Scam Alert: BBB Not Tied to Mystery Shopper Scheme

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) —  The scam isn’t the only scheme getting a 2011 makeover. Another alert issued by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) indicates that the counterfeit check scam is also being tweaked by fraudsters in an attempt to dupe cash-strapped Americans into unwittingly wiring part of their paycheck.

According the alert issued on Wednesday, residents in New York and several other states have reported receiving checks in the mail for $2,485.55. The checks are accompanied by a letter that says the recipient have been selected to participate in a Mystery Shopper program. The program is ostensibly being run by a company called Ivoclar Vivadent Marketing Research.

The company provides a phony address, 175 Paineview Drive, Amherst, NY and a fake phone number starting with a 403 area code.  The investigation into this contact information revealed there’s no street by that name in the Amherst area and that the phone number listed is for a 403 area code in Alberta, Calgary Canada.

It is also claiming to be affiliated with the BBB in the paperwork to increase the odds that the target will take the bait.

The letter instructs the recipient to cash the check as part of a mystery shop on a financial institution, than wire the money back to company, minus a fee paid out for their participation in the program.

Similarly to other phony check scams, the check is ultimately discovered to be a fraud, rendering the person who cashed it is held accountable for the funds it withdrew against it. 

According to the BBB, phony check scams are successful for a variety of reasons. Consumers are often fooled by the check itself since it looks so official, featuring the legitimate name of a banking institution, the account number and routing number on the check are also real.

The scams also tend to involve cashier’s checks, which typically take longer to be identified as fraudulent and generally involve some way in which the recipient can make some extra money on the side.

“Scammers are preying on the unemployed and counting on desperate situations that many people are facing,” David Polino, a spokesperson for the BBB, said in a written statement. “Getting a check in the mail made out in your name can be enticing, but don’t fall for cashing it.”

To avoid falling victim of this scam or another just like it, the BBB is advising consumers to disregard any offer that requires them to wire money back to a third party. They should also be weary of unsolicited offers for work-at-home positions.  Those who are considering work-from-home offers should check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general offices before accepting.

Additionally, individuals who are interested in participating in Mystery Shopper programs, which do exist legitimately, should sign up to do so through the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA)’s website www.mysteryshop.org.

The BBB is also asking anyone who may have fallen victim to the latest mystery shopping scam to visit to file a complaint on its website and also report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre at 1-888-495-8501 and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.

What other old school scams are thieves still relying on? Check out in this MainStreet round up of their old favorites.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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