FTC warns of secret shopper job scams

Protecting Yourself Online

(NEWS10) — The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday released an advisory warning of fraudulent job offers for secret shopper jobs at well-known businesses. They say the fakes may take the form of a text, email, or written letter asking to join a local research project, or to secret shop at grocery stores like Whole Foods.

The fake grocery store offer contains a fake check scam. Scammers working this angle try to convince a mark to immediately deposit or cash a check worth over $2,000. Many banks credit the face value or partial value of a check before fully verifying its legitimacy.

The scammer tells the mark that the money is for supplies, that they will be reimbursed in some way, and/or to send the money—sometimes converted to gift cards—back to the scammer. Once the bank determines that the check was fake, they remove the credit, and the mark loses the money.

The FTC says to beware any recruiter who gives you these common instructions:

  • Cash or deposit a check immediately
  • Buy gift cards with most of the money
  • Keep about $450 of the check as your pay
  • Scratch the coating off gift cards to show the personal identification number
  • Send images of the front and back of the cards, with PIN codes visible

The FTC says that someone who tells you to deposit a check, then withdraw and send the money, is a scammer. They also say anyone telling you to buy gift cards and share the PIN codes is a scammer.

Several individuals who received fake contacts from a scammer masquerading as a local Whole Foods notified the FTC of the con.

Do not respond to an offer like this. Instead, file a complaint with the FTC.


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