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Mystery Shopper Scam

Here’s some advice you can bank on. If a company you have never heard of sends you a $3,000 check, and all you have done to earn that $3,000 check is to call them and give them your name and phone number: RUN!!!!

Run as fast as you can.

Run to your garbage can and throw the mail there.

Run to your bank and ask them what kind of scam is this?

Run to your financial adviser and say is this even possible?

Run to the Better Business Bureau and ask who else is getting scammed by this nonsense.

Run to your momma if she is the one who hands out sage financial advice in your family. Let her slap you in the face, throw a bucket of water on your head, and wake you up from the grog you must be in, if you think the world works like this.

With the advent of the internet, scams float around the globe like a dandelion molecule blowing in the wind.

Boiler room scuzz buckets treat the scam business like a full time opportunity to separate you from your hard earned money.

Because most of us are not going to fall for this nonsense, scammers need to bombard as many of us as possible with their enticing message of hope and easy money.

It’s really just a numbers game.  The more people they shower with their scam, the more chances they have of stealing your cash clean.

If they were fishing, they would be Japanese Long Liners spreading miles of nets in an ocean of interminable depths.   They would have thousands of hooks trying to catch as many bubble eyed fish as possible

The Better Business Bureau tells me that a scam of this caliber is sweeping across Middle Tennessee and it is known as the Mystery Shopper Scam.

The scam is predicated on YOU, the MARK not asking too many questions and carrying out the conditions of the scam within a certain time frame, in this case 48 hours.

48 hours is important, because no bank can verify if a check is authentic in 48 hours, and since the checks are never authentic, the scammers need the scam to go down quickly.

Like a growing number of Middle Tennesseans, Linda Stevenson is looking for economic ways to make ends meet.

“I have son in college,” the Nashville mother tells me. “Everyone needs more money.”

So when she saw a very legitimate looking ad in a reputable newspaper, she responded.

She dialed the 905 area code.

Red Flag.  Red Flag.

That area code is in Toronto Canada. The BBB said it probably connects to a boiler room full of scuzz buckets, working a bank of phones ripping people off.

These telephone operators are like those long liners pulling in tuna after tuna, all hooked through the lip, looking lost and sick as they are tossed onto the hot deck of the ship.
“You trust the paper to find jobs. You trust they research the jobs before they put it in the paper,” Stevenson said, commenting on how the scam seems even more realistic because it starts when you see a professional looking ad in your local trusted paper.

A month later, a packet arrives at Stevenson’s home. There is a very real looking cashier’s check totaling almost $3,000.

In a nutshell, the letter instructs Stevenson to deposit the bogus cashier’s check in her bank and then go shopping at Wal-Mart.

The company instructs her to spend a few hundred bucks, keep $300 for herself and then send a money gram back to secret research company for approximately $2,500 and here’s the trick, it has to be done within 48 hours.

Stevenson tells me that the large cashier’s check was the red flag which made her question the authenticity of this proposition.

“When I got this in the mail,” she says holding the bogus cashier’s check before her, “this check for $2,990. I knew it was bogus because I hadn’t done anything for it.”

“The world ain’t that nice, is it?” I blurt out from behind the camera.

Kathleen Calligan is president of the Better Buisness Bureau of Middle Tennessee.  She said the mystery shopper scam is emptying bank accounts across Middle Tennessee.

“Be forewarned this is one of the most growing and glamorous scams in our market right now,” she says.

Calligan said the first red flag should be easy to spot; a huge check for work you haven’t even started.

“This thread of this scam is a check for advanced payment”

She says tough economic times mean people need to be more cautious.

“When times are tough; people become more desperate.”

Calligan said newspapers try and locate fraudulent ads, but it’s difficult and even when the Better Business Bureau contacts the publications, the ads still make it into the paper.

“For 14 for years, the BBB has warned consumers about work from home schemes that pledge you will make a lot of money from home.”

What the BBB has learned from several consumers in Middle Tennessee is that these mystery shopper ads are garnering much consumer interest and there is a big scam associated with them.

We recently located several consumers, who responded to an ad, and then next thing they knew, they had a check in the mail, for several thousand dollars with instructions from the company, this is your payment in advance, just deposit it and go shopping at Wal-Mart or target.  Buy a few items, and then send the company the balance of the check, that you have deposited into your checking account, but unfortunately that was the bait and now these consumers are experiencing the scam.  The check is bouncing.  It is a counterfeit check and the consumer at the bank is holding the bag.

Fraud investigators with the Metro Police Department echo these statements telling News 2 they have taken two similar complaints.

The sergeant in the department says people have to take responsibility for their own lives, because no detective is going to Toronto, Canada to make an arrest in the case.

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