Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mystery Shopper...beware of Western Union & U.S. Post Office scam! E-mail rip-off offer!

Did you ever think that it might be cool to go into a retail outlet (using someone else's money) - and shop undercover - so that Management could get a fix on how qualified, efficient, and polite their staff were when they waited on you?

Frankly, it's been a fantasy of mine over the years to be just that - a sleuthing "mystery shopper", of course!

So, when I recently received an e-mail offering me employment in this exciting clandestine field, I filled in the application and responded immediately.

Lo & behold!

Within two weeks, I was contacted by a company representative by the name of Mike Davies, who promptly informed me that I had been hired to carry out my first assignment.

Gosh, I wasn't required to attend a personal interview, or even have a background check taken.

Of course, that sent up a red flag immediately, but I remained optimistic that everything was legit.

When the instructions arrived shortly thereafter in a United States Post Office mailer, it was pretty obvious from the contents of the "kit" inside, that I may have stumbled onto a fraudulent business venture run by scam rip-off artists.

However, I decided to reserve judgment until I had the opportunity to review all the documents.

The "Mystery Shopper" employer was allegedly "hiring" me to conduct a money transfer at Western Union (their client!) so that their firm could determine "undercover" how fast and efficient the process was.

To facilitate the task - Mike Davies mailed me a money order in the sum of $975.19 - $750 of which was to be wired to their "secret shopper" in another location as follows:

Jonny Payne
20 Avon Street
Malate, Manila

The balance was to be pocketed by me for the services rendered and the costs involved with carrying out the assignment.

Once I had perused the paperwork and the detailed information outside and inside the mailing envelope, it was quite evident that the assignment didn't pass the smell test!

For example, although Mike Davies had provided detailed instructions that were two full pages in length, there was no company name or contact number on the letterhead.

Curious, that!

On the return address portion of the USPS envelope, there was also a second individual (I'd never been in contact with) listed as the sender as follows:

Jannette Gonzalez
522 Capitola Road EXT
Santa Cruz, CA

A google search on the address returned some surprising results pertaining to that address which appeared to be "fishy" (to say the least!).

But, it was the money order in the sum of $975.19 that rang the alarm bells.

I have purchased a number of money orders over the years, and in this instant case, it appeared to my keen eye that the document was obviously a counterfeit.

Granted, there were obvious efforts by the "scammers" to make the money appear legitimate-looking.

For example, at the bottom of the pay stub it read:

See reverse warning. Negotiable only in the U.S. and Possessions


And, on the reverse it read:

Require Positive Identification
Hold to light & check for Benjamin Franklin Watermark &Security Thread

The thread they referred to was also "embossed" with USPS on it in silver metallic ink.

When I took the money order to the U.S. Post Office to verify its authenticity, a clerk at the window verified it was a fake.

No wonder Mr. Davies instructed me to deposit the money order into my own bank account instead of cashing it at the United States Post Office!

Now, the nature of the scam came sharply into focus.

Mr. Davies and his gang of counterfeiters were counting on innocent naive "mystery shoppers" to deposit the money orders into their bank accounts and immediately pay out the $750.00 to the other designated "secret shopper" in Manila.

By the time the bank returned the money order unpaid, the duped "employee" would be out the funds in their account, naturally!

Well, 'ya know what they say, eh?

There's a sucker born every minute!

Consumers beware!

Now, excuse me, while I photocopy all the documents and send them off to the FBI where I trust an investigation will be launched against these scurrilous individuals for mail fraud, grand theft, and what-have-you!

And, how as your day?

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