www.CUNA.org/newsnow (01/21/2010) There has been a recent increase in employment schemes pertaining to mystery/secret shopper positions, and some are asking for financial account information so the salary can be deposited in their account.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), fraudsters have learned that many retail and service corporations hire evaluators to perform secret or random checks on their service or their competitors, and the fraudsters are capitalizing on this.
Victims receive e-mail or U.S. mail urging them to apply as a mystery shopper. Applicants are asked to send a resume and are subject to a background check before being hired. The fraudster sends the shoppers a check with instructions to shop at a specific retailer for a specific length of time and spend a specific amount on the store's merchandise. The shopper is to note the environment, payment procedures, gift items and shopping/carrier bags, etc. and report back to the employer.
The second trip evaluates the ease and accuracy of wiring money from the retail location. The money is included in a check received by the victim shopper. The remaining balance is the employee's pay for the assignment. After the merchandise is purchased and the money wired, the shopper learns the check is counterfeit, and the shopper is responsible for the money lost and fees incurred.
In other versions, applicants are requested to provide bank account information to have money directly deposited into their account. This gives the fraudster access to the victim's accounts and money, making the victim an identity theft victim.
The e-mails also have a pop-up that cannot be easily closed. The user clicks on the pop-up to purchase the software and must fill out a form that collects payment information. The user is charged for bogus software. Sometime malicious codes are installed on the computer.
Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of employment schemes associated with mystery/secret shopping:
- Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
- Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Virus scan all attachments, if possible.
- Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
- Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
- There are legitimate mystery/secret shopper programs available. Research the legitimacy on companies hiring mystery shoppers. Legitimate companies will not charge an application fee and will accept applications on-line.
- No legitimate mystery/secret shopper program will send payment in advance and ask the employee to send a portion of it back.