Local Community Sees Rash of "Mystery Shopper" Scams

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

In his six years as a mystery shopper Greg Zonker's managed to avoid the business' many scams.

"They gave me a check for $4,000 and they told me to go to my bank, cash it, go to a Western Union and send $3,400 of it to some place in Canada," Zonker said.

That would have left him with $600 dollars.

"A week or so later the bank tells you your check was a fraud and you owe them $4,000," Zonker said.

Zonker realized just in time.

"The telephone number that was written on the check was not the bank's telephone number," he said.

But not everyone does. Within a week, three people in Blackman Township fell for that very scam.

"If they respond to the initial mailing they get a second mailing from this mystery shopping business out of Ontario. They are then required to purchase a book on how to make money as a mystery shopper," said Det. Sgt. Chris Boulter.

They're then e-mailed, usually via a Hotmail account, and sent a check, usually for thousands of dollars. Boulter says there's a few ways to know the check is bogus. One of the bogus checks used the back name "Pnc" but left it lowercase rather than how it should be, in CAPS: "PNC." The checks were also written as if they were coming from Allegheny college.

"It should not be in the name of say, Allegheny College it should be in the business name," he said. "We're seeing a lot of them from Europe, Canada, from Nigeria and it is very difficult to not only track them down but to prosecute them."

Leaving victims not only out thousands of dollars, but also...

"Theyre looked at as suspects by their financial institution," Boulter said, adding if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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