumers report receiving a letter by mail stating, “We are pleased to invite you to participate in a paid consumer research project in your area as a Mystery Shopper". The letter mentions earning extra cash for secret shopper assignments at local businesses.
The letter instructs the recipient to deposit the enclosed check and use the funds to cover the first week’s shopping assignments. Specific instructions are provided on how to use the money and ultimately instruct the “shopper” to wire a portion of the money via Western Union.
The bogus “shopper” company mentions legitimate Acadiana companies’ in the letter.
The BBB cautions you:
-To be skeptical of anyone that sends you a check or money order and asks you to deposit it and wire transfer money in return.
-Never wire money to a stranger.
-The check you receive will be counterfeit and you will personally be out the money you wire to them.
Typical scenarios that you should use caution in if you encounter them include:
-You are selling something online and the buyer overpays you and asks you to wire transfer back the extra dollars.
-You receive a check and notification that you have won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes. You are asked to deposit it and wire transfer back a portion to cover taxes.
-Work at home offers that promise a percentage of the money if you deposit a money order and wire transfer the remaining percentage back.
-Someone in a chat room asks you as a favor to cash their check and wire transfer them the money.
In all these scenarios the check you receive is counterfeit and will be returned to your bank as unpaid. As a result the full amount you wired will be deducted from your account. You are fully responsible for the loss. An important fact to know is that the Bank is required by Federal law to make deposited funds available within 1-5 business days; however this does not necessarily mean the funds have cleared. It could take weeks (or months) before the check is discovered to be counterfeit. If the check is not funded and you spent the money; then you have to replace the money in the bank account covering the check that was never funded!
If you have received information by US mail and feel you have been a victim of this scam please contact the Postal Inspection Service office at 877-876-2455. You can also visit www.fakechecks.org. Never agree to deposit a check and wire transfer money back to anyone that you are not familiar with. Report all suspicious solicitations to the BBB and Postal authorities.