On October 16, 2012, FBI Cincinnati announced that several residents in the Dayton area reported that they became victims of a “mystery shopper” scam or a work at home scam. Consumers are reminded to research all opportunities that allow you to work from home in order to prevent a fraud scheme.
The “mystery shopping assistants” were hired by a bogus company in order to buy and ship merchandise to Russia. During the scheme, the victims’ credit card information was stolen. The merchandise was shipped to the homes of the mystery shopper assistants, and they repackaged the goods and sent it to Russia. The victims acted as an intermediary for the criminal fraud scheme without knowing it.
Other mystery shopper scams were reported as well. The victims were directly contacted by email or U.S. mail for a chance to become a mystery shopper. The mystery shoppers were then required to deposit a check, but the check was counterfeit. A percentage of the check was returned to the fake employer and the mystery shopper was allowed to keep the rest. The funds were made available by the bank within days, but the bank didn’t determine that the check bounced until a couple of weeks later. Thus, the victims were left to reimburse the bank and the fake employer made off with the other funds.
There are legitimate opportunities for mystery shopping out there, but the FBI recommends you take the following precautions:
-real companies do not charge for an application fee or fee to become a mystery shopper
-a real company will not send an advanced payment and ask the shopper to return a portion
-a real company will never ask you for a money transfer or to send cash
-do not deposit a check form someone you do not know
-contact the Better Business Bureau for information about the company before signing up
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation