Scam Alert: Secret Shopper Scam Hits in West Virginia - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Scam Alert: Secret Shopper Scam Hits in West Virginia

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CLARKSBURG -

Scam artists are constantly trying to get your attention whether it be through your inbox, your mailbox, or nowadays, even your cell phone.

Experts warn people about offers that appear "too good to be true," including scams that offer free money for nothing in return.

But a relatively new scam that is hitting mailboxes across the country includes a cashier's check in exchange for secret shopper services.  The National White Collar Crime Center is familiar with this type of scam.

"A lot of people think if it's a cashier's check, they went to the bank, got the money, that means it's a good check. In this case, commerce bank doesn't even have an address. Usually it requires two signatures, this only has one. To get around that they just said you need $50,000 to need a second one," said David Wygal, Training Instructor for the National White Collar Crime Center.

A 12 news employee recently received one of those offers in the mail. The first red flag was right on the address line. The name and the address were inaccurate and the envelope was postmarked in Canada.  

Inside, was a cashiers check for more than $2,000, an employment offer as a secret shopper, code of ethics sheet and an evaluation report.  

The letter congratulates the reader for being selected to "evaluate a number of grocery/departmental stores" within a 25 mile radius. 

The letter advises that there is a "Probationary Training Assignment" that they are required to complete within 48 hours of "activating your employment."  The assignment "takes approximately two hours to complete" and remains fully PAID.

The letter then goes on to say that the regular pay has been set up at $150 as an investigative shopper and will "remain your basic rate throughout your contract term with ShopMate until reviewed." 

It tells the reader that the training assignment will "be put together by a controller to be completed at any of our esteemed client's business premises with whom we have a running contract in your area."

In bold print, the writer tells the reader they need to sign and fax their acceptance of the provisional offer before calling a Control Center to activate their profile and schedule their assignments and activate the attached check.

Wygal said the secret shopper scam is common.  

"It's very common. One out of four Americans will see this great deal. A secret shopper will come in the mail. Two to three percent will do it and the average loss is about $2,000," Wygal said.

According to Wygal, there are several clues that suggest the cashier's check is a phony. For starters, the check does not include a bank address. In addition, he said most cashier's checks require two signatures, the included check includes just one signature. He also said the ridges of the edge of the check suggests that it was cut from a book of checks and not issued by a bank.  

According to About.com, the first assignment is to cash the check, pose as a customer and wire the money to an address in Canada.

Wygal said cashing that check would not only put a person out thousands of dollars, but also put them at risk of facing charges, including uttering and forgery.