Scam victim says don’t cash checks, fall for secret shopper scheme

Scam victim says don’t cash checks, fall for secret shopper scheme
The WAFB 9News Alert Team tracks common scams and alerts you when one is circulating in our area.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Many young people are working hard to make ends meet, just like 19-year-old Jorjela Perez-Garcia.

“I like saving, that’s what I do," she said. “I save my money and later on, I can buy things that I need.”

Perez-Garcia has a full-time job, but was trying to earn extra cash while also learning to become an electrician.

“Right now, I’m buying a couple of tools and stuff. I got like five months left with trade school," she said.

She thought the answer just happened to be in her mailbox four months ago.

“I was also wondering how they got my address to send me this type of paper,” she said.

Perez-Garcia dove headfirst into what she believed was a gig to be a secret shopper. The package seemed legit. Perez-Garcia received a check thought to be worth $1,000 and a well-worded letter with instructions to buy two gift cards from eBay and keep $200 in commission.

(Source: WAFB)

“Eight hundred dollars of my money,” she explained. ”Four hundred on one card, $400 on the other card. I thought that was odd, but I thought I would get paid more from this next job they wanted me to do.”

Perez-Garcia was told to check out things like the cleanliness of the store, the professionalism of the employees. Then, the scammer told her to text the numbers on the back of the gift cards.

”They basically told me good job. Well done. Here’s your next task," she said.

But by the time she started questioning her secret shopper duties, it was too late. She filed a police report and went straight to the bank. Perez-Garcia says the bank told her she wouldn’t be able to get her money back. The scammer had drained the money from the gift cards and that check bounced. Then another check worth more than $2,000 showed up.

“The guy was sending messages like, ’Oh, you’re not going to complete the task’ and I blocked his number," she said.

Thankfully, Perez-Garcia learned her lesson after losing $800. Now, she’s warning everyone else.

“Whenever something like this comes in your mail, do not cash it,” she said. “Don’t just hop up with first instincts. You need a second opinion.”

The Better Business Bureau released a statement Tuesday, Aug. 13 saying victims might receive messages through social media sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, or via text as well.

Experts say avoid falling for those scams by following these tips:

  • Don’t cash the check. Look for discrepancies, such as misspelled words, different addresses, etc. If you receive a check and are asked to make purchases before the check clears, you will most likely have to refund the financial institution that deposited the check.
  • Be skeptical if you are recruited. Is secret shopping legit? There are companies that hire secret shoppers, however, they will never reach out to you and send a check. Scammers will often disguise themselves as recruiters or create fake profiles pretending to be someone you know.
  • Don’t pay for a job. Legitimate companies don’t charge people to work for them - they pay people to work for them.
  • When in doubt, check it out! If you receive an unsolicited check or money order, contact BBB to investigate before getting involved.
(Source: WAFB)

If you feel you have been a victim of a scam, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov and BBB Scam Tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

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