• Woodford Sun Staff Report

Watch out for mystery shopper scams

Recently, a local reader brought in a letter with a check enclosed that his aunt had received, encouraging her to become a mystery shopper/service evaluator. This is a scam. Below is information from the Better Business Bureau describing the scam: "You may have heard about people who are 'hired' to be mystery shoppers, and told that their first assignment is to evaluate a money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram. The shopper receives a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account, withdraw the amount in cash, and wire it to a third party. The check is a fake. "By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. It may seem that the check has cleared and that the money has posted to the account, but when the check turns out to be a fake, the person who deposited the check and wired the money will be responsible for paying back the bank. "It's never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don't know and then wire money back. "No legitimate mystery shopping company hires people by sending unsolicited offers by email or text or postal mail, and they would not send a check in a large amount to unknown persons. Many of these offers also indicate the 'shopper' can earn $300 to $400 (give or take) per assignment, which is also a red flag. Anyone who has done mystery shopping in the past will tell you the pay is not that lucrative. "Others get lured into the scam by going online searching for a 'work at home' job, such as secret shopping. The fake sites out there reel them in by emailing them back with details of this great 'job opportunity.' "We have also heard of mystery shopping scammers obtaining entire lists of emails for college students at local and state colleges and universities and offering these 'jobs.' College students who need money can easily fall for this chance. "For those victims who fall for this, there is usually no way to track down the people behind the scam, because they are generally overseas, and can only be contacted by email or have left false phone numbers, etc. This is why asking victims to wire money is so popular among con artists . because money transfers can be picked up just about anywhere quickly and are then untraceable. "Anyone wishing to check out any suspicious offers, or need other information, is urged to contact the BBB serving Central & Eastern Kentucky at (859) 259-1008 or log on to www.bbb.org/lexington."

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