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Scam Alert: Secret shopper scam

Recently, members of the Virginia Tech community became the targets of a bogus check scam.  The scam involves the target receiving a request to be a secret shopper or responding to an email to try out a service and evaluate it.  A check for a specific amount of money is provided to the target along with instructions.  The amount is supposed to cover a fee for the target plus additional money that is to be returned to the scammer.  The target deposits the check and is then directed to send the scammer the additional money through a wire transfer.

The scam works if the target sends the money before the bank can notify the target that the account associated with the check does not have sufficient funds to cover the amount or the check is a fake.  Instructions to the target from the scammer will often state that the target should not tell the wire transfer location what they are doing.  This action cuts down on the chances that someone will alert the target that this is a scam.

What to Do:

  • Do not provide personal information such as:  dates of birth, social security numbers, and bank account/credit card numbers
  • If you receive an unsolicited letter or email requesting you to deposit a check and wire money back to an individual that you did not request or you found the service on the internet and decided to join, be suspicious.
  • Be suspicious of situations where someone overpays you by check and then asks you to wire money or utilize a prepaid card for payment.
  • While services like this might exist, it is better to take the check to your local bank and ask them to verify its’ validity and that the money is available before following through.
  • Recognize that even if the check passes initial reviews, it can still be determined to be fraudulent later. 
  • If you find that you have been the target of a scam involving a bogus check, notify local law enforcement.
  • Do not cash the check and then wait to see what happens.
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