Scammers targeting people who are out of work with fake ‘secret shopper’ job, Cuyahoga County warns

Updated: Apr. 1, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - New reports show scammers are targeting people who are out of work with fake “secret shopper” job opportunities.

Scammers are enticing people with flexible hours and a chance to work from home for great pay.

19 News along with our partners with the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad are committed to bringing you the latest warnings about scams like this.

Even experts say the job offers people are getting in the mail look so real--like the perfect solution to their troubles induced by the coronavirus.

Larina Walker was skeptical when she got one of the “secret shopper” job offers in the mail.

“When I opened it up it said Walmart Survey Service,” she said.

A $3,500 check came along with instructions on what to do with it.

The instructions said to deposit the check into her account.

Then, withdraw most of it in cash, buy Walmart gift cards, send pictures of the bar codes on the back and finally, fill out a survey about the customer service you received at the store.

“It was just like, ‘Oh that’s great. I can do that on my time and still take care of people,’” Walker said.

Thankfully though, she didn’t go through with it.

She called Cleveland’s Better Business Bureau and found out it was a scam.

“It was a real let down too, because I was hoping it was real,” she said.

She and likely many others were hoping for that--especially those who have lost a job or had hours cut back due to the pandemic.

“So many of us fall into that category right now,” Sue McConnell with the BBB said.

According to the state, hundreds of thousands of people have recently filed for unemployment benefits.

McConnell says the BBB’s scam tracker is shows several reports coming in across Northeast Ohio about the so called “secret shopper” scams.

“Work at home scams become very very tempting, scammers know that,” she said.

She says the checks people are getting in the mail are counterfeit.

Someone could be in a world of hurt if they deposit one and follow the instructions with it.

“At some point, the bank is going to tell you that money that you put in the bank, you have to return to the bank and you’re going to be out all that cash that you withdrew from that phony check,” McConnell said.

That’s why Walker wanted to do an interview with 19 News.

“To stop people. Be cautious,” she said. “Don’t cash anything. Call someone first. Do your research.”

“We just really need to be more vigilant than ever in combating these criminals,” McConnell said.

You can report a secret shopper scam to the BBB on their website.

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