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ConsumerWatch: Mystery Shopper Scam Flourishing In Bad Economy

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(CBS)

(CBS)

SUNNYVALE (CBS 5) – An old scam with some new tweaks is making the rounds, and scammers are casting a wide net, even sending solicitations to children.

12-year-old Keily Watson of Sunnyvale recently received one such solicitation, bearing a Canadian return address. The mailing included a check made out to Keily for $1,996, plus a letter offering her a job as a “mystery shopper.” The first business she was instructed to “test” was Western Union.

“I was kind of surprised,” the tween told ConsumerWatch.

Kiley’s Dad realized it was a scam. “It looked almost believable,” he said. “I thought ‘people need to know about this and these guys need to be shut down,’” Watson said.

Gene O’Neal of the Better Business Bureau said the scam is flourishing in the bad economy. He said his agency has received numerous complaints in the past month, as has the ConsumerWatch helpline. (1-888-5-HELPS-U)

O’Neal said it’s actually a combination of two scams: The old phony check scam, in which scam artists send a phony check, along with instructions to the recipient to deposit it in a bank account, and send a large portion of the amount back, usually through Western Union. O’Neal said it also has elements of the “job scam,” in which con artists convince individuals to pay money up front for training, job leads or materials, that never materialize.

“There are a lot of don’ts here,” O’Neal said, “but the key one is – don’t send any money back.”

FTC Warning About Mystery Shopping Scams

CC Warning About Phony Check Scams

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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