Friday, November 18, 2005

Secret Shoppers Scammed

I'm sure we've all seen advertisements on how you can make a lot of money, get free merchandise and meals and even take cruises as a "Secret Shopper." We've also seen numerous services (questionable) that will sell you information on how to do it.

Although, there are numerous companies, who do this for legitimate businesses, very few people make much money by being a secret shopper. So far as the services selling you a package to do it, I would recommend that you stay away from them. Quite simply, they aren't necessary and you are probably paying for something that you could have got for free. All one needs to do is look up the companies, (Secret Shopper) online and apply directly to the company.

On a much scarier note, I read a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune that "Secret Shopping" is the latest ploy to attract victims into Advance fee fraud (419 scams).

Here is how this latest scam works as reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

"John McCullough, business coordinator for the Financial Crimes Task Force, said the perpetrators ran an ad in the Star Tribune classified section last month luring readers with an offer to be "Secret Shoppers" for "$100/hr. guaranteed" and "no experience necessary."

People who responded to the ad were sent a letter congratulating them on being selected and instructing them to cash a $2,830 check at their bank or other institution, to keep $200 for themselves, and to send most of the rest to the Canadian address. The check-cashing task is described in the letter as an "assignment" to "evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of a payment system called 'Moneygram' which is available at all Wal-Mart (sic)."

Moneygram and Western Union offer wire transfer services, which aren't insured by the FDIC. In many advance fee scams, the ploy is to get someone else to cash a fraudulent instrument and wire the money (normally overseas) before the instrument is discovered as a fraud.

"The letterhead is topped with the Web address (secretshopper.ca) of an apparently legitimate operation in Canada that employs people to shop and evaluate retail establishments. Other legitimate operations include secretshoppercompany.com in Gainesville, Ga., and secretshopper.com in Minneapolis."

As I am constantly saying, Advance Fee is a continuously mutating animal. The Secret Shopper twist is new and if history proves correct, we will see this version of the scam travel quickly in the borderless environment of the internet.

Some good advice from the article is, "beware of checks made out for more than the selling price of an advertised item, checks delivered via overnight delivery service, checks drawn on an account in a name that is different from the person buying the item, and instructions to wire money to a large U.S. city or to another country such as Canada, England or Nigeria.

Other things to watch for are payment of a "commission" for facilitating money transfers through personal accounts, and e-mails requesting the receiver to "confirm, update or provide" personal banking account information."

Note that people, who fall victims to these scams are normally held financially responsible. In some instances, some of them have even been arrested for attempting to pass fraudulent financial instruments.

Should you suspect you are being solicited on any internet scam, the best thing to do is to report it to the authorities. There are numerous links throughout this blog and in my "links" on how to do so!

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

just watched the people's court where a guy lost 800.00. same scam-go to wal-mart and get a moneygram.
he cashed check at a check cashing
place that knew him and he had used
them before. The check was found to
be counterfeit and the guy was out the dough. he lost the case to the
check cashing place because it was
a fraud. it was secretshopper.ca.
the "ca" should have been a red flag!

Anonymous said...

I was just scammed out of 7 thousand dollars... the bank said there was nothing they could do, that I am held liable. It was the same... secretshoppers.ca . A moneygram via Walmart

prying1 said...

Thanks for the heads up on this Ted. - I'll try to spread the word.

Anonymous said...

What makes me mad about this is that I took a check to my bank and deposited it, they put a 5 day hold on the check. Then I got on this website and noticed that the check was a fraud, so I called the bank and told them to cancel depositing the check, the lady said that when I brought the check up there she knew it was a fraud because of another person that banks there was scammed, she said she did not tell me because she did not think she could. This tells me the bank wanted to make money off of more people.

Anonymous said...

My friends kid nealry fell victim, today. He answered an an online job offer from canada, to become a secret shopper.

Not clear on the entire scam, the dad just asked me if i thought it sounded fishy and shared a few omgoing details.
Apparently the "shopping" involved depositing a $3,400 check, and sending a large part back, he was to keep something like $250.
Nice little profit... huh?
Initially, it sounded like a way to cash checks, printed from an account, where the details had been duplicated from an ID theft. I thought the point was to insulate the ID theft scammer from cashing phoney checks at first, But if seems like it's a prepay scam after reading details.

Apparently the check is completley bogus and it will bounce, after some time has passed. It appears that the prepetrator has taken advantage of transaction reporting timings, so the kid still doesn't know that the check is bad even after a few days.
Glad he called me. Problem is, I let him use my calling card PIN to talk to Canada for cheap, since he thought it might be a long call to interview with some company. Paying for job interview calls was all I thought was happening last week... jeez!

The kid did notice something wierd, that scam operator did talk to him a couple of times and gave hime a phone number which would connected to someone else.
The person recieving the calls from the kid said, he suddenly started getting a lot of wrong numbers for the person (the scammer).

Anonymous said...

I narrowly escaped being a victim to this very same scam. My wife received a letter from Secret Shoppers who got her contact info from a job hunting website. They were supposed to send her written info only on home based businesses. Instead they sent a check for $3450 with this secret shopper assignment of going to moneygram at Walmart. Same scenario. Deposit the check in your bank. Within 48 hours, wire $3035 to a fake relative in Canada. Pay $115 for the wire fee, and keep $300 for ourselves. I even called the number listed on the front of the check to verify that the check was legit. That company is a fraud too! I initially deposited the money thru the ATM. The whole thing just didnt feel right, so I got online the next morning at work and discovered its a scam. I was thankfully able to retrieve the check before it was deposited!

Anonymous said...

Got a check today for $2795. I thought it seemed odd and did a little research. I called the bank and there was an answering machine. Called he 800 and someone answered at 10pm at night. They were going to payme $450 and I could shop at the gap and wal-mart and keep the merchandise. However, I was to wire the remaning $2100 that they would give me the wire info to once I called them back and let them know the check was cashed. Companys name is Shopping Group Inc and they state the head of Human Resouces is Susan Hutchins. Thank God my husband made me think it through.

Broke at Christmas time! said...

I recieved a secret shopper letter from Vancouver, BC. In this letter contained a cashiers check for 4770.00. It was for a secret shopper company called MysteryShop Inc. I sadly enough didn't do my research. My two big jobs were to wire money Western Union and Money Gram. The guy I talked to went by the name Jason Wills. I was given instruction to wire this money to Canada. I had not heard anything of these scams. I did all the jobs I was supposed to do, to find out three days later that the check was counterfeit. My bank froze my account and even the money that I already had in there they took from me. Now I am flat broke with three people to support. Please don't let this happen to you!

Broke at Christmas time! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marlon Crutchfield said...

Well Merry Christmas!
I too was scammed out of over $4000.00 from this Jason Wills. I'm more upset with myself I didn't do enough research. If I had spent more time researching this wouldn't have happened to us. We've got our son's birthday on the 22nd then Christmas on Monday. We've got no money for either of these events. We're also flat broke. DON'T let this happen to you. I hope Jason Wills or whatever this guy's name is rots in hell. Hell was made for people like this. Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

Me too. Jason Wills pulled the same sceme on me.

armac said...

2/4/2007

I have seen 4 secret shopper's checks in the last week. The scam is starting up again beware. All the letters inform you to shop at The Gap and Wal Mart and wire the remaining money to Canada........BEWARE.


The checks have an 800 or 888 number on them for contacting the bank, the scammers answer that telephone and conirm the check is good. Look up the number for any bank on the internet, do not call the numbers preprinted on the check. That is part of the scam.

Ed Dickson said...

If anyone has specifics - I'm always up to doing an updated post on them.

Write me at EdwardDickson@sbcglobal.net

Anonymous said...

MEMPHIS ALMOST SCAMNED
I applied for shoppers job because I knew someone who was a shopper and all of her jobs were ligit. This morning I received an overnight pk with a check for 980.00 and a letter. Excited I could not wait to read the detail of my assignment. As I read it aloud it seemed too good to be true, but my commission sound even better for nothing. But what got my attention was the part of the letter that said send it to MY RELATIVE whom had almost the same last name with a misspell. I read it to my mother and she(Lt. at Correctional Institute)knew it was a scam and told me to research it. I read through many sites but none over-rode my hunger for the 120.00 I was going to get for such a small task,if she was wrong. Then just as I was about to say there isn't anything specific enough or I found nothing...I found your site. My question now is what do I do with the check? Should I destroy it and if I do will they continue to contact me? Who Should I hand it over to? Anyway, Thanks for saving my ASSESTS.

Ed Dickson said...

You can report these to the FTC, or the FBI. I have links to do so on the main page. Doubtful any individual attention will be paid to the case, but you never know.

Anonymous said...

Almost Duped in California!
Thanks SO much for having this info available! I also sent for info to be a secret shopper and wasn't too surprised when I get a letter from the Secret Shopper. The envelope didn't say anything other then addressee and www.canadapost.ca stamp/postmark. The check inside was for $4,885.00. The letter asked me to call for more instructions and when I did, the lady couldn't or wouldn't answer my questions. It didn't sound right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. As soon as I mentioned that I had worked in law inforcement, she got real distracted til I finally hung up and found your web site. The money sounded real good! I feel for the people who get duped!
I also was supposed to send the $ to a relative of mine in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. The contact person I was to contact was named Evelyn Richards Tel # 1-204-962-7979. I too was to go to Wal-mart and send a money gram and eveluate them.
I also get a sheet about Code of Business Conduct and Ethics - imagine that!!!

KSHIPPYCHIC said...

I just got one the other day. Did my research (thank god) and decided to put up a post with photos of everything they sent me and the check too. You can see it here:

http://rebeccabridgesphotography.blogspot.com
/2007/06/if-it-seems-to-good-to-be-true.html

I am glad someone else has written about these very nasty scammers!

wvirginiamama said...

I can not believe whaty I am reading !! It is like all you out there had read the letter I got in the mail today !! The check was for 2850. I was to keep 300, and send the rest to a relative in Hamiliton Ontario Canada.Thank GOD I live in a SMALL town where everyone knows everyone.When I went to the bank the girls were telling me a lady brought the same thing in acouple days before and she was scammed! Why can't something be done about this? Thank God I didn't get mixed up with this! But what do I do with the check? Burn it?

wvirginiamama said...

By the wat, the guy I talked to said his name was Peter Joseph and the cashiers check had the name Linda Jenkins.The bank is Woodforest National Bank in The Woodlands Texas. Oh, the letter itself had the name Linda Flemmington.

Ed Dickson said...

I have a link to the Postal Inspectors on the side of the blog to report it. Otherwise burn it, shred it -- just don't cash it:)

Anonymous said...

I can't remmember where I called to ask information about a job offer, regarding a clerical position , they told me that they would send a packed with the information needed. Well I recieved a letter congratulating me as a regional representative, the letter stated to call 1-778-319-0757 as soon as recieve the package to validate the check evrything sounded sweet, legit with their fancy CODE OF BUSINESS CONDUCT AND ETHICS. On behalf of Secret Shoppers Inc. well I did fall for the scam; I contacted the 778 number I spoke with a Peter joseph. he gave me a 1-866-495-3693 number to verify the funds thru woodforest national bank, some guy picked up gave him the ck# verify everything, ok. the cashier's check had a different phone # 877-???, when I called it to verify the funds it din't got thru...The letter stated that I had a probation period of 48 hrs. which they sent me a check for the amount of 2,850.00, 300.00 for my 2 hr. evaluation training, 2495.00 which the funds would be wire via money gram at any wal-mart. The money gram was going to be sent to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. HAVE FUN!HAVE FUN!HAVE FUN! Well I did I couln't cash the check, so I had to deposit it to my account. Funds were available right away, but I decided to wait 2 days i told "Peter" it would take 2-5 days to clear. The check is on hold. I didn't take any funds out from the bank. Then it started to look fishy, so I did my research, theres no trade name, no website, so I typed the name Linda Flemmington, which is in the letter they sent me. And the rest is in this blog. I hope this could help anyone. By the way other numbers, are 1-250-884-3576; 1-248-293-2892; 1-604-338-1597; 1-248-293-2898 340 50 Ave s e, Vancover, BC T2G2B1 340 50 ave s e Calgary, AB t2g2b1. The Check was written by; Linda Jenkins, Payee; Sarah Lavender.I WILL REPORT THIS TO THE AUTHORITY'S....

Anonymous said...

I feel so stupid, but damn, everything (Anonymous said...) is what happen to me. OMG! Peter joseph here is another phone numbers/ 1(250)884-3576 fax 1(248) 293-2898 1(604)338-1597 1(248)293-2898

Jay said...

NEW Scam Info: "SECRET SHOPPER" CHECK via US Mail

Company: PC INC. Marketing
Address: 68 West 21st Street NYC
Phone: 705-770-2364 CANADA #
Check: Amt $2,920.00 issued by STATE STREET Boston MA
Scam Contact Name: Tiffany Weston HR Mgr
Melissa Boyer: "Assignment Coordinator"

Cover letter states the usual (Funds to shop; Funds for Svc Fee; Funds to keep; Funds to transfer via WESTERNUNION)
Check looks very viable but thanks to sites like these, knew it was FRAUD. Watch out for this latest name of FRAUDULENT COMPANY. Wish everyone had the internet to research.
* Called them just to see what was up and some "fast talking hard to hear" kid suddenly realized I was asking too many questions and he hung up on me. Reported to US POSTAL SVC MAIL FRAUD as it came this way with ONTARIO CANADA Postmark. THAT SHOULD BE YOUR FIRST CLUE!!

So P.C. INC. MARKETING is a secret shopper/mystery shopper/Customer Service Evaluator FRAUD.

So sorry to all those who fell for one of them. Don't feel terrible...they really DO look like authentic checks!!!! You are not gullible or stupid, you are just a decent person who assumes that other people are as well. You have to BE a Creep to THINK like one ... so cut yourself a big break.
Jay in Saratoga Springs, NY

p.s. They get your name from signing up for email solicitations for SECRET SHOPPERS, etc. so delete the SPAM!

Anonymous said...

LIVING IN A SMALL TOWN IN FLA WHERE A JOB IS HARD TO COME BY, I RESPONDED TO A ADD IN THE PAPER FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE. IT ASK YOU TO LEAVE YOUR INFO AND THEY WILL CONTACT YOU. WELL A FEW DAYS LATER I RECIEVED A LETTER IN THE MAIL WITH NO RETURN ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOPE. I OPENED IT AND IT WAS THE SAME THING ALL OF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. SOME YEARS BACK MY MOTHER HAD DONE SECRET SHOPPING AND WAS PAID WELL FOR IT SO I WAS HAPPY TO GET STARTED. WELL I CALLED THE NUMBER THAT WAS ON THE LETTER AND SPOKE TO A PETER JOSEPH. WHEN HE ANSWERED THE PHONE HE PROCEEDED TO TELL ME TO GO TO MY BANK IN THE MORNING AND CASH THE CHECK THEN CALL HIM BACK AND AT THAT TIME HE WOULD GIVE ME MORE INFO. I TRIED TO ASK MORE INFORMATION BUT HE SAID HE WOULD GIVE ME ALL OF THAT WHEN I PASS THE TRAINING. SO I TOLD MY MOM WHAT HAPPENED BUT AS I WAS SPEAKING TO HER I REALIZED ALL THEY HAD WAS MY NAME NO ID NO SS# NOTHING BUT A NAME AND A ADDRESS. BUT THEY WAS ABLE TO SEND ME A CHECK FOR 2850.00. WHAT DID NOT SIT RIGHT EVEN MORE IS HE ANSWERED THE PHONE MINS TO 11PM AT NIGHT. WELL A MONTH WENT BY AND I DID NOT CASH THE CHECK. THEN I LOST MY JOB SO NOW I AM LIKE THAT SECRET SHOPPER JOB WILL COME IN REAL HANDY. I CALLED THE SAME NUMBER AND THAT PETER GUY ANSWERS THE PHONE AGAIN. I TELL HIM I HAD NOT HAD THE TIME TO DO IT BUT HAVE AN OPEN SCHEDULE NOW AND IT'S LIKE HE JUST WENT RIGHT INTO SCRIPT SAYING THE EXACT SAME THING AS BEFORE. TELLING ME TO HOLD WHILE HE RELEASE THE CHECK. THIS TIME I TELL MY COUSIN IT DOES NOT FEEL RIGHT I GOOGLE THE NAME LINDA FLEMMINGTON AND THIS PAGE POPS UP. I AM SO HAPPY THAT THIS WAS HERE CAUSE TOMORROW I WOULD HAVE BEEN ANOTHER VICTIM. WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS? BEWARE OF THINGS LIKE THIS. PETER JOSEPH... LINDA FLEMMINGTON... LINDA JENKINS... I EVEN GOOGLED THE NUMBER ON THE CHECK AND FRUAD POPPED UP.866 495 3693.... PETER JOSEPH NUMBER 514 581 7620.... THE NUMBER ON THE LETTER WAS DISCONNECTED 250 884 3576.. BE CAREFULL. ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE A FAMILY AND CANT AFFORD TO PAY THIS MONEY BACK.

Anonymous said...

BY THE WAY I RECIEVED THIS LETTER IN FEB OF 2008. I SEE THINGS GOING BAC TO NOV OF 2005 BY THE SAME PPL. SO THEY HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO THIS FOR AWHILE AND GET AWAY WITH IT. THAT SCARES ME.

Anonymous said...

i just received a letter today from US Mystery Shoppers in San Antonio, TX. same scam as mentioned about: despost the check and wire X amount. Thanks for the warning, glad I looked it up first.

Anonymous said...

I feel so sorry for those people who got scammed. But when you get the fake check, and get to know what they want you to do. Can't you think about if there is any way they can make money from this way if this is true. Just pay you money to wire the money, why for? Too good to be true, can't be true. Just belive that.

Anonymous said...

ok i was in receipt of this same chack but the guys name was Peter. I called the woodforest national bank and faxed the information to them and found out it was an invalid check. I AM GLAD I DID NOT MAKE A FOOL OUT OF MYSELF BEFORE I CHECKED IT OUT. IF YOU GET THIS INFO FAX IT TO THE BANK AND THEN GIVE IT TO THE POLICE!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I wasnt one of the lucky ones, i fell for one of thes dumb scams sounded good at the time. I didnt even bother looking it up first, i did it and then looked it up and found all this. i got a check of 2800 put it in my account and then had to do a money gram to someone in canada, i did it for 2100! so i thought o yeah i get to keep 650 but turns out i owe the bank 2800 !!!!! dont get tricked like me i feel so dumb now

scammedinnc said...

I am the latest victim of this scam, and I need justice. It was the same "Secret Shoppers" as what I've read here. Linda Jenkins, Linda Flemmington, etc... Except the man I spoke to was simply named "Ray". I wish now that I had taken two minutes before I cashed and wired the money to check this company out instead of now, when it's too late. As soon as I found out what this was (when I got a letter from my bank telling me I owed them $2875), I called the local authorities, who took my info but referred me to the secret service, who in return referred me to my bank who had initially referred me to the local authorities. So my question is, does anybody know of anything I can do so I can eliminate this debt? I have no money to begin with; after I'm done paying my bills each week I barely have enough money to get groceries and gas, and the bank is telling me that if I don't pay them back, they will press criminal charges against ME, not the real criminals who just paid me $300 so that they could steal $2875.
How is it that these people have been doing this for so long and haven't gotten caught yet? I'm halfway tempted to sell everything I own to raise enough money to go to Canada and hunt these people down myself since apparently the government isn't doing anything. Maybe even, all of us victims can band together and start something, because if the authorities had enough people giving them the same info, they might do something. The hard thing is finding out what group of authorities to contact. I will keep researching this because I am in no way able to pay back the debt and don't want criminal charges for it either. I want justice!

Anonymous said...

Good thing i'm a skeptic when any type of checks come through the mail. My son just recieved a nice size check from secret shopper, I read the letter word for word then looked it up on the internet and found this website. Right now my daughter-in-law is taking the package to the police department. This is the second time the kids has been tried to be scammed! I'm glad there was this website to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I received 3 Money Gram Money Orders for $2,625.00 from a Walter Riley with Mystery Shoppers. He wanted me to wire $2,425.00 to a unknown party. Luckily I did my research and burned the bad checks before getting scammed!

Anonymous said...

Hello I was just almost scammed as well I was told to cash 3 money orders and keep a portion. I did cash them even sent the western union. I received a call from western union stating that they needed an ID# and address. The person to receive the money was Alex Payne I figured something was up and canceled the western union transaction and picked the money up. I have put the money in my account and I am waiting to here from my bank. I don't know if the money orders are legit or not but I am holding onto the money until I hear further from the bank. Something didn't seem right so I started typing in counterfeit money orders stumbled on this website and I am glad that I followed my gut. Something told me that it wasn't the right thing to do. I received a phone call also. I was told to send the money to Lagos, Nigeria. The company that sent the money orders was Superior Aledo Venture in New Bedford, MA. If this happens to you please don't cash the money orders. I did but canceled the western union payment so I almost was scammed.

Anonymous said...

received the info in the mail and started doing research for something that sounded too good to be true...

Red Flag#1: 3 different address (Canada, El Segundo, CA and Missouri).

Red Flag #2:Company address legit but the company that was there wasn't the same as a "mystery shopper"

Red Flag #3: Send Western Union money gram to London, England, UK but WHERE in London??? no specifics there...

Red Flag #4: same verbage as I saw on other posts... "to evaluate the effectiveness and efficienty of a payment system"

thank you to everyone who has their posts...

this one I received was for a fake company called
iSPACE Research Center. The letter head address was in Maryland Heights, Missouri but the address on the check was from El Segundo, CA and the postmark on the envelope was from Canada.

Watch out! If I hadn't done research, I could have easily fallen victim to this too! I'm shredding the check for $3380.00! and then educating my college age girls on this!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this website! I just received a letter today from "CS&P Technologies Marketing" with a check in the amount of $3,990.00. The letter instructed me to evaluate the services at any Western Union location, wiring $3,500 to Larry Astrologio in Brooklyn NY. The letter also said I could keep $250 for myself as "probation training pay for the first week." The remaining $240 was to be used for the Western Union service charge and for shopping at either KMart, Macy's, WalMart or JC Penney. I am so glad I did not fall for this scam. It is very sad that those of us who are jobless are being preyed upon by scammers! Life is already difficult enough without being taken advantage of by criminals!

Anonymous said...

If you've got a story about anything else on this site, you're a gullible idiot, plain and simple. How simple can one be to get caught up such nonsense? Grow a brain!

Anonymous said...

Thankfully, I read all this stuff. Thanks for the info. I posted an ad on craigslist, & a guy name 'Bill John' replied last night. He asked are you still looking for a job? I said yes, I am. He emailed me back & said well, right now we have openings as a 'mystery shopper'. I looked it up, this is a result of it.
I have a 2 month old daughter & I couldn't imagine going to jail over something like this. I wouldn't want to be separated from her either.
This is sad. I feel bad for the fallen victims.