If it’s too good to be true …
As budgets get tight around the holidays, fraudsters often ramp up their scam attempts. Mystery shopper or secret shopper schemes are particularly common this time of year. These schemes may be advertised online or the scammer may target individuals by mail or email.
This kind of fraud tends to target victims who are out of work, looking for more work, or otherwise in a tight financial situation—in other words, those who can’t afford to be a victim of fraud. This makes identifying scam attempts all the more important to potential victims.
The following red flags indicate that a mystery shopper or secret shopper offer is a scam:
- You are unfamiliar with the company or individual contacting you to participate in their mystery shopper program.
- You receive a communication asking you to keep your participation confidential or not reveal the source of funds received for the activities.
- You receive a check up front—especially if the check is for more than what you expected to be paid for your activities, and the company asks you to return the excess funds via wire transfer, Western Union or other means.
Letters, emails, and checks received from fraudulent sources may look legitimate. Scam artists continue to develop more sophisticated ways of connecting with potential victims. If you ever need help determining whether an offer is legitimate or fraudulent, we’re here to help protect your money and your personal information. Call us at 800.991.2221 or stop by any of our convenient locations to speak with an experienced Member Service Representative.