Talent man miffed over mystery shopper scam

A 21-year-old Talent man lost $3,500 in a "secret shopper" scam that sent him a fake check and asked him to wire money to test Western Union's services, Talent police said.

"It's pretty clever how they do it," Talent Police Chief Mike Moran said, noting he has seen ads around college campuses for mystery shoppers and consumer service evaluators. "They prey on kids who need money, and there are not a lot of jobs out there."

Moran said the young man contacted the company and received a check for $3,900 and a legitimate-looking letter instructing him to deposit the check, keep $400 for himself and wire the rest to test Western Union's Money-gram service to make sure employees weren't stealing funds.

He wired the money and called a phone number for a "coordinator" who was to collect the money and needed the transaction's control number. Although he wired the money to a location in Texas, the phone number was in Montreal and anyone with the control number could collect the money from any Western Union location, police said.

The young man then learned that the check he had received was fraudulent, and he was liable for the loss from his own account, Moran said.

Moran said virtually all cases of people getting large checks to deposit and then a request to send cash back via a money order are scams.

"It seems too good to be true, and it is," Moran said.

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