A secret shopper scam is bilking New Yorkers out of a lot of money. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following "NY1 For You" report.
Shop for free, keep the purchases and get paid to do it: A secret shopper scam Christina May bought in to.
"In the mail came a $960 money order," recalls May.
May deposited the check into her bank account, withdrawing the cash immediately.
"I basically went to Walmart, shopped with a hundred dollars, kept all the stuff I bought. I took a hundred dollars for my commission as I was instructed to and then I wired $725, I wired it to Chicago," says May.
May then reported back on her shopping experience, was given a second assignment, this time receiving three checks. At that point, May caught wind of a secret shopper email scam and discovered the checks she had were fake.
"Now I'm going to owe $960 plus all the fees," says May.
May is just one of countless consumers to fall prey to a common mystery shopper check scam circulating in emails according to the FBI.
"The victims deposit it into their accounts, the bank doesn't know for a matter of days or so that it is a fraud or a counterfeit and by that time the victims have spent all or most of the money," says Doug Leff, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, White Collar Crime Unit.
The scam leaves the victim legally responsible.
"Unfortunately, the law is the last person to endorse a check is liable for it unless they write, without recourse, but the average person doesn't think to write that," says Leff.
The best defense according to the FBI crime unit is realize that good opportunities usually will not come from strangers.
"Don't take any action, even to the extent of clicking your mouse on any type of link or attachment until you've made some independent verification that who you're dealing with is 100 percent legitimate," says Leff.
The FBI in conjunction with other agencies teamed up to create the Internet Crime Complaint Center to get the word out about the latest hybrids of these scams, where you can file complaints.
For more information, visit www.ic3.gov.