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BBB warns of secret shopper, check scam

Posted by Mitch Lipka  February 27, 2013 11:26 PM

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Tempted by ads to be a "secret shopper?" Think twice. Then think again if you are still tempted.

The Central New England Better Business Bureau is reporting an increase fake check scams typically tied to secret shopper ads on Craigslist or delivered by email.

These sorts of scams can be devastating to victims. Typically, the "shopper" is sent a check - the BBB says they have been around $2,000 - and are asked to deposit it and then send part of it to someone else through a money transfer service, such as Western Union. The remainder would be their pay.

Unfortunately, it can take days or even more than a week for a bank to become aware a cashed check was fake. Meanwhile, the victim, believing they have the money in the account, sends it. But once a check is deemed worthless, the deposit amount is subtracted from the account. Meanwhile, cash has already been sent out, costing the victim both that cash and potentially penalties for overdrawing their account.

The BBB also reports that consumers have complained of other fake check scams, which are similar but involve overpaying for furniture and other items and asking that the balance be sent back - usually through a money transfer service.

To try to avoid falling victim, the BBB recommends that you try to verify that the check is drawn from a real account. Look up the phone number of the bank on the check - don't use any bank phone number printed on the check itself - and call and ask the bank if that account is legitimate.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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