It’s an odd coincidence that after my last post about finances, the scammers decided to target our family.
My husband called in the middle of a work day and asked me about a few unusual charges on his bank account. When I confirmed that I had not spent money at those businesses, he called the bank and told them he his debit card number had been used for purchases he didn’t authorize.
Putting two and two together, he realized that he had swiped his card to purchase gas in a not-so-reputable area of metro Atlanta, and the fraudulent charges had appeared that day. Apparently, the thieves were able to create a new card with his account info on it.
Thankfully, his bank is going to reimburse the charges. There’s definitely an argument to be made for checking one’s account online every day!
Now for episode two.
A few weeks ago, I filled out a few profiles online so that I could be added to the database of market research companies. I’ve made some extra money in recent years by participating in these and wanted to increase the likelihood I would qualify for a paid focus group by adding myself to the database of a few more companies in the area.
Evidently, one of those websites wasn’t legitimate.
I got a text from “iExperienceResearch” asking me if I wanted to participate in a mystery shop. I have done mystery shops in the past and made some decent pocket change, so I responded yes. I couldn’t remember for certain, but I was fairly sure I had “applied” at a mystery shopping firm when I was looking for market research companies, so so far no red flags were raised in my mind.
The next communication told me to expect a package in the mail with all the details and instructions for the shop. No problem. This is how mystery shop companies operate, and as I said, I have done several of these in the past and received payment.
When the package arrived, it included a cashier’s check for $1700. The letter included told me to a) deposit the check, b) go to my nearest WalMart and use the MoneyGram services to send $1400 to a certain gentleman whose name and address were enclosed and c) purchase a small item, under $50, at the store and write about my experiences with the staff, the cleanliness of the store, etc.
Little alarm bells started to go off.
Firstly, to get paid $300 for what would take less than an hour to do? That seemed too good to be true.
Secondly, in the past when I had done mystery shops, I was never given money ahead of time. I had to purchase something and was reimbursed for the purchase, along with my payment for my time, after the fact.
Thirdly, what was I evaluating? The WalMart staff or the MoneyGram experience?
And fourth, mystery shops require a lot of paperwork and detailed descriptions of the shop. I remember doing one for Bath and Body Works that had questions as specific as “What was the cashier who assisted you wearing?” and such, and had several pages of similar inquiries. It also had a script for me that was quite specific. It requires MUCH attention to detail, so much so that I couldn’t do them with a child in tow.
So, I did some Googling and found that the email address that I was supposed to send the completed shop evaluation went to a nonexistent domain. WalMart’s website claimed they don’t use mystery shoppers and described the wire transfer scam almost verbatim.
The cashier’s check would, of course, bounce, but meanwhile the victim has wired $1400 to a lowlife perp.
My husband told me that this particular scam has been making the rounds lately and he had heard it mentioned specifically on a consumer advocacy radio show.
A lot of stay-at-home-moms like myself are looking for ways to earn income on a part-time basis, and people like this take advantage of the fact. The package was sent to me via overnight express, meaning the scammer invested around $30 to target me. He’s making some money off someone, which is incredibly sad.