'Mystery shopper' job scam defrauds Brantford woman of $6K

A Brantford woman is out $6,000 of her own cash after responding to a text message inviting her to work as a mystery shopper.

Cheques that scammers send to participants look real but aren't

The fraud: a scammer sends you a cheque, you can keep some and spend some, but the large majority is deposited into a specified bank account. The reality: the original cheque bounces and you're on the hook for the funds. (Katherine Barton/CBC)

A Brantford, Ont. woman is out $6,000 after responding to a text message advertisement for a job inviting her to become a 'mystery shopper.'

Legitimate mystery shoppers are sometimes used in the retail industry to test customer service, compare prices and comment on store layout.

When she responded to the ad, a man identified as Mr. Rogers told her to cash a cheque worth $3,000, keep $500 for herself, spend money at a retail outlet and evaluate the service. She was to then take the unspent money to a bank that was not her own and make a deposit.

That simple, and what appeared to be an honest, process was repeated a second time. It wasn't until after the second deposit was made into a completely different bank account that the scam was revealed.

The woman received word from her financial institution the original cheques were fraudulent and she was responsible for the money.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre investigated 204 incidents of job scams between Jan. 1-Feb. 10, 2017, costing victims over $500,000.

It's not unusual

Linda Boutin, a team leader and manager with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, told CBC News it's not unusual that the bogus cheques sent to victims actually look legitimate.

"Sometimes the bank will say 'there's money to cover for that cheque'," said Boutin. "So the consumer feels it's safe to proceed with the instructions from the suspect."

Statistics collected by the Anti-Fraud Centre show 204 job scams with a cost to victims of half a million dollars, in just the first two months of 2017.

The Brantford Police Service issued reminders for people to protect themselves from fraudulent activity:

  • Never respond to spam messages. 
  • Do not click on any links or open email or messaging attachments. 
  • Research the company name. 
  • Never cash a cheque for anyone you do not know. 
  • Ask for cheques to be certified before you deposit or release funds. 
  • Ask for funds to be deposited by emailed electonic transfers, as these transactions do not require the same type of hold on funds.
  • Remember: a legitimate employer will never send funds and request a portion of those funds back.
  • Be wary of unsolicited text messages or emails offering employment.