SAN DIEGO — Another scam has arrived in my mailbox. What should I do? Make a news story out of it of course.
I received a check for $2,850 with my name on it and a letter. My first reaction was to cash the check but I stepped back and did a little bit of research first. Come to find out it’s part of a mystery shopping scam.
The letter says to deposit the check into my bank account and keep $200 for myself as my commission. Then, I’m supposed to get a wire transfer for the remaining $2,650 and send it to some guy in Poland. While I do have polish ancestry, I have no idea who that person is.
I wasn’t the only person who received this type of check. Hundreds of people reported similar checks were mailed to them according to posts on RipOffReport.com.
Here are some examples:
Tessie Bergeron from Flagstaff, Ariz. received a check for $2,175 in the mail from a company called The Antioch Group. However, it came via USPS priority mail from an address in Northville, Mich. We visited the address where the check came from and it’s a colonial style house. Tessie was instructed to keep $200 for her time and efforts and then wire transfer the rest to a woman in Stockton, Calif. By the way, the Antioch Group is a contemporary Christian counseling and psychological services company.
Jeffrey in Bridgewater, N.J. got a similar offer. He received a check for $2,980 and was told to keep $300 for completing the assignment and then send a MoneyGram to a woman named Melissa in Manila, Philippines.
Lucy in Providence, R.I. said she almost got ripped off. She received a check in the mail for $3,830 and was instructed to buy office supplies at Staples or Office Depot. The letter said Lucy could keep $400 for her fee or salary and then she had to set up a wire transfer for $1,650 to go to the Philippines.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that these are fake checks. People who unfortunately fell for this scam ended up having to pay their bank for the entire amount of the check.
Cheryl Reichert is the president and CEO of the BBB’s San Diego office.
“This example is connected with a mystery shopping assignment but we see them connected to charity giving, we see it on Craigslist with more expensive items,” Reichert explained. “I want to buy your motorcycle or your car, I just need to have it shipped. I will send a shipper and you just need to forward the money to the shipper. We’re seeing it on one-on-one transactions and we’re seeing actual companies being taken advantage of. Hotels with room bookings for example.”
The BBB says these work at home opportunities often times end up being scams run by people who want to rip you off.
If you get a work from home offer or a check you weren’t expecting, here are some important tips:
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission online here
- File a report with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service online here
- Contact your state’s Attorney General office online here
“You absolutely should shred and ignore that check,” Reichert advised. “If you even attempted to deposit it, there’s a chance they could get your bank account information. Some of these checks even have language on them authorizing them to withdraw funds from your account.”
With tax season coming, these type of scams are expected to blossom. You’ve been warned.