Consumer advice: Mystery shopping scam — busted!

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There are a lot of reasons to be wary of mystery shopper opportunities. Letís dissect an actual example shared by a couple of our astute readers who called to see if this was just a scam and if so, to warn others.

In this case itís a scam.

There are many variations of this scam but this one goes like this: Our readers received a very official priority mail envelope with a check enclosed and a letter of instruction. The letter was from a mystery shopper supervisor, Mr. John Dark (Iím not making this up).

The check, drawn on a bank from Connecticut, was for about $2,500 and looked pretty official. Upon investigation, though, the address of the actual bank was slightly different than what was on the check (Red Flag No. 1).

The recipients were instructed to deposit the check into their personal bank only because no check-cashing place would cash it for them (Red Flag No. 2). They were then instructed to disburse all but $300, which they were to keep as their commission (Red Flag No. 3).

Next they were to go directly to Walmart and use the Walmart-to-Walmart transfer service to disburse the funds as directed and report back to a supervisor to rate Walmart on their service. All of this was to be done within 24 hours of cashing the check (Red Flag No. 4). The letter was poorly written with many grammatical errors (Red Flag No. 5).

These offers might sound enticing, but the result would have been a loss of $2,200 plus bank fees to our unsuspecting victims once the check bounced.

If the scammer keeps bothering you with phone calls and text messages, block the phone number. Whatever you do, donít cash that check.

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CRAIGSLIST SCAM AVOIDED: Billís been warning readers about the scams that abound on Craigslist. A local consumer called with a funny story to share. She and her husband had listed snow tires for sale on Craigslist for $200 firm. Several days later they got a response via email asking if they still had the tires for sale.

Just so happens they did. In the email the potential buyer had all the classic scam tactics down to a tee that Billís been warning us about. There were so many misspelled words and no caps in the email, it was comical.

And if that wasnít a big enough red flag, the buyer said they could pay $300 for the tires, but only by check, not cash (now we ask you: Who would pay more than the firm asking price?). Oh, and the buyer was too busy to pick up the tires but he could send a driver over with the check right away.

Our readers got a nice chuckle about all the classic scam tactics in this one response. They took Billís advice and hit the delete button.

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TESTING A REFUND POLICY: An astute reader of this column recently visited our CdíA Costco to test their refund policy when an itemís price is lower within 30 days of purchase (we wrote about this on Oct. 29). He was successful getting the difference refunded but passed along the following Costco guidelines:

First, you must have your original receipt. Next, the item must still be for sale in the store (which it would be or you would not know of the price reduction). Finally, the item cannot be consumable.

With this knowledge and the price deciphering I wrote of in the Oct. 29 column, you are now ready to become a Costco master shopper. Just remember to spend responsibly when shopping for all those deals.

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CHARITABLE QUESTIONS: Not sure if you should give to a charity that is asking you for money? Check out Charity Navigator: https://www.charitynavigator.org

They vet charities, grade them and let you know how much of every dollar goes to the cause vs. administrative and program fees. Itís your money so you decide if the charity fits your giving criteria.

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DONíT PRESS 1: Microsoft DOES NOT make unsolicited calls to customers. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, hang up ó itís a scam. Donít even press 1 to make the calls stop. All this does it let the bots know you are a live one on the hook and you will be bombarded with dozens of calls a day.

When you get these calls, hang up and immediately block the number so it wonít come through again.

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FEDEX DELIVERY NOTIFICATIONS: If you get an email from FedEx with the title ďFedEx: Delivery Problems NotificationĒ which contains a link, delete it immediately. These links will connect users to a site that will probably infect your computer.

FedEx does not send unsolicited emails to customers requesting information about packages, invoices, account numbers, passwords or personal information. FedEx is aware of the problem so if you receive a message like this, either delete it or forward it to: abuse@fedex.com

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Remember: Iím on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please give me a call. As The CdíA Press Consumer Gal, Iím here to help. You can either email me at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. Please include your name and a phone number or email. Iím available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Iím a copywriter and consumer advocate living in Coeur díAlene.

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