Secret shopper program dupes woman


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Shelby is a young stay-at-home mother who was just looking to make some extra cash. But she fell for a scheme that’s financially ruined her and her husband.

“They fooled the bank just like they fooled us,” Shelby told KRQE News 13.

It’s a new twist on an old ploy.

A few months ago, the 22-year-old signed up to be a secret shopper. You get paid to buy goods and services, then evaluate the customer service.

Last month, Shelby and her husband got an acceptance letter in the mail and a check for $2,000.

“I was excited,” she said.

Shelby said there were no red flags. The check looked real.

“It was completely legitimate, it was signed, it had all the security features, and it came from my bank,” Shelby said.

She deposited the check at her Wells Fargo bank branch. Three days later, the bank said it cleared. Then she was off to evaluate two businesses: Money Gram and Western Union.

She was told to wire nearly $1,000 to a person in Spain using Western Union. Then she had instructions to head to Money Gram to send another $500 to a person in Georgia. After Shelby transferred the money, she filled out a survey about the businesses online.

That same afternoon last month, she realized there was a problem.

“I went to check our bank account to see if we had enough to get groceries … And it was negative three grand,” Shelby said.

Even though she says Wells Fargo cleared the check, it was was bogus. Shelby and her husband had been taken. In all, they were out more than $3,000.

“We were out all the fees for Western Union even though we were able to stop the transfer. We were out the transfer and the fees on the Money Gram plus our bank fees, the check-bounce fees, the overdraft fees,” Shelby said.

Shelby said nobody will help her. She made a police report but can’t get an officer to call her back.

She also feels her bank did nothing to protect her and her husband. Instead, it closed their accounts and sent them to collections.

“I talked to the bank manager, talked to the fraud department, talked to collections people, the loss prevention,” Shelby said.

A Wells Fargo spokesman said it’s the responsibility for each customer to ensure checks they deposit are legit.

Secret Shopper Schemes

Legitimate secret shopping opportunities are out there, but so are plenty of schemes. If an opportunity is on the up and up, you won’t have to pay an application fee or deposit a check and wire money on to someone else. For tips on how to avoid these types of schemes»

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Tech expert Nyika Allen said that, with all the information on the Internet, it is easy to search to see if a business or a job is fake.

“We all have to be hyper-vigilant and protective of ourselves,” Allen said.

Allen said you can find out about a scheme by searching key words online, such as the company name.

“The Federal Trade Commission has a lot of great information about scams and they are constantly updating their website with the newest scam,” Allen said.

Shelby said the people who took her money also have her personal information. She’s worried her identity could be stolen next. Shelby said this has been a hard lesson to learn.

“Don’t fall for quick money,” she said.

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