Beware of Checks in the Mail

Scams come in small envelopes

Robert Pike is retired but wanted to make a little extra money.  He found an offer to be a mystery shopper.

Within a few days he had a check in the mail for $985.

People are getting similar letters as scam artists use the cover of a mystery shopping company to trick people out of their money.

"When you get an unexpected check in the mail I would be very, very concerned," said Sheryl Reichert with the Better Business Bureau.  She says people who cash the checks end up losing the money.

The letter sent to Robert included instructions that told him to cash the check at his local bank, take $200 out of it for his pay and use $20 for a shopping visit at Walmart. He was supposed to keep track of his Walmart experience as part of his mystery shopping job. After that, he was supposed to send $765 through Western Union to a charity in Georgia. That was also part of his mystery shopping experience.

But Robert had his doubts.

"It wasn't very professional," said Robert. The check looked real but the instructions were poorly written. There was no letterhead, just a page telling him what to do with the money and how to evaluate his shopping experience.

But Sheryl Reichert says the check will bounce and after it's too late, the person falling for the scheme will be on the hook to send the money back to the bank.

"You are responsible for the checks that you deposit," said Reichert, "so if you deposit a check that is bad your bank will come after you for the money.

But by then, many victims will have already spent or wired the money and will not be able to get it back.

Robert didn't fall for the scam but he's afraid someone in bad need of money might cash the check.

"If you're getting a check in the mail and you haven't done any work yet, that a good sign it's a scam."

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