Beware of Secret Shopper Scams During the Holiday Season - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Beware of Secret Shopper Scams During the Holiday Season

Updated:

It's the season for shopping, but you'll want to be wary of offers to earn money to act as a secret shopper.

Counterfeit money orders are at the heart of this scheme.  It starts with victims responding to a job ad that says "receive money orders like these in the mail - then go shopping."

"They would go to Wal-Mart, make purchases, rate their service they received at Wal-Mart, then they would go to Western Union and mail back the remaining money to the suspect," said David Nitz, U.S. Postal Inspector.

After following those instructions, the victims would get a surprise regarding the money orders they deposited into their bank accounts.

"(The money orders) were counterfeit and they would be in a situation of having to repay that to the bank," said Nitz.

Postal inspectors were tipped off to one recent case after customs intercepted a package containing $400,000 worth of counterfeit money orders.
 
"After making contact with this suspect who was receiving those, did a search of her home and found $300,000 worth of counterfeit money orders," said Nitz.

In this specific scheme, there were 750 victims and more than $300,000 in losses.

Inspectors say the scam is on the rise and targeting vulnerable victims.

"A lot of victims may be out of work and are already in financial distress. To get involved in something like this just compounds the problem," said Nitz.
 
"Don't get involved in something that was unsolicited. Somebody sends you money orders or checks and you don't personally know them or haven't been personally doing business with them you shouldn't be cashing those checks."

If you ever want to verify if a money order is real you can take it to a post office. Employees have been trained to detect counterfeits.

Also, contact the Better Business Bureau to check out any business that tries to solicit you.

Never send money back to anyone who sends you a check or money order unless you know exactly who they are and you're certain they are legitimate.

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