New twist to secret shopper scam

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan
Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Scammers are using new pressure tactics in a different twist on the old secret shopper scam.

For Trish Parkes, one afternoon recently was like any other until she opened a priority envelope with a letter inside saying she was picked to be a “retail secret shopper,” along with a $7,500 check.

“I knew right then and there, something alerted me that it wasn’t right. Why would I be getting a $7,500 check?”

The letter asked Parkes to deposit the cash and send some of it to three people in Turkey.

“I was worried, truly. i didn’t want to cash a check and get stuck for payments,” Parkes said, so she ignored it.

Parkes later began receiving emails asking if she had deposited the money, until the fraudster also started texting her personal cellphone.

“That right then and there just kind of scared me,” Parkes said. “A while ago I was looking for a job so I was on Career Builder and that was probably the way they found me, that’s my theory.”

Although Parkes has her own wedding business now, there was a time when finances were tight and she may have thought the letter was the break she needed.

“I could see just having that smidgen of a thought, you know I could use this $550 or whatever it happens to be,” Parkes said. “People are scamming desperate people.”

Beth Schell, a fraud specialist with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office says sites such as Career Builder are often “trolled by fraudsters looking to trick someone into cashing the fraudulent check and wire transferring the money back to them leaving the victim in a hot mess.”

The sheriff’s office warns residents to:

  • Never cash/deposit a check you receive from someone you do not know.
  • Never wire transfer money (Moneygram and Western Union) or use a prepaid money card to someone you do not know.
  • Be careful about how much personal information you post about yourself online.
  • Never put your social security number on your resume.
  • Don’t randomly provide your social security number on applications, both online and paper. Use the last 4 only if you absolutely must provide it.
  • Remember that just because the banks release the funds from a check you’ve deposited does not guarantee the check is legitimate. It could take 7-10 days for a financial institution to discover the check is fraudulent.

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