Secret Shopper Scam Gets a Local Business Angle

May 02, 2014

This secret shopper scam is preying on businesses and job seekers alike. Using the names of local companies and their bank account numbers, scammers issue fake checks to "secret shoppers," who are encouraged to deposit the checks and wire back the money.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email informing you that you've been offered a job as a secret shopper. To get started, the message instructs you to reply and confirm your mailing address. After doing this, you will receive instructions and a check to cover your fee and shopping expenses.

When your check arrives, you notice it uses the name of a real local business. And it may even have the company's account and routing numbers. Your instructions tell you to deposit the check, subtract your fee and shopping expenses and wire the rest back... but don't do it. The check looks real, but it's a fake. Scammers often intercept real checks from businesses and "wash" them to use in scams like these.

If you deposit the check and draw money against it, you will be responsible for those funds. When the bank rejects the fake check, they will delete the advanced funds from your account.

Tips for Businesses:

Don't become a victim of a check scam. Here are some tips for working with checks.  
    • Monitor your accounts payable. If too much time goes by and one of your checks does not clear, stop payment on the check and send out another one to the payee.
    • Use tamper resistant checks. Checks with security features make it harder for crooks who may intercept them to counterfeit or alter them.
    • Keep track of new check orders. If you order checks and they don't arrive, be sure to notify your bank/check provider. They may have been stolen. 
    • Keep checks secured. Keep reserve supplies of checks, deposit slips and other banking documents locked up. Limit the number of people who can access them.
    • Put your sensitive or banking info away. Don't leave checks or other bank records unattended while you serve customers. Someone might take them while you aren't looking.

For More Information

Check out our recent coverage of check scams and fake job postings for more tips. To find out more about scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.