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Monday, August 25, 2008

Shopping offer likely a scam

Dear Troubleshooter: Thought this might be of interest to readers. Of course, I did not initiate this offer. It just appeared in my junk mail! - J. H.

For the benefit of my readers, let's explain this mailing. It is an offer to become a mystery shopper. As indicated, the letter arrived unsolicited and stated the recipient was selected to be a mystery shopper .

In addition to the letter, the mailing includes a cashier's check in the amount of $4,998 "to assist you with your assignment." The letter provides instructions for the recipient to follow with regard to their "probational training." It further says they absolutely must contact the company office immediately upon receipt.

Among the tasks the recipient is required to perform include making small purchases at two well-known retailers. However, the crux of the transaction instructs the addressee to arrange money transfers at two different financial wire services.

There's only one way to accomplish this...the recipient will have to deposit the $4998 check. Though the letter doesn't state this, there's a likelihood he'll be told to do so when he makes that required call to the company office.

There is little doubt in my mind the check is fraudulent. This opinion is re-enforced by several postings on various rip-off Web sites. Unfortunately, once the check is deposited and the "employee" carries out his mission, the money will almost surely be gone...never to be seen again. In a week or two, the bank will notify the recipient that the check was fake.

Here are some tell-tale red flags to support my opinion. The envelope contains a Canadian postmark. The company address is in South Dakota but the telephone and fax numbers contain the area code for Ontario, Canada. And finally, the check is drawn on a bank in Wyoming.

Cross-border fraud is an ever-growing problem. Unfortunately, criminals working out of Canada have often been the source for various scams. There are several cooperating government agencies on both sides of the border who work side-by-side in an effort to track down these con artists and bring them to justice.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, many mystery shopping ads promise so-called lucrative jobs but don not deliver real opportunities.

While legitimate companies do in fact hire individuals to evaluate quality of service at particular businesses, the FTC indicates it is unnecessary to pay money to someone to get into the mystery shopping business.

Instead, visit Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) Web site at to learn how to register with one of their member companies. They also have a database of available jobs and additional information about this industry.

Source : Shopping offer likely a scam

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