2010-11-27 / News

Mystery shopper scam surfaces

COLUMBUS – BBB is warning Central Ohio Job seekers that a mystery shopping scam is actively soliciting victims. Minto Marketing, a fraudulent company located in Canada, claims to offer individuals the opportunity to earn extra money, as much as $200 by acting as mystery shoppers in various retail stores.

One young mother in Columbus desperate to earn additional money posted her resume on the internet. She received a check in the mail for $2,255.00 with instructions to deposit the funds before she started shopping. After keeping the portion of her money to purchase items at retail stores, she proceeded to wire the balance of the money to British Columbia, Canada. The check was fraudulent and returned to the bank and she must repay repay the bank for the funds she withdrew.

“I can’t believe I fell for this, I have a new baby and just really needed the money” the woman said.

These fraudulent companies use many different names and most are located in Canada. “Genuine jobs as mystery shoppers are few and far between,” Said Joan Coughlin, BBB spokesperson. “ Schemers profit by sending fraudulent or counterfeit checks, asking the victim to shop and wire part of the money back to them or under the guise of ‘rating’ the store’s wire service. Eventually, the check will bounce, leaving the victim on the hook for the purchases and out the wired money,” added Coughlin.

BBB tips to avoid mystery shopping scams:

* Avoid companies that promise large monetary rewards.

* Ignore unsolicited e-mails offering ‘work-from-home’ shopping opportunities

* Obtain the company’s name and verify their legitimacy with BBB.

* Avoid companies that charge a fee for applying, or a fee for access to secret shopping job opportunities. You should never pay any fee to apply or to obtain job information.

* Do not depend on the funds from a cashier’s check from a source you do not know.

* Never wire money to a company or a third party.

* Don’t rely on the fact that the check was accepted for deposit by their financial institution as evidence of the check’s authenticity. It can take up a week or longer for a financial institution to determine whether a check is good.

* Consumers are responsible for paying back any money they’ve withdrawn from their account when a check bounces. Often, the bank deducts the amount that was credited with the fake check from the account along with additional fees.

If you are a victim of a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with BBB, the Attorney General’s office, and/or the Federal Trade Commission.

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