The Better Business Bureau has issued a new warning about a wire-transfer fraud that scammers have apparently disguised as a mystery shopping job.
A company calling itself Translucent Shoppers turns out to be just as invisible to U.S. and consumer protection officials as it’s supposed to be to the companies that would-be employees would test, the BBB said.
Translucent Shoppers’ listed brick-and-mortar address in Portland, Maine doesn’t exist, the U.S. Postal Service told the BBB, and its phone numbers are in Canada.
Translucent Shoppers offers jobs via classified and online postings, the BBB said. The company supposedly seeks secret shoppers who would be paid by businesses to evaluate their staff and customer service.
But to the BBB, it looks like a scam — and a common one at that — meant to fool the victim into thinking they’re evaluating a money transfer service.
In a statement about Translucent Shoppers’ alleged set-up, Paula Fleming, vice president of the BBB in Boston, said: “These fraudulent businesses will send the victim an authentic looking check in the mail, telling them to deposit it into their personal banking account.”
The check is typically for a few thousand dollars. From there, Fleming told The Consumer Chronicle: “The consumer is to call to activate the check and the deposit it. It takes about two days to process the check.”
Within that two-day window, according to Fleming, the consumer is then instructed to withdraw most of the deposited money and send it by, say, Western Union to Translucent. The would-be mystery shopper is told they can keep a few hundred as payment, and sometimes a smaller amount — such as $70 — can be retained toward their next assignment.
Fleming explained, however, that “once the money is sent via Western Union it is gone and the consumer is responsible for the funds from the bad check.”
That is, the victim’s bank will want to collect on the check once it bounces.
The Better Business Bureau hopes it has gotten the word out quickly enough to preempt any consumer losses. As of May 13, there had been no complaints to their offices in connection with Translucent Shoppers.
In general, the BBB offers some tips to prevent being taken by wire-transfer schemes:
- Any scenario that involves a business sending you a check to be used for wiring money is suspect. Be wary of these proposals.
- Legitimate mystery shopping businesses will not require any kind of up-front fee.
- Individuals interested in mystery shopping should contact the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at mysteryshop.org
If you think you’ve been the victim of this or any other scam, contact your local attorney general, and reach out to a regional office of the Better Business Bureau via their main website.