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Thread: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

  1. #1

    FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    MODERATOR NOTE:
    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
    we refer!

    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.

  2. #2
    Jack Campbell -'s Avatar
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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Wow.. this is nuts. I need to go get the paper.

  3. #3

    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Is this the right place to post this ? I can see a lot of members lured into something like this.

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    Jack Campbell -'s Avatar
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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Since it is a General News story, I would assume so. I will check to make sure.

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    Angry Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    "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."

    This is the line that should have been the red flag! What do people sit around all day scheming how to rip people off? How disgusting.

    Joan Stanley

  6. #6

    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Quote Originally Posted by Joan Stanley
    "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."

    This is the line that should have been the red flag! What do people sit around all day scheming how to rip people off? How disgusting.

    Joan Stanley
    Dear Joan;

    You need to learn to appreciate these people. They keep us in work. I just did not want to see any members taken by this ploy.

    Bill

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Quote Originally Posted by William G Sheehan
    Is this the right place to post this ? I can see a lot of members lured into something like this.
    I moved this to the PI Newspaper Stories forum because it affects PI's if they do not use the IPIU list of endorsed mystery shopping companies. (See the edit I placed under the Moderator Note in Post #1 of this topic above).
    David Copeland
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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    The Same 0000 is available in the Metro Milwaukee area.
    As well. Very misleading!

  9. #9
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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    There are so many ways to part us from our money and most of them are now done through the internet more than any other way it seems. The following is a cut-down version of events that I was involved with in an attempt to part me from my hard earned money.
    fficeffice" />>>
    I was contacted through a message board by someone (suppose to be a woman) that wanted to chat at first. Over time this progressed in a quasi-friendship type of online relationship.
    >>
    She initially tells me that she lived in a ffice:smarttags" />lace w:st="on">Mid-West Statelace> (knowing that I live on the East Coast). After about two weeks of chatting through private messages, she tells me she is visiting her ailing mother in lace w:st="on">Africalace> (first red flag) and that she was having trouble getting her plane ticket to come home. Seems the airline company would not accept her travelersí checks (second red flag). She ask if she could send me would I cash some of them for her and wire her the money.
    I said sure, no problem, gave her a mailing address to send them to and a phone number to contact me at.
    >>
    About 10 days later I get a phone from an international operator that handles phone calls for the hearing impaired and it is from the woman in lace w:st="on">Africalace>. She called asking if I got the checks yet. I told her no, as they have not arrived yet. She says that she will call again in a week. Her next call (a week later) got the same response as the first call. No mail received yet. She goes into a heartbreak story about being broke now that she canít cash the checks there and could I send her some money against the travelersí checks she sent (third red flag). I told her I was broke at that point in time with nothing to spare.
    >>
    The next day her letter arrived. In it was $500.00 in funny looking travelersí checks. Funny in that they did not look right in coloration to me. Just to be sure I took them to the bank and asked for an opinion on their validity. They were truly bogus. I never heard from her again. The only contact number I have is the international operator and a return address on the letter that is unreadable. All the names I had for her turned out to be bogus also. I am glad that I am such a skeptic when it comes to money.
    >>
    All I can say is watch your back when dealing with people. The old saying Ö If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isnít.
    >>
    Robert J. Munson

  10. #10
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    Exclamation

    Hi Robert -

    What a horrific thing to happen.

    A reminder for us all - we cannot EVER be TOO careful.

    We should all take heed from this incident and trust our God-given instincts.

    All of the "red flags" were there - eh?

    Sometimes it is our egos that get in the way or even take over completely.

    Sometimes we are afraid to hurt someone else's feelings.

    Thank you for sharing this very personal story.

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    I do not understand how they got our information. I got the some letter.something not right here.
    Thank You

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    To Michelle Tellison -

    Michelle, you are not reading Robert's post correctly.

    His story is TOTALLY different from yours.

    PLEASE go back and re-read his post.

  13. #13
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    Wink Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Hi, all

    Wow. If I could harness all the cunning and effort these people put into their 00000 I may be able to sic them on all the "legal" white collar criminals who constantly think of "legal" ways to take advantage of us. Congratulations they have finally figured out a way to avoid using fine print.

    Thanks, Robert for being kind enough to share this experience with us. It feels more real when it is someone you "know" that has been through this nightmare. I am glad you figured it out in time. As my son would say, "You have mad skills." Good investigating!

    Bye now, Val

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Ok I'am sorry that happen to you Robert. We need to be careful
    Take care

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Maybe I was not as clear as I thought. I never did send any money. I suspected it was a money s-c-a-m from the first red flag. I just wanted to see how far it would go. There is always that off chance it could have been real so I gave them the benefit of that to start. Once I was sure it was my money at stake I just played along attempting to get more information.
    Robert J. Munson

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Most of these s-c-a-m-s originate in Nigeria...

    I posted a couple vehicles for sale on Craigslist and learned fairly quick to check the IP for it's point of origin.
    I can't tell you how many times I was contacted by men in Nigeria. They have nothing better to do but to go on phishing expeditions for American cash, $20 a day is huge money to them...

    Dr. Phil had a whole show on this type of thing and Roberts' situation was the first one they showed... except this woman fell for it, hook line and sinker... she thought this guy was going to marry her... If it comes from Africa, it's probably not for real...

  17. #17

    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    The perpetrators of these types of confidance schemes have been at it for decades. They all operate on PT Barnums premis, "there is a sucker born every minute". Sadly this is the world we live in.

    My newest mission in life is to "investigate" and trap one of these smart guys. I have a plan which I am implementing. I will post progress as it occurs. One day you will read on here, a story of an "up and coming" PI who provided authorities the identity of one of these fine citizens, along with enough evidence to send him/her on a "mystery shopping" trip to the gray bar hotel.

    "A fool and his money are soon parted"

    Dave

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Greetings William, how are you doing today? I do hope all is well with you and you're doing fine.

    I just want to thank you for taking the time to find the story and posting it here, keep up the good work.

    Have a great day.
    JoI

  19. #19

    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome O Isaac
    Greetings William, how are you doing today? I do hope all is well with you and you're doing fine.

    I just want to thank you for taking the time to find the story and posting it here, keep up the good work.

    Have a great day.
    Thank you!

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Greetings William, you are very welcome. I know I haven't offically welcome you to IPIU but, will do so in the proper forum.

    All the best to you on your journey.

    Have a great day.

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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Thank you for the info, I have seen such ads in the classified and was tempted to reply. I am glad I didn't. Great stuff!
    Jan C Dillard
    Badge #11510

  22. #22

    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    I recetly recieved a letter with a check for $2,990. I called the # on the letter and was told I won $40,000. Toclaim this prize I had to wire the money to the canadian IRS to pay the taxes then in 3-5 days I would recieve the balance. I called the bank the check was drawn on and they confirmed this was a 0000. I turned the info over to the postal inspectors.

  23. #23
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    Re: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Greetings Tom, its nice to see you good job!

    Although there are many 0000's out there some still fall victim to their 00000. Awareness is the key.

    Keep up the good work.

    Have a great day.

  24. #24

    Re: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Union members are still getting these phony letters in the mail that ask they go to Wal-Mart and cash fake money orders... which makes you responsible when the MO bounces!

    START WITH TRUST
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    Re: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Wow! They really are getting better and better with there schemes! Thanks for the heads up!

  26. #26
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    Re: 2 short assignments a week pays me $200 a month.

    I have been doing Mystery Shopping since the summer of 05 and I have been rated by the companies durning that time and have been receiving 9's and 10's. I also, have a background in Law Enforcement and the Military. I would like to do different types of assignments in the future and for now I am spending alot of time educating myself.

    I just want to post this to all of the private investigator trainees to be aware of the "s-c-a-m-s" out there and make certain the companies that you contract with are "referrals from IPIU". I recently had a company approach me through a letter to my home address and I have worked over the Internet for quite a long time now. I didn't think to much about it until they sent me a "real check" for over a grand today! After, investigating them I found out they were on the FBI LIST! Even, with alot of investigating I could have been taken however, I just kept on investigating I didn't feel right about it! your gut level feeling is sometimes a warning! I learned that at the local Sheriffs Dept. when I was a Correctional Officer for almost 5 years. and I was almost a Deputy Sheriff too there. It is imperative to continue to research and investigate until you have the facts! don't let a company push you into an assignment with the "bait" of $$$$ like a "worm" on a "hook" this is really something we must be very careful about! if you get taken you can end up in trouble!

    Research the laws, and know about being Inc. and bonded in future as a private investigator and even as a trainee. It is up to "you" to "protect" yourself you only have one "reputation" and you want to keep it A plus!

    I hope this post helps all of those who are new to Mystery Shopping to protect themselves and please look over all of the forums on this topic.

    Yes, you can make good money in Integrity Investigations! I wish everyone great sucess in your new career. You can earn well over $200 a month spare time. The key is to follow there instructions and be on time with shops or assignments and reports. If you are fair and do your assignments correctly you will gain favor with the companys and be contracting over and over again.

    I hope you all have great sucess in the field of Intergrity Investigations which I do sincerely love.

    Thanks!

    Diana L. Fleischman
    Private Investigator

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    Re: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Thank you Diana.

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    Joshua Watson

    These types of scandals are the main reason why there are good people like ourselves that put them behind bars.

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    Re: Joshua Watson

    Quote Originally Posted by Joshua Watson
    These types of scandals are the main reason why there are good people like ourselves that put them behind bars.

    Amen to that my friend!

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    Re: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    It is apparent that there are dozens of 00000 out there, and one never really knows who you are dealing with. unforunately sometimes we have to burn to learn! I resently attempted to subscribe to a pay to become a member site,they claim that you can shop until you drop,and get paid for it while having fun. As required I entered my credit card number and was informed that I would have to use another form of payment to enroll so I elected to do the E-check form of payment which did not go through; however somebody still received the information that was frowarded. I later E-mailed them to request a phone number so that I may enroll and never got any response back. I suspect that I will spend may sleepless nights wondering if I have been 000000, and my banking information may be complymized? 1. does anyone know if or how I can find out if they are legitimite or if they are listed as a 0000 . they advitise themselves at www.shopuntilyoudrop.com. 2. I'm now sure I should have listened to I.P.I.U.'s advise on paying shopping companys to work for them! . Needless to say in the future I will only correspond with I.P.I.U. recommeded sites. I employ you to take a word from the wise and donot do what I have done save yourself the greif and sleepless nigths. I.P.I.U. seems to be the only one interested in protecting our interest and promoting our growth as investigators!

  31. #31
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    Re: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    Greetings Robert, I hope you're well and doing fine today. Sorry to hear about you recent encounter with this group, I hope you already took the neccessary step to secure your account and indentity through the bank and credit card co.

    You made the right decision to put your trust in the Fraturnal Union in which you are a member, awareness through education will help many people throughout this season when everyone is seeking better and better deals.

    Thanks for sharing your story here with us, I hope you have a safe and peaceful holiday.

    Have a great day.
    JoI

  32. #32
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    Re: FBI ALERT: Secret shopper' letter isn't what it appears to be

    I am glad to hear about this artical as my mother is always reading me something off her email about a deal like this from someone. I tell her to delete it and don't even think about it. She is 72 yrs old and sometimes has no sense about these things. Thank you.

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