Have you ever wanted a new job where you can make your own hours, get paid for doing something you love, like shopping! Well, wait no more, you too can become a mystery shopper! Or, will you instead get taken by fraudsters and end up with no fancy new job, and owe money for cash you sent on cheques that didn’t clear.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Knowing what these scams are helps you recognize that they are scams and you can help others around you from being taken advantage of.
An ongoing scam that circulates is the infamous Mystery Shopper. The scammer contacts you through various channels, or you contact them through a legitimate looking ad looking for mystery shoppers, quality control officers, client service strategist or even personal assistants.
The job comes with a cheque and a list of instructions. The scammer asks you to deposit the money into your personal bank account and to transfer a large part of the money to a specific bank account. You’re supposed to get to keep the balance. The fraudsters may also have you make small purchases of gift cards and to provide the numbers to them to confirm that they work.
At each step, the scammer will ask you to submit customer service surveys based on your experiences. Looks legit, right? Nope. They are just a prop to convince you that the job is real, but you later find out that the cheque that was deposited was fake, and that you now owe the money back to the financial institution.
The classic signs are always the “overpayment” whether that is for real or fake items, promise of jobs, or any number of things where they give you a cheque of whatever value, and that you have to send back a large portion of it, and you get to keep the difference. Pro tip: you never keep the difference. The cheques will be fake, and you’ve withdrawn your own funds to give to the scammer. When the cheque comes back as fraud (because cheques are fallible and it can take a day or two for it be traced back that it’s fraud), you’re out your own money. The financial institution puts a hold on those funds until the cheque clears, but if you’ve already taken out your money to give the scammers, you’re on the hook.
So, inform yourself and others around you of potential fraud and scams by checking out the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre here, or call 1-888-495-8501.