Troubleshooters: Be alert for secret shopper scam

Many companies hire more people for the holidays. But before you sign up to make some spending money, keep reading.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Many people look to make extra money, especially this time of year. With that in mind, experts have issued a warning.

Action News spoke with a viewer who recently was targeted by a secret shopper scam.

Many companies hire more people for the holidays. But before you sign up to make some spending money, keep reading.

"Out of the blue, I get this package, and it looks very official," said Paul K. of Bear, Delaware.

It was sent via U.S. Postal Service by priority mail.

"The minute they delivered it, I got a notification on my text immediately saying, 'Hey, glad to see you got the email package. You got the priority package,'" he said.

But Paul does believe six months ago he responded 'yes' to an email inquiry asking if he wanted to be a secret shopper.

Inside the package were directions to do it and a check for $1,900.

"The check looked very official," he added.

It was supposedly money for his first "Secret Survey assignment," which was supposedly a customer service evaluation tool from Whole Foods.

But then Paul saw that the instructions were a red flag.

The instructions prompted Paul to deposit the check, deduct his payment of $450, then immediately buy a visa gift card with the rest and email the account info along with his report.

"Trying to get you to draw money on your account," he said.

Fortunately, Paul didn't cash the check or fall for the scam, but others have. The Federal Trade Commission has put out an alert about warning checks like this are fake, and once the bank realizes it, it will want the money back, which means you will be out that money and the funds you spent to buy the gift card.

So do not respond to offers like this. Just report it to the FTC.

And if you've already cashed a fake check and sent money to a scammer, contact the card issuer right away and ask if it can refund your money.

Meantime, Whole Foods said it "does use mystery shoppers but will never ask that person to buy prepaid gift cards, provide a check, or wire money as part of the job or for survey participation."

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