Pine Cone Research

**9/8/13- Update

 This blog continues to receive a lot of comments from people receiving emails and some that have even lost money.  I wanted to give a little background and more advice on what you should do if you receive one of these emails.

 First off, you are not alone in spoofing; tons of these emails appear in in-boxes every day.  A vast majority of people simply delete them, which is probably the best approach to take.  Spoofing is the act of using a fake email header or IP address to fool you into thinking it is real.  These emails spoof real entities, such as BBB, the FBI, the FTC, banks and other businesses.

The reason legitimate entities are spoofed is because they are well known and trusted.  Often times these spammers are trying to get you to click on a link or open an attachment which will launch malware onto your computer.  Other times they will want you to give personal information such as social security numbers, bank account information or want you to wire money.  These are all RED flags.

 For any email that you suspect may be a phishing scam:

  • Do NOT click on any links or attachments.
  • Read the email carefully for signs that it may be fake (for example, misspellings, grammar, generic greetings such as “Dear member” instead of a name, etc.).
  • Be wary of any urgent instructions to take specified action such as “Click on the link or your account will be closed.”
  • Hover your mouse over links without clicking to see if the address is truly from the sender. The URL in the text should match the URL that your mouse detects. If the two do not match, it is most likely a scam.
  • Delete the email from your computer completely (be sure to empty your “trash can” or “recycling bin,” as well).
  • Run anti-virus software updates frequently and do a full system scan.
  • Keep a close eye on your bank statements for any unexpected or unexplained transactions.

If you have lost money as a result of this scam, contact the following agencies:


Original blog post: 8/13/2012

BBB is issuing a warning about a business, posing as PineCone Research Panel, to fraudulently conduct a mystery shopping check cashing scam.  Consumers receive a counterfeit check and are advised to cash it.  Once cashed, consumers are then asked to secretly shop a money transfer business by wiring funds to unknown individuals.  Consumers who have been scammed have reported losing as much as $3,060.

BBB warns consumers to be suspicious of anyone that asks you to cash a check and wire funds. In these scenarios the check is likely counterfeit and will eventually bounce. The consumer who cashes the check will be held responsible for any money lost in the transaction, plus any additional fees imposed by their bank.

BBB is unable to determine the person(s) responsible for this scam.  The name, PineCone Research Panel, belongs to an actual company doing business in Cincinnati, OH.  However, PineCone Research Panel of Cincinnati, OH is not affiliated with the person(s) perpetrating this scam and has issued their own notice.

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About Christine Hayley

I started with BBB|Cincinnati in 1997 as a Co-Op. Today I am the Dispute Resolution Director.