Watch out LinkedIn users, there’s a secret shopper scam making the rounds over there.
We spotted a story on NJ.com — ‘Secret shopper’ fake job scam hits LinkedIn — that reported a mystery shopper scam based on LinkedIn.
It started when Ken Caputo received an email from a relative telling him about an “opportunity” to do some customer research projects for $400. (By putting it in quotes, you can tell we don’t think highly of this “opportunity.”)
So he filled out an application, heard nothing for a couple weeks, and emailed his relative to ask when he should hear back. A short while later, a package arrived. In it was a check for $2,400 and a set of instructions.
Ken was supposed to deposit the checck, keep $400 for his “weekly salary” — there’s those quote marks again — and then go to the nearest Moneygram and Walmart stores. He was supposed to wire $1,000 from Walmart and $1,000 from Moneygram. Then he was supposed to fill out a form about his experience at the two stores.
But Ken was suspicious, and he didn’t follow through. Instead, he contacted NJ.com and reported what he had been told. The newspaper did some research and tracked down the name of the person who was supposed to receive the funds, although they didn’t name the person in case he was also the victim of identity theft and not actually involved in the scam.
“ It’s common for cybercriminals to steal the identity of innocent people, creating fake social media profiles for trickery,” wrote reporter Karin Price Mueller.
They then contacted the bank where the check was from, First Madison Bank & Trust in Colbert, Georgia. First Madison said it was a fraudulent check; the thieves had copied the routing number and account number of the bank, but used a different mailing address for the bank.
So Caputo contacted the relative who had sent the original email and learned that her LinkedIn account had been hacked.
Finally, NJ.com reached out to LinkedIn about the scam. They said:
It wouldn’t say how many complaints it receives, but it said it has measures in place protect members from fraudulent activity.
“When this type of activity is detected, we work to quickly remove it and prevent future reoccurrences,” spokeswoman Amanda Purvis said. “We encourage our members to report any messages or postings they believe are scams and utilize our member help center as a resource to educate and protect themselves from frauds online.”
As we’ve said before, if you want to become a secret shopper, you will never, ever be asked to cash a check. In fact, I really doubt Walmart and Moneygram ever do secret shopper campaigns. (I can’t say for sure, but I know we don’t do them.)
You also won’t receive $400 for one hour’s worth of work. Believe me, if we had those kinds of secret shopper projects, we would keep them ourselves.
(I’m kidding. Sort of.)
But the problem is once the fake check bounces — and it always bounces — you’ll be out the money they promised you, plus the money you wired to the thieves.
So if Ken Caputo had actually wired $2,000 through Walmart and Moneygram, he would have lost $2,000 from his own account. And if he didn’t have it to begin with, he would have been overdrawn by $2,000, and on the hook for all the fees and penalties that go with it.
Look, if you’re not sure about a secret shopper job offer, ask us. Even if it’s not ours, we can at least tell you where to look to see if the secret shopper company is on the up and up or tell you if what they’re offering is too good to be true.