North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services
Reports of "Shadow Shopper" Scams Increase
Agencies and officials ranging from the Macon County Sheriff’s Department in the far western corner of the state to the Area Agency on Aging in Wilmington at the opposite end of the state are reporting a sharp increase in “secret shopper” scams. These are counterfeit check scams where recruits are invited to test the services provided by money transfer services such as MoneyGram or Western Union. Targets of the scam receive checks for several thousands of dollars and are advised to deposit them into their bank accounts. They are told to wire 80% to 90% of the amount of the checks immediately to a recipient overseas and then fill out a survey on the quality of the services provided by the money transfer service. Individuals targeted in the scam are told that any remaining funds are theirs to keep as a commission. Several days later, the targets of the scam receive word from their banks that the checks are counterfeit and have been dishonored. They are told that the amounts of the counterfeit checks have been debited from their accounts.
The text of one of these “secret shopper” solicitation letters appears below:
Date: September 10th, 2007
Rep. I.D. #-SN/SS/9707
RE: CUSTOMER SERVICE FACILITATOR
Our company is a “SECRET SHOPPING” employment firm that specializes in conducting research to assist corporations evaluate the quality of customer service provided to their clients. We represent over 1250 firms across the US, Canada and Mexico.
We are therefore pleased to inform you that your name has been selected by a consumer survey specialist acting on behalf of our company to participate in a paid Consumer Research Program in your area known as “Shadow Shopper.” As one of the Research Personnel selected under this program, you will be acting as a Consumer Service Evaluator of selected merchant outlets and service providers in your area. This research program is a fully paid program, and would become a permanent part time position for a selected few who are able to distinguish themselves in the course of this program.
If you accept this offer, you will be required to complete a paid training assignment within one (1) week of your acceptance. This training is designed to equip you with the right tools necessary for you to effectively carry out your assignment as an experienced research personnel under this program. This assignment has been put together to be completed in one location. This evaluation will take place in a Money Gram location at your local Wal-Mart. The objective of this assignment will be to evaluate the effectiveness and efficacy of customer service at the location.
You will pose as a potential customer sending a Money Gram payment to a relative of yours, Eva Morgan in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The funds needed to complete this transaction assignment have been arranged and have been enclosed with this letter. You must cash the cheque and use the cash for your assignment. For our verification of assignment completion, please fax the Money Gram form and evaluation sheet to the number above immediately after completion.
Below is a breakdown of the enclosed funds
Probational Training Pay………………………………………$850.00
Required Funds to Be Transferred…………………………$3,985.00
Please call the above telephone number to verify your check before proceeding with these Instructions or the check will be considered Void and/or Stolen.
In the process of this evaluation assignment, please take note of the quality of service provided in order to be able to fill out a fair and unbiased opinion on the Customer Service Evaluation Tool (CSET) form enclosed with this letter. This form should be faxed to our office after completion of your assignment.
Please note that you must keep your assignment confidential at all times in accordance with the Employee Code of Business Conduct and Ethics enclosed with this letter.
Scott Nicholson (Toll Free Number 1-877-700-6781)
(Corporate Logos of Wal-Mart, FedEx, Target, McDonald’s, MoneyGram, The Gap, Pepsi and K-Mart are printed across the bottom of the page)
******End of Alert******
Date: October 2, 2007
NC Senior Consumer
Fraud Task Force
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