Safe from Scams: Scammers target online mystery shoppers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- If you're looking for extra money US Postal Inspectors said you should be careful of getting lured into online mystery shopper opportunities. Crooks are tricking people out of their money.

"I went online and was filling out, you know, different applications," said Al McKinnor, fraud victim.

The retired college professor was looking for a part-time job to make a little extra money when he got an offer.

"I would go in and make an assessment, write it up, and send a report in. I would get $100 for each one that I did and got all excited, you know, hey, I got a job," said McKinnor.

Officials said they are called mystery shopper offers and McKinnor said the surveys seemed very detailed and thorough.

"So they told me they would send me a check, and I put the check in my account and when it cashed, take the money and go around and purchase money orders."

He did, and immediately sent the money orders back to his boss via express mail. He then began working on his reports but had some computer problems, so he called his granddaughter for help.

"She said, 'oh, Granddad, that's a scam.' I said, 'what?' She said, 'oh, no that's a scam, did you send the checks back?'"

"He was panicked. He was very concerned about losing over $3,000 with being retired. That money means a lot to him," said Nick Bucciorelli, US Postal Inspector.

The scam is simple: Con men send victims a check that may clear the bank initially, but eventually is determined to be a fraud. Victims are on the hook for the money.

Postal inspectors warn consumers to be wary of online job offers.

"I have never seen a case where someone is sent a check and asked to deposit that check and it be a legitimate business opportunity," said Bucciorelli.

Fortunately, postal inspectors were able to intercept Mr. McKinnor's package and retrieve his money.

In terms of getting a job online, inspectors warn that if you can't communicate with anyone on the phone or in person, that is a big red flag that there may be a problem.
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