Scam Watch

BBB warns of `Secret Shopper' swindle

December 30, 2007|By Dan Thanh Dang

Now that the holidays are about over, are you strapped for cash and looking for "easy" money? If the answer is yes, realize that you could be a target for scammers who are eager to rob you. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland is urging consumers to be wary of a company called Master Research and its "Secret Shopper" scheme.

Master Research, which has a Maryland address, posts help-wanted ads on Craigslist, CareerBuilder and in newspapers seeking customer service evaluators, secret shoppers and temporary positions.

No company name is given, but once job seekers sign up, they receive a package in the mail that says they've been selected to participate, the BBB says. In the package is a check for $2,990 for use in the "training process."

Participants are advised to cash the check, keep $300 and then go to Wal-Mart and wire the rest to a person in Canada. The BBB warned that the checks are issued under a real financial institution, Chesapeake Bank, but include a phony Baltimore address and phone number.

To avoid getting swindled, be suspicious of any check from an individual or business you don't know; independently verify that the check is drawn from an actual account at a legitimate financial institution; check directory assistance to verify all telephone numbers; and do not rely on the money until the funds have been finally collected by your financial institution. Finally, if a company claims to offer "Secret Shopper" jobs, check with the Mystery Shopper Provider Association at www.mysteryshop.org to confirm the firm's legitimacy.

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