Action News Investigation: Warning about mystery shopping scam

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Scam artists are on the prowl during the holiday season and are fishing for victims, as the son of a Philadelphia police officer now knows.

Action News Investigative reporter Chad Pradelli says the scam artists are becoming more sophisticated. They're learning subtle but detailed information about their targets that can lead to them letting their guard down.

Jonathan Lane knows that first-hand.

His mother, an alumna at Rosemont College, received an email that appeared to be from her former school's job placement and student services department.

The offer? $300 to be a mystery shopper. It said go to the website,

The Drexel University student was in need of cash for the holidays.

He says, "It was like a regular application. It was name, all your information like where you live, address, stuff like that."

The 20-year-old was instructed to evaluate a Best Buy.

He received what appeared to be a $1,900 cashier's check. It looked real because it was from a reputable bank with a legitimate routing number.

The check quickly cleared, but here is where the alarm bells should've been blaring. He started receiving text messages such as: "Please complete the assignment."

He was instructed to buy $1,600 in Best Buy gift cards and then text the codes to his representative. The remaining $300 from the cashier's check would be his commission.

Lane did and thought nothing of it until he checked his bank account.

"I was like it retracted the money. So I was I texted him back to see what was happening, but I didn't get a response," said Lane.

As it turns out, the scam artists were busy draining the gift cards.

Best Buy released a statement that reads:

"We hate seeing scams like this happen, which is way we've taken steps to warn our customers about these scams, including signs in our stores and a PSA. Customers should never provide their gift card and pin number to anyone they don't know because once those numbers are gone, so is your money, like in this case. These scams are constantly evolving and customers should know that if anyone is asking for payment with a gift card, it's fraud and should report this to authorities immediately."

The Federal Trade Commission has a few tips to avoid becoming a victim:

-If you're looking for legitimate mystery shopping jobs, check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association for a database of authentic companies.

-If you are asked to deposit checks and send money or anything of value back, it's a scam.

Lane says, "I feel like I got duped."

He's a bit embarrassed about the stolen money. Unfortunately, he owes his bank, Police and Fire Federal Credit Union, the $1,600.

He has a good attitude but wants others to be cautious.

Rosemont College released this statement:

The Rosemont College community is sorry to learn that one of our graduates was the victim of a recent email phishing scam. We value the security of our alumni and only send emails to our graduates from a secure subscription-based email platform that is used by thousands of organizations. We have no indication that email platform or the College's main database was hacked or compromised. We are not taking this issue lightly, and welcome and encourage the alumna/us to be in touch with the College directly so that we can learn the details of what transpired.
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