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Scam artists target jobless w/ mystery-shopping gig

June 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Scam artists are increasingly targeting the unemployed with what often sound like legitimate job prospects. These bogus offers often involve "mystery shopping." While the job might seem enticing, it could end up costing you money.

Chris Peltier is retired from the Coast Guard, but he still wants to work and has been tirelessly looking for a job for the past three months.

"I've been looking for jobs left and right," he said.

Then the Pomona man got an email from a business offering him work as a mystery shopper. The company wanted Peltier to go shopping at a Wal-Mart and evaluate the store and the service.

He was sent by FedEx a money order for nearly $2,000 to use at the store, and he would then keep his $200 commission and send the balance of the money order back by Western Union, which he did at a Vons grocery store.

It all seemed legitimate when Peltier received two more post office money orders, and they increased his commission to $300. He was now up to more than $4,000 in money orders.

Then the roof caved in when the bank told Peltier the money orders were fraudulent, and he had to pay them back nearly $4,000.

"Technically, the way a money order works is, you're signing the back with saying you know the people it's coming from, and you're going to make good on the payment," Peltier said.

Now, the bank is taking his retirement and unemployment checks this month - very tough on a man out of work.

"To have it all taken away for insufficient fund charges from the scam, I think it's disgusting," Peltier said.

Bill Mitchell of the Better Business Bureau says if you get an offer like the one Peltier got, red flags should go up.

"You got to tell yourself there's something wrong here because even legitimate businesses don't do this. They don't take perfect strangers and send them large sums of money," Mitchell said.

Because Peltier sent the money to the Philippines, chances are he won't get it back, and law enforcement won't be able to help him.

Remember, legitimate mystery shopper gigs will not pay you money upfront, not until the assignment is completed.


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