The Secret Shopper Scam

The Secret Shopper ScamPin

Just When You Thought You Heard About Every Scam – Enter The Secret Shopper Scam

I call this one the “secret shopper scam”. Stores hire individuals to pose as a shopper to test employees knowledge of certain products or services, and also to see how a particular service is functioning.

It didn’t take long for scammers to figure out this could be a very profitable con. They simply revived a similar scam and adapted it to the secret shopper. The Federal Trade Commission has picked up on this and has reported a number of cases it is aware of lately.

This particular con begins in a very subtle way. You pick up your mail and find an important looking envelope, and when you open it, you see a check for several thousand dollars payable to you. A letter of instructions is enclosed and it states that you are being offered a job as a secret shopper.

It goes on to say that after you make just one trip to a local store they have selected, and make certain purchases, the balance of the check will be your commission. This amount is usually high enough so that you are anxious to start.

The letter instructs you to deposit the check at your bank, and as soon as it has cleared, to visit a certain store in your area, usually a Walmart. The teller at the bank tells you that the check should be cleared in a few days. Sure enough, you call your bank manager, and he tells you that it has cleared.

You are now hooked and head to the Walmart to earn this easy money. Your first assignment is to test the store’s money transfer system, which could be a Western Union or a MoneyGram outlet. You give the cashier the necessary transfer information per the letter and you have them charge your checking account where you deposited the check.

Your second assignment is to buy a reloadable bank card and a couple of gift cards. The letter instructs you to either make copies of the cards or to send them the numbers on each card that you purchased. That was the final purchase and you are amazed at your high commission for such little work.

Over the next couple of weeks, you’re thinking of things that you wanted to buy and suddenly, a horrible shock. Almost three weeks after you deposited that check, you get a call from your bank manager telling you that the check is a fake and is being returned and will be charged back to your account.

The bank manager tells you that unfortunately, the bottom line is that you personally are on the hook for the full amount of that check. You ask him that with all of the high tech systems in place, how could this happen? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is the secret shopper scam.

The fact of the matter is that banks are now required by law to make deposited checks available to draw against in a few short days. Con artists know this law and they also know that it can take three weeks or more to discover that a check is a fake. They work in that window to perform this scam.

A visit to the store where the first money transfer was made reveals that the money and the scammers are long gone. You show your gift cards to the store cashier and they too have been cleaned out.

There a couple of morals to this story. Firstly, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The second is no matter who sends you a check for you to deposit and then transfer money from it, you can bet your last dollar that it is a scam. Don’t fall for it. It may be the secret shopper scam.

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7 responses to “The Secret Shopper Scam”

  1. Jeez. These guys got no chill I tell you. My neighbor almost fell for the scam but was advised to wait for a while by her bank manager after she opened up to him about the suspicious nature of the letter’s request. It was found to be fake and she was really glad she didn’t fall into it. I think that law allowing banks to make deposited checks available to draw against in a few short days should be reviewed because more people would keep falling for this.

    • Damia, your neighbor was very fortunate and smart to let her bank manager know about the letter. Crooks have their fingers everywhere there is money to be made, and they don’t care who they steal from. Often times, its someone who really can’t afford it.

  2. Avatar of Kelvin Kelvin says:

    Man this is really not right. Scammers everywhere. I think they prey on the greed of most persons and just like you said when something is too good to true then it’s too good to be true. That’s the principle of which i live by. It would be very nice to broadcast this message of the secret shopper scam so that our unsuspecting older ones would be aware.

  3. Avatar of Joy Joy says:

    I swear scammers are everywhere. I like to think I would not fall for something like this, but who knows? Easier said than done. I wonder how many instances of this scam there are each year. I hope local and federal authorities are finding ways to protect the public and those most vulnerable to these offers.

    • Thanks for your comment Joy. Unfortunately, scammers are everywhere, and many from foreign countries. This particular scam hits young and old alike and preys on a chance for easy money.

  4. Avatar of Bill T. Bill T. says:

    These scams aren’t just happening in the USA either. We live just over the border in Canada and my parents got one of these letters with a check in it. My dad’s favorite saying is “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, so when he saw it, he stopped by his bank & showed it to the manager. They all agreed that it was a scam & turned the letter & check over to the authorities.

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