Friday, September 4, 2009
GRANDVIEW - The chance to be a mystery shopper and receive a check for more than $2,500 seemed too good to be true.
Turns out it was, as Dorrie Roy found out when she and her husband Gerald tracked down the source of a check she received.
The Grandview couple received the offer unsolicited, which set off the first warning bell, said Gerald.
"When someone sends you a check you didn't ask for, it makes you wonder," he said.
That combined with the fact no less than three different addresses from three different states were on the correspondence gave the Roys good reason to be skeptical.
What made the scam unusual, besides being a mystery shopper come-on, is that the check attached was from a real company with the firm's chief financial officer's signature.
Gerald said he called the company and found out 15 people had already cashed fraudulent checks they received written in the company's name.
Because the company, Heart Technologies, had already alerted its bank, anyone who cashed the scam checks will have the money taken out of their account to pay the bank.
The final clue to Gerald that this was a fraudulent check is because of the request to wire nearly $2,000 via Western Union to the fictitious firm of Hearts Inc.
The money, though, doesn't' end up coming from the fake check sent to the person, rather from the person's own bank account.
It's the first time he's heard of the mystery shopper angle, but Grandview Deputy Police Chief Mark Ware says the heart of the scam goes back years and years.
The Roys showed the check and correspondence to Grandview Police, and Ware said the essence of the fakery is to issue someone a fake check then get the victim to send some of the money back to you.
"That scam's been around forever," said Ware. "It's a variation of the Nigerian scam."
Bottom line, says Ware, follow the Roys' example in immediately being suspicious at receiving an unsolicited prize check.
"It's like out of the blue, you never entered but it sounds great, you're going to be a millionaire," Ware says of the tempting scams. "But if it's unsolicited, where did it come from?"
With today's technology, Ware said the scam checks can look real, so don't base your response just on the check's appearance. In fact, four or five years ago a couple came through town and dinged Grandview merchants for $50,000 or $60,000 in fake checks.
Grandview residents are encouraged to think twice before cashing that unsolicited check, says Ware. Those who receive the checks should confer with the bank or ask the Grandview Police Department.
"We're open 24/7," Ware said. "We'd be happy to chat with them.