This topic mentions a recent newspaper story
about phony mystery shopping companies
who pretend to hire private investigators and
other operatives to handle their mystery shopping
cases. However, the International Private Investigators
Union (IPIU) is the only association that endorses
and recommends a confidential list of
reputible companies to work for. These
legitimate companies are located in the IPIU
Level 4 Forums, PLUS none of the firms IPIU
endorses charges any fees to the union members
For another similar news story: Click Here
William G Sheehan shares with us the following quote:
From the Chicago Tribune:
Here's an offer you should refuse:
`Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be, authorities say
By Jeff Coen
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 4, 2007
"The letter offers one of those jobs people fantasize about: getting paid to shop undercover and then report on the service.
But the invitation to become a secret shopper isn't what it appears. Authorities in the U.S. and Canada say it's one of the latest clever swindles designed to lure the unsuspecting into depositing a bogus check and wiring money from their account back to the scammers.
The offer from an organization calling itself "The Shopping Group" appears with well-known corporate logos along the bottom of the first page, including Target and Wal-Mart. Among those who received it in the Chicago area in recent weeks was an Illinois Appellate Court judge who didn't fall for it, investigators with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said.
"Congratulations!" the notice begins, informing recipients that they have been recommended for the job by a relative.
And the first "probational training assignment" seems easy enough. Just deposit the enclosed check for $2,900 in the bank, pocket the $400 from that deposit and wire the rest back to The Shopping Group. As the shoppers are wiring the money, they're instructed to use the enclosed form to rate the courteousness and professionalism of employees at the MoneyGram location chosen to complete the mission.
"The aim of this training assignment will be to evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency and customer service of that particular [MoneyGram] location," the letter says.
"Have fun!" is the final direction.
Those unfortunate enough to be taken in by the ploy, however, will find themselves out more than $2,000 once they realize the check has bounced and they've already wired money from their bank account.
"This is a pretty good one," U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Carroll said of the scheme. "People will fall for it."
Investigators with the Postal Inspection Service said contact information for the company can be traced to Canada, and efforts are under way to determine who is behind it. About 50 complaints have been made nationwide so far, Carroll said, including a handful in the Chicago area.
Carroll said investigators are attempting to determine if those running the s-c-a-m-s have taken on the name of a legitimate company. Calls to a Las Vegas marketing firm mentioned on a Web site listed in the materials were not returned.
Police with the Waterloo regional police in Ontario, Canada, said the organization calling itself The Shopping Group has been on their radar since the fall, when complaints first began filtering in.
"They've used a number of local addresses and phone numbers here in an attempt to suggest they are somehow legitimate," said Olaf Heinzel, public affairs coordinator with the police office.
The letter reported to postal inspectors in Chicago includes an address in Baltimore and a phone number. The Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland has issued a fraud report after receiving complaints from across the U.S.
"The Shopping Group has an unsatisfactory record of complaints alleging the use of counterfeit checks that have created severe overdrafts to the bank accounts of consumers who accept the company's offer of `work assignments,'" the bureau's report states. "The company has used the address of a private home and a non-existent address in Baltimore as their own addresses."
Calls to phone numbers listed for The Shopping Group in the U.S. and Canada were not returned Wednesday.
Cathy Rebuffoni, spokeswoman for MoneyGram, said the company does not use secret shopping services to rate its performance. Such s-c-a-m-s are always evolving, Rebuffoni said, and the company works with authorities to identify them and train employees to know what to look for.
She said the first rule is to know exactly whom you are wiring money to. "It's like sending cash," she said. "And once someone is there to pick it up, it's gone."
The mystery shopper scheme is just one of a variety of s-c-a-m-s that involve sending victims a bad check and having them wire money back from their bank account, investigators said. Many are believed to originate in Nigeria, they said.
In recent months check s-c-a-m-s have surfaced on Internet personal ad and job sites, where those seeking work are recruited. Some have fallen for "job offers" to work as a check-casher for what is purported to be a foreign company, authorities said.
The first check arrives with instructions for the victim to keep 10 percent of the total and wire the remaining funds back to the company. The check again is bad, Carroll said. In some instances scammers have taken an even more sinister approach, Carroll said, contacting victims on Internet sites such as myspace.com or responding to requests for roommates. They befriend their target first through e-mail and then eventually ask for a favor that involves cashing a bogus check and wiring money.
Many people fall for the scheme because they are getting money up front, Carroll said.
Representatives from banks and wire companies are expected in Chicago next week to talk about some of the latest fraud ploys, he said.
The Shopping Group trick may be among the most brazen in recent years, investigators said, with the scammers going so far as to send a code of business conduct and ethics along with materials that would-be victims receive.
If you feel you've been victimized, call postal inspectors in Chicago, or make a complaint at www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.