Don’t fall for ‘secret shopper’ scam this holiday season

SALISBURY, N.C. — People trying to make extra money with the holidays approaching should be warned about a familiar scam. A Salisbury man contacted Action 9 after he recently spotted an online advertisement.

Antoine Leonard said he was on the popular job website Indeed when a certain ad caught his eye.

“This one was for secret shopping,” he told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

Leonard applied for the job and two days later, he got a check in the mail. He said the check for $2,800 came with instructions. He was supposed to deposit the check in his own bank account and keep $300 for himself, plus an extra $50 for gas.

He was instructed to use the remaining amount to buy Walmart gift cards to test the store’s customer service. He was supposed to give the scammer the numbers on the cards.

“The only thing that kind of made it look real for like five seconds was the check itself,” Leonard said.

He said it looked real for a few reasons. The check had an official-looking foil sticker and a watermark on it. Fortunately, Leonard didn’t fall for the scam. Instead, he contacted Action 9 and asked him to warn others.

“(I’m) frustrated, a little angry, a little disappointed,” Leonard said. “I don’t like people preying on the weak and the misinformed.”

Other viewers contacted Stoogenke about similar experiences and sent Action 9 photos of the checks they received. One check was for $1,950 and another was for more than $2,500.

Stoogenke wants to make sure people know how this scam works so they don’t fall for it. Typically, the scammers send a check for a higher amount than it should be and ask you to deposit it. Then they ask you to send money to a third party, but the money usually goes right back to them without you realizing it. In this case, the scammer would have been able to use the gift cards once they received the numbers from Leonard.

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