I-Team 10 Consumer Alert: Mystery shopper scams

Posted at: 11/28/2013 11:09 AM
Updated at: 11/28/2013 5:45 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

This is the time of year when people take second jobs looking for a little extra money for Christmas. But News10NBC wants you to beware of those ads promising big bucks for stuffing envelopes or being a mystery shopper.

Counterfeit money orders are at the heart of this scam. It starts with victims responding to a job ad that says, “Receive money orders in the mail, then go shopping.”

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

After following those instructions, the victims get a surprise.  The money orders they deposited into their bank accounts were counterfeit and they would be in a situation to repay that to the bank."

Postal inspectors were tipped off to one recent case after customs intercepted a package containing $400,000 worth of counterfeit money orders. In this specific scheme, there was 750 victims and more than $300,000 in losses. Inspectors say the scam is on the rise and targeting vulnerable victims.

Nitz said, "A lot of victims get involved in things like this or ones that maybe are out of work are already in financial distress as it is. To get involved in something like this just compounds the problem."

Some advice. Don't cash checks from someone you don't know personally or haven't been doing business with. If you have a money order and want to make sure it's real, take it to your bank or post office. They can tell whether it's real or fake.