This time of year (but more this year than in any other years since Al Gore invented the Internet), I have received oodles of emails offering me a job as a mystery shopper. They seemed real enough. Asked only for public record (name, address, phone number, etc) and more importantly didn’t ask for any bank account information or money up front. What the hell I thought and I replied to my internet employer to become a mystery shopper.  My new employer then asked for mobile phone number so they could send me a text message when my first assignment would arrive. I cringed, because I hate getting cell phone calls from numbers that I am not familiar with, but I shrugged my shoulders and provided my mobile number.

It being the holiday season why not pick up $200 an assignment. Sure beats beating a fellow shopper up at WalMart on Black Thursday aka Thanksgiving and Blacker Friday.

To my surprise I received a text message informing me that my first assignment would arrive by USPS Priority Mail and all the instructions would be in the package.  I thought can’t be a scam if they are sending out my instructions via USPS Priority Mail! why would scam artists spend that sort of money?

After all, this costs money. What scam artist spends money when it is YOUR money they want?

The first package arrives and in it is a postal money order made out for $960.45. The instructions are for me to cash the MO, keep $150 for myself and wire the rest to someone in Manila. I am to use the local Western Union franchise and write a brief report about my experience. Basically rate the customer service, the location, the neighborhood, etc. I deposit the MO into my checking account expecting the teller to hold up the stop sign. She does not and says it should clear in three days. Within a half hour of receiving the first package I get five text messages and five emails asking me if I have completed my assignment yet? I informed all the messages to me that I am waiting for the MO to clear.  My usual answer was “OK”.

So, why I am waiting for the first money order to clear my bank, I get a text message, followed by an email informing me that my second assignment is on its way to me.  Again, I get priority mail package with instructions and a NEW check for $2850.67 with similar instructions but offering me a $50 bonus if I get the assignment done lickety split. This time I was to go to a WALMART and use their services to send the balance remaining after I take my $250 out and write up a critique of the WALMART money gram services.  I told my employer I would have to deposit the check and wait for clearance. I got my usual reply of “OK”.

After 36 hours, I checked the balance on my account and sure enough the checks had been withdrawn as ‘altered’ and I was told someone from the bank would be contacting me. I explained to the bank officer that I was doing investigative work for BLOGGER NEWS NETWORK and I had no malice towards the bank and just wanted to see how these scams worked. They waived the $12 fee in the spirit of cooperation and maybe Xmas.

Moral of the story is that these scam artists must be making real money. Say they send out 500 USPS Priority Mailings a day at $9.95 — that costs them $4,975.00!  That means people are not catching on and instead catching problems with their bank accounts when the checks/MO are found to be frauds.

BE CAREFUL people, don’t be greedy!

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