Scam Targeting Victims of Slow Economy

October 28, 2008 10:40:59 PM PDT
The Fresno office of the Better Business Bureau says tough economic times are leading more people to fall victim to scams that promise easy money.The Madera County Sheriff's Office says a young mother of two became the victim of a scam after receiving what appeared to be a valid cashier's check worth nearly five thousand dollars from intercity state bank in the mail. All she had to do was act as a mystery shopper, cash the check, and send a few hundred dollars back to a company called "Shoppers Reports Incorporated."

Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Erica Stuart said, "We got a call from a local mom & pop grocery store that a check that had been cashed with them came back cancelled. They were told it was fraudulent."

Erica Stuart says the scam started in the Midwest, but this is at least the second case to hit the valley.

Erica Stuart said, "The concern we have is if this young woman fell victim to it, who else is falling victim?"

The Better Business Bureau serving Central California says it's seen an increase in this type of scam and others as people search for ways to stay afloat in the struggling economy.

Doug Broten of BBB said, "When they're feeling stressed because of a mortgage they can no longer afford or they lost a job, what we're seeing is they're looking for other options, and they're more open to options they wouldn't have taken two years ago."

Authorities say it's incredibly difficult to track the people behind these schemes.

Erica Stuart said, "It goes from one bank to another to another and to follow the trail, they're gone by the time you have released that money!"

But the BBB says the best defense is to be aware and report any suspicious offers.

Doug Broten said, "It's very important that you report it to the law enforcement authorities, Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau so we can keep up on what's going on and hopefully shut some of these guys down."

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