Sweetwater Co. Sheriff’s Office warns public about ‘Secret Shopper’ scam
Counterfeit check of the sort being circulated around Sweetwater County as part of the recent "Secret Shopper" scam. The would-be victim’s name has been redacted. Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office.
by Sweetwater County Sheriffs’ Office media release
December 27, 2013
ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING - The Sweetwater County Sheriffs’ Office today (Friday, Dec. 27) issued an alert on a swindle being circulated by mail.
"It’s one version of what’s commonly called the ‘Secret Shopper’ scam," Sheriff Rich Haskell said.
Haskell explained that county residents have been receiving letters informing them they have been hired to participate in a "paid Mystery Shoppers Program," working "as a Consumer Service Evaluator." Enclosed with the letter is what appears to be a legitimate check made out to the addressee, usually for $1,387.40.
"The check is counterfeit," Haskell said. "The victim is advised to contact a so-called company ‘Account Manager,’ who will provide instructions on depositing it. Once the bogus check is deposited, the victim is usually then directed to buy a Moneygram for, most often, $855, to be sent to an individual in Atlanta, Georgia; ostensibly to "evaluate" the competence of the store where the Moneygram is purchased. The victim is also advised to "take out his or her salary," which is supposed to be $400.
The Moneygram is where the sting kicks in, because once it’s purchased and sent, the funds are picked up at the other end and disappear.
Another variation is to charge the victim "training" and "processing" fees for what appears on the surface to be an easy, lucrative, part-time job.
"In any event, the victim is out every nickel spent," Haskell said.
Haskell advised that while legitimate customer research operations exist, there are a number of ways to avoid falling victim to swindlers:
Never wire money to strangers or firms that have supposedly hired you. Wiring money is basically the same as sending cash - once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Don’t pay a "secret shopper" company or firm to hire you, even if the payment is supposedly for "registration," "certification," or "processing." If such payment is required, it’s most likely a scam.
Watch for clumsy or incorrect grammar or spelling in solicitation letters.
Don’t be tricked by official-sounding company or firm names. Swindlers often use names and/or website addresses that are very similar to those of legitimate businesses in order to make themselves seem legitimate.