The RCMP have uncovered a widespread cheque scam that attempts to lure consumers with promises of jobs as secret shoppers.
"It's like any other scam," said Cpl. Phil Carver. "They are trying to make you believe you have money when you don't, and get you to send back real money."
Carver, who has spoken to hundreds of people, says thousands of cheques have been turned in to authorities.
Edmonton-based Brad Buxton also received a phoney cheque when he responded to an advertisement in his community paper on behalf of his aunt.
"The ad read additional income, mystery shopper required for retail stores food industry, financial institutions, etc."
Buxton received a priority post package and was instructed to act as a secret shopper for a wire transfer service. He was instructed to deposit a cheque for $2,500 and use $2,200 to purchase a Moneygram. Buxton was told he could keep the remaining $300 for testing the service.
"Now I'll be honest, I did sit there for a minute because I was in the parking lot right next to my bank machine," he said. "It was awful tempting."
But, Buxton recognized that address on the cheque lacked a postal code. After investigating further, he found the address listed was in fact false, prompting him to turn the cheque over to the police.
"I do feel like a bit of a sucker in that the shiny lure went flashing by," he said. "But to use a fishing analogy, I didn't bite."
Consumers should report suspicious cheques to Phonebusters, an anti-fraud call centre run by the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP.