Trading Standards officers are advising people to be vigilant against a certain type of scammer that is touting for mystery shoppers. The scam typically presents itself as an innocuous looking newspaper advertisement in the situations vacant section. The job ad promises to offer the chance for someone to become a mystery shopper, with the potential to earn a reasonable sum of money fairly quickly for minimum outlay and effort. Mystery shopping is currently very popular amongst individuals who are seeking an additional income that they can obtain by working hours that fit around their existing family duties and doesn’t require any regular firm commitment.
The con works by the fraudster telling the respondent to the job advert that the situation is to test how well money transfer providers deal with their customers and what sort of service they provide. Anyone who has any experience of mystery shopping will expect to be asked to do these types of tasks routinely, so this part of the fraud is seemingly nothing out of the ordinary. However, the mystery shopper will then be asked to accept a cheque of approximately £2,500 and will be given specific instructions to pay it into their own personal bank account. They will then be told to transfer a similar amount of money immediately, before the cheque officially clears, to a specific address and account outside of the UK.
The scam is revealed when the money is sent from the mystery shopper’s bank account whilst the cheque is supposedly clearing. In reality, the cheque is a fake and will not clear, meaning that the money sent is going directly from the unsuspecting individual’s actual bank balance. The money is then collected by the gang of fraudsters, and since it has gone abroad, there is no hope of recovering it.