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A Texas CU Wants Others to be Aware of a Mystery Shopping Scam
Wednesday, October 2, 2013 6:55 AM

A credit union in Texas has just learned that a scammer(s) is using its name in a mystery shopping scam, and is advising other credit unions to be aware.

Reportedly, a number of consumers across the country received an unsolicited offer via email informing them that they could earn a specific dollar amount per week working as a “secret shopper.”  Those that responded to the email were informed that they would receive a packet in the mail with additional information, including survey instructions, an evaluation form to complete following the “shopping” of a particular business, as well as an authentic-looking cashier’s check purportedly from the credit union in the amount of $2,070.

The letter that accompanied the fraudulent cashier’s check stated that they would be evaluating a Wells Fargo Bank and Western Union store in their area. The check should be used to cover all expenditures, including evaluations, transportation and their compensation of $300.

After depositing the cashier’s check into their account, their first evaluation was of the service provided at Wells Fargo Bank. They were to make a $1,500 cash deposit into an account at Wells Fargo. They were provided a name, account number and routing number.

Their second evaluation was of a Western Union store. They were to wire $240 via Western Union to an individual in a specific city and state.

Both evaluations were to be conducted before the recipients’ discovered the checks were fraudulent.

Recipients were provided specific guidelines, including making note of:

  • How long it took you to get services.
  • Ambiance/Outlook of the Bank & Outlet
  • Smartness of the attendant
  • Customer service professionalism
  • Reactions when under pressure

The credit union says they have thus far returned seven counterfeit cashier’s checks. They’ve also received more than 20 phone calls from non-members across the country seeking to verify if the legitimacy of the cashier’s check.

Eric Gagliano of Market Match says consumers should think twice before cashing a cashier’s check from a stranger. 

“You should always know who’s paying you,” says Gagliano. “And if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Gagliano is a professional mystery shopper, and he presented a session at the Cornerstone Credit Union League’s Leadership Conference & Expo last month on how mystery shopping can help credit unions enhance the member experience. And according to Gagliano, no legitimate mystery shopping company is going to pay you upfront.

“There are companies that solicit consumers to be shoppers, but they don’t pay shoppers in advance. Shoppers are paid after they complete and submit their report, and they are typically paid about $100 per shop.”

Gagliano says legitimate mystery shopping companies certainly wouldn’t send a potential shopper a cashier’s check upfront and ask them to deposit cash into someone’s account or conduct a wire transfer – particularly before the cashier’s check has even cleared.  

Consumers, he says, should pay attention to the red flags. 

The Texas credit union whose name was used in the mystery shopping scam is encouraging credit unions to continue educating their members and the community about scams that could defraud them of their hard earned money.