By: Joel D. Smith
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Have you heard of "secret shopping?" It's where people are paid to shop and then give their opinions on their experience. Especially around the holidays, Joel D. Smith thought it would be a great time to see if that could be "Your Next Job."
What he found instead was a way scammers try to steal your money around the holidays, and leave you on the hook for even more.
A number of legitimate "secret shopping agencies" recruit people to sample stores, and report their experiences, for a fee. Yet, Joel D. was contacted by email by a company trying to scam him out of nearly $2,000.
After filling out a couple of questions and giving his work address in the response, he was sent a package.
In it was a check made out to him for nearly $2,000, with directions on what to do with the money. He took all the material to the Pennsylvania State Police, and indeed it was a scam.
"They are asking you to split the money and wire it to two different people in two different states," Trooper Robert Hicks said. "That would be something that would tip me off."
Wiring money is a typical way for scammers to try to work around law enforcement.
"Honestly it's very difficult to track. A lot of these scams use wire transfers with the money and the reason for that is, it's very diff to trace, and the scammers know that," Hicks said.
Yet it gets worse. Instead of just being fooled, if you actually deposit the check in your account as directed by the scammers, you become an unwilling accomplice.
"A few days or weeks later the banks find out the check is actually a fake, and then unfortunately you are liable for that," Hicks said.
Here's a couple ways to check on how legitimate the company really is:
Ask them for a phone number to discuss the job. (One was never received)
See if the email address matches the heading. (This one did not)
Never wire money to an unknown source
Contact the Better Business Bureau or police before you act
Secret shopping does exist, but to really make that "your next job," shop around.