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In San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California
Secret Shopper Job Scam Alert
The Home Depot Survey is not affiliated with The Home Depot Store
June 06, 2014

Oakland, CA --The Better Business Bureau warns consumers of a secret shopper job scam luring the would-be employed with easy work, high pay, and a check. 

Job seekers looking to make ends meet are responding to offers for employment as secret shoppers. All too often, unscrupulous promoters of job scams victimize job seekers. One such offer, which uses the name "The Home Depot Survey", but not to be confused with “The Home Depot”, uses the fake website URL of "www.homedepot/opinion.com" and the address of a Home Depot store location in Auburn, Calif.

According to respondents and our review of employment materials, job seekers are sent a cashiers check for some $1500 which includes advance pay of some $300. The scammer instructs the job seeker to activate their employment and evaluate the security and efficiency of various retailers by making purchases.  

One potential victim, who banks with the same institution where the cashiers check was drawn, visited their local branch, and confirmed that the “check” color they use is grey unlike the beige check received. The bank insisted that all branches use the same color and confirmed with the branch where the check was drawn also uses grey and not beige checks. Additionally, BBB confirmed that The Home Depot has no affiliation with the employment offer.

Job scams often attempt to legitimize themselves by using national brands and by involving the applicant in various activities. Eventually, the scammer asks the applicant to wire the balance of any unused funds to another country before realizing that the deposited cashiers check is worth pennies or nothing at all, leaving the victim with a “secret” surprise - an overdrawn account.  

There is no protection for consumers under these circumstances, if you deposit a bad check, you are responsible for it and for any funds paid from your account. These scams are pervasive.  According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Business and Job Opportunities in 2013 ranked 14th and Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams ranked 17th in terms of the number of cases reported by FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network.  FTC also has issued consumer information on mystery shopping at: 1.usa.gov/1pPMo6a 

Before giving out your private information, depositing a check, or wiring money related to a job offer consider:

  • Find A Trusted Provider. Do research at BBB.org, with trade associations, and online to verify the legitimacy of the offer.

  • Don’t Give Out Private Information. Be aware that any personal information you provide may be used for purposes you did not intend. Only give personal information to brands you can trust and be certain that the page is secure. On online, look for the https and the lock symbol in the URL window of your browser. For more information, read BBB shopping tips: go.bbb.org/1rILfBY  

  • Run An Internet Search. Review the agency’s location, credentials, and history.

  • Beware of False Branding. Verify the relationship of any brand used in connection with the job offer and the employer.

  • Don’t Pay for a Job. Employees receive pay for employment, not the other way around.  Do not wire money to any third party. The United States Postal Service issues a similar warning: 1.usa.gov/1o5UVCL

  • Fraud is Fraud. Don’t Get Caught Up. If you are asked to wire money to a third party, open an account and deposit money, or solicit people to engage in the same activity you could be perpetuating a fraud and be held accountable.

  • Report Suspicious Offers. If victimized or are in receipt of a suspect offer contact your local Better Business Bureau at BBB.org.

For more advice on how to protect your identity or to find BBB Business Reviews of businesses or charities, call (866) 411-2221 or go online to www.bbb.org

Contacts (News Media Only): Lori Wilson, CEO at 510-844-2020 or email lori@bbbemail.org.

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