A mystery shopper scam has stolen money from thousands of people across the country--but experts say the red flags can be easily spotted.
When money orders--some for hundreds of dollars--arrived in the mail, some of the victims thought it was their lucky day.
But the money orders were all part of a nationwide mystery shopper scam.
"Often times they (the victims) look at it as a viable way of working without leaving the home and make money," said Mark Viggiano, U.S. Postal Inspector. "And the way it's sent to them, it's very appealing. All they have to do is go to the store."
Con artists send money orders or checks to victims they lure in online.
"Anytime you're receiving checks or money orders in the mail, red flags should go up," said Viggiano.
The victims deposit the money order, do some shopping as instructed, complete a survey and then send back a portion of the money deposited.
The problem: the money orders or checks are fraudulent, and victims are responsible for all of the money deposited.
"I haven't seen one of these things where someone actually makes money," said Viggiano.
Postal inspectors say there are ways to determine if a money order is fake.
"If you look at it, it has a Benjamin Franklin watermark. If you put it up to the light you can see that," said Viggiano. "If you hold them up to the light, that is how you see it. If you put the money on the ground and Benjamin Franklin is looking back at you, it's fraudulent."
Postal inspectors say "work at home" offers, like mystery shopping, have become more prevalent, but they are rarely legitimate.
If you feel you've been taken by one of these, report it to local authorities. If it comes in the mail and you suspect it's fraudulent, contact postal inspectors by clicking this link: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ or by calling 877-876-2455.