Hesperia resident targeted in secret shopping scam
The Federal Trade Commission advises against doing business with mystery shopping companies who:
• Advertise by email or in classified ads
• Require that you pay for “certification”
• Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper
• Charge a fee to access mystery shopping opportunities
• Sell directories of companies that hire mystery shoppers
• Ask you to deposit a check or wire some or all of the money to someone
If you believe you have been scammed, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at
www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or contact your attorney general’s office.
HESPERIA • Searching for a part-time job, a local woman instead found a scam that could have cost her up to $4,000.
Just before Christmas, Hesperia resident Shana Angelica received an email from the website Monster.com about a position as a mystery shopper. She was asked to email information including her name, address, age and gender to be considered for the position.
On Dec. 28, Angelica received two packages, one from Fed-Ex and one from the United States Postal Service. Inside each package was detailed typed instructions and two money orders. Totaling $3781.00, the value of the four money orders seemed too good to be true.
Angelica’s instructions were to cash the money orders at Western Union, spend $50 at Walmart, deduct a commission, and then send the rest of the cash as a money transfer to a specified address. Along the way, Angelica was instructed to evaluate the service she received at Western Union and Walmart, then send her observations to an email address, Angelica said.
Explaining that her family raised her to be suspicious, Angelica said that she instead took the money orders to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Hesperia station. Angelica was told that the money orders were fake and that she was the second person that week to bring fake money orders to the station. However, Angelica said she was told no crime was committed until the fake money orders were cashed.
For further confirmation, Angelica visited Desert Community Bank in Hesperia. There, she was told that she would have been responsible for the value of the money orders had she insisted on cashing them.
Angelica didn’t continue with her mystery shopping instructions and instead emailed the provided address, asking the person at the other end to never speak to her again.
While some legitimate secret or mystery shopping opportunities exist, Angelica’s experience bore the telltale signs of a scam, according to information from the Federal Trade Commission. These signs include paying an application fee, then depositing a check or wiring money on to someone else. Banks must make funds from deposited checks available in days, while uncovering a fake check can take week.
For this reason, a person in Angelica’s position would be responsible for repaying the bank if the money order is found to be false. While Angelica is grateful that she avoided the scam, she wonders how many other people have fallen prey to these kind of scams
“It’s rotten. They are getting people who are looking for money,” Angelica said.