Attorney General Warns of "Secret Shopper" Scam

LITTLE ROCK, AR (News release) – Few consumers would turn away the opportunity to get paid to go shopping at department stores or dine at fine restaurants. That’s why it’s fairly common for consumers to fall victim to scams involving that type of job opportunity.

Con artists who perpetrate the “secret shopper” scam entice consumers with promises of cash payments if a consumer will evaluate the customer service at store or restaurant while acting as an ordinary customer. This and similar scams have been around for years, but a number of incidents have been reported recently in northwest Arkansas.

Therefore, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued this consumer alert today to remind Arkansas consumers about the “secret shopper” scam and to again warn consumers not to become victims of wire-fraud schemes.

“For the handful of actual secret-shopper jobs, employees are not required to wire money to their bosses in order to get a paycheck,” McDaniel said. “Even though a con artist may go to great lengths to convince a consumer that a ruse is legitimate, the good advice that is always worth repeating is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Operators of the “secret shopper” scam send consumers a check, typically for $3,000 to $4,000, and ask consumers to deposit the check and then use that money to make purchases at retail stores. Once those minor purchases are made, consumers are asked to then wire the remaining money to their employer, who is usually in a foreign country. Victims are then promised they will receive a paycheck in the mail for their services. That check, of course, never arrives.

Often, shoppers are told to complete their tasks and wire the money within 48 hours or risk losing their new job. That’s because scammers want money wired to them before the bank informs consumers that the checks they deposited were counterfeit. At that point, the consumer is left without a paycheck and without the funds that have already been wired to the scammer.

So, what should consumers do when they are promised “free money” in this and similar scams?

Throw away any unexpected or unsolicited checks that come in the mail from an unfamiliar person or business. If a consumer wants to take the check to the bank anyway, then he or she at least should ask that the check be verified and funds from it not be withdrawn unless the check has cleared. This process can take days or weeks.
Be careful about employment opportunities in which the employer uses no screening process for applicant or “guarantees” a job.

Be leery of outfits based in Canada or overseas that claim to have secret shopper or work-at-home jobs available.
Never wire funds or provide information from a MoneyPak card to an unknown person or business.

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