HOUSTON – A lot of people are looking for work right now and scammers are looking to make a buck too. They’re trying out an old scam but this time around, it has a new coronavirus twist.
The old mystery shopper job offer is at least 15 years old. The high unemployment rate makes the scam particularly enticing now because it promises good money for a flexible job almost anyone can do.
Deer Park residents Richard Summers received a letter in the mail that said it was from the Secret Shopper Evaluation PLC. The so-called company offered him a job as a "consumer service evaluator."
His duties would include checking out retailers like Home Depot, Walmart, Sears and Lowes to find out how well they are complying with COVID-19 safety measures. In exchange, Summers would receive $300 a week to start and $280 to buy merchandise during his covert shopping assignment. The letter came with a check for more than $4,800. Summers was supposed to deposit that check while also secret shopping the bank. He was supposed to keep his portion of what he was owed and then call a toll-free phone number for what to do with the remaining funds.
“I looked at the letter and it became immediately obvious to me that there was something wrong,” Summers told KPRC 2. “There were several different addresses used as the source of the letter, both in country and out of country.”
How they get your money
Summer didn't deposit the check or call the number on the letter to discuss details of his assignment. If he had, he would have discovered the check is fake. The "assignment" involves depositing the fake check into his account and then wiring money to the fraudsters.
This is how the scam ends up: By the time the bank confirms the checks are not real, the victims have already wired their own money to the scammers. There is no COVID-19 mystery shopping job. Do not fall for this scam.
What you should do if you get one of these letters
Throw it away. If you want to report it, the Federal Trade Commission is your best bet. That federal agency will share your report with local, state, federal and foreign law enforcement partners.
You can easily make the report online here.