Secret and Mystery Shopping With A Twist
The economy is on a downward spiral, jobs are unsafe, your friends are getting made redundant, and to cap it all, those bankers keep getting richer. You need to suppliment your meager income with a little extra cash, so how about a spot of Mystery Shopping (aka Secret Shopping).
Too Good To Be True
Whether you spot an advertisement in your local press, an online website or you get an offer sent to you in the postal mail, you need to know something quite fundemental -- There is not one single legal Mystery/Secret Shopping job that gives you a cheque and asks you to cash it. It makes no difference that the offer looks genuine, which is the point to a scam like this, if any 'job' asks you to cash a cheque and keep part of it, then send a balance somewhere else, then it is 100% bogus
How It Works
This scam has appeared with more frequency during 2007 and 2008, and will no doubt continue to rise, but has been reported as far back as 2005. It is run exactly the same as those fake lottery notifications that some people (mainly US Citizens) get in the mail which have a cheque attached.
The scam exploits 2 things (mainly); naďvety and a flaw in the banking system.
The first can be fixed with education but the latter is something well-known, and not easily fixed.
The basics are that the cheque is a bogus one, a complete and utter lie. However, the cheque itself can only be 'cleared' by the alleged issuing bank. This may take some time, days, maybe weeks or more. This is the exploited flaw in the cheque clearing system abused to good effect by the fraudsters.
If you get caught with this one your bank will sooner or later take back all the proceeds from the cheque. They won't ask, they don't care if it puts your account in the red, and they will certainly freeze your account. Typically in North America, you would be reported to the police for bank fraud and you may find yourself arrested and prosecuted as a result.
How To Report
There are various routes to report this type of crime, remember that this is mainly targetted to US Citizens, so the info here is applicable to the USA only, other countries should report to their local police authority.
The most obvious route is the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
website which caters for many different types of White Collar Crime. This route is also valid when faced with scammers having your personal details; remember that ID Theft is a growing problem, especially online. This should be your FIRST reporting route for any type of cyber crime.
If you have recieved a cheque in the postal mail, then the US Postal Inspectors
should be informed too.
The Federal Trade Commission
is another option, though may not be totally effective with regards to this type of fraudulent activity.
State or local consumer protection agencies are also an option. Visit the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG)
for a list of state Attorneys General. Again, for this type of fraudulent activity, this route may not actually be totally effective.
References & Further ReadingAgencies