Press release from Batavia Police:
The Batavia Police are advising Local residents to beware of a scam that starts with a letter and a personal check for up to $4,500,
We get reports of one or two of these scam attempts a day. Some of the names on the letters are Shadow Shoppers, Secret Shopper or Shoppers Club. A “grand prize” might be offered to the recipient for participating. Nationally known retail stores names may be displayed on the letter without the consent of companies that are named.
The letter states, with improper grammar, “our company is a ‘SECRET SHOPPER’ employment firm that specializes in conducting research to assist corporations evaluates and improves the quality of customer service provided to their clients.”
The letter goes on to say that as one of the people selected to take part in the program “you will be representing our firm as Research Personnel or Customer Service Evaluator of selected merchant outlets and service providers in your area.”
This is a new spin on old check scams. So far, the majority of these scams have been from Nigeria and are rerouted through Canada and then to the U.S.
The problem is that people might think it’s a scam, but the amount of money the check is written for is so significant that even people who are suspicious are tempted.
The letter that accompanies the check seems legitimate, even to the point of breaking down how the money should be spent in the process of “secret shopping.”
The letter states, “Employee Probation Training Pay + Expenses, $360.94.” It goes on, again with improper grammar, “You’re tasks are as follows: Burger King - $20; Western Union Transfer - $2,165; Service Charge by Western Union - $149; Money Gram Transfer - $1,765; Service Charge by Money Gram - $75; Wal-Mart - $45.”
The scammer makes money because the would-be “secret shoppers” wire more than $3,000 through Western Union and Money Gram Transfer from their bank account with the belief that the checks will clear and cover it.
In fact, the checks are fraudulent, and when people deposit them and spend money in the prescribed manner, they are often out not only the amount of the check when it bounces, but also the amount that they spent of their own money.
By the time this check goes through the system, people have already taken the money out and sent off the fee by Western Union or Money Gram Transfer. The majority of the time they are out the check amount and any money that they withdrew from their account.
The best thing residents can do is to destroy the check. The Federal Trade Commission has a place on their web site to report these scams. The best way to protect yourself is to be educated on this type of scam, and remember, “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.”