An old scam is making a strong comeback this month. The Better Business Bureau is warning that secret shopper offers are reappearing.
Citing at least two new reports of the scam, the Bureau is cautioning consumers to steer clear of employment pitches that purport to set up recipients a secret shoppers, but that first require the victim to wire part of a large check to some other place, supposedly to test the offering company’s “system.”
The scam’s target is typically told they can keep a few hundred dollars of the several-thousand-dollar draft — the amount supposedly to fund the secret shopping that they’ve been hired to do. Problem is, the check is a counterfeit and when it bounces, the victim is left with the responsibility for the overdraft and the discovery that there is no job — they’ve been duped.
“Secret shopping scams have been around for years,” said Charlotte, N.C., BBB President Tom Bartholomy, of the newest incidents, “but the scammers are now refining their techniques so that their job descriptions sound legitimate, and most of all, very attractive.”’
Recent tactics have included the naming of well-known job websites in the scam e-mail, as well as citing alleged news coverage about the “company” contacting the consumer. A client list may be given: such names as The Gap, Wal-Mart, and Western Union among the supposed roster.
The Better Business Bureau has provided some tips to help protect against secret-shopper scams:
- Give out no personal or financial information over e-mail or the phone. No social security numbers, no date of birth, nothing. That’s very seldom how a legitimate job application works.
- Never deposit someone else’s check, or wire money to a person or place you do not personally know and trust. If you receive a check in the mail, attached to such a request, assume it’s fraudulent.
- Look carefully at the language of the “offer.” Errors in the grammar and spelling of the offer, large and small, can be a tip that the e-mail originated from a country in which English is not the first language. Not all employers from non-English speaking countries are certain fakes, but the detail is common to scammers.
If you think that you’ve been tricked into a sham secret-shopper setup, contact your local attorney general. For more information, reach out to the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org.