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Thu, Aug. 06

FTC Alert: Beware of fake offers for secret shopper jobs

Several people who received offers to be secret shoppers for grocery stores, like Whole Foods, thought they were scams, and wrote to the Federal Trade Commission to warn others. (FTC)

Several people who received offers to be secret shoppers for grocery stores, like Whole Foods, thought they were scams, and wrote to the Federal Trade Commission to warn others. (FTC)

Did you receive an offer to be a secret shopper for a well-known company? It might come as text, email, or letter inviting you to work on a "research project starting soon in your area."

Several people who got offers to be secret shoppers for grocery stores, like Whole Foods, thought they were scams, and wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to warn others.

They were right — the offers are scams — and now the FTC is extending the warning.

People spotted signs of a fake check scam in the bogus Whole Foods secret shopper offer (which was from a scammer, not really Whole Foods). That’s when someone sends you a check and convinces you to deposit it and quickly send them money. In this scam, the recruiter would send shoppers a check for more than $2,000 and they would:

  • Cash or deposit the check immediately
  • Buy gift cards with most of the money
  • Keep about $450 as their pay
  • Scratch the coating off the gift cards to show the PIN codes
  • Send pictures of the cards’ front and back (with the codes) to the recruiter

If anyone ever tells you to deposit a check, withdraw money, and send it to someone, that’s a scam. When the check later turns out to be fake, the bank will want the money back. And if anyone tells you to go buy gift cards and share the PIN numbers, that’s a scam, too. Once the scammer has the PIN, they also have all the money from the cards.

If you receive an offer like this, don’t respond. Tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. If you already cashed a fake check and sent money to a scammer, find out how to report to gift card, wire transfer and money order businesses. Read more in this FTC post, "How to Spot, Avoid and Report Fake Check Scams."

Information provided by Bridget Small, FTC Consumer Education Specialist

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