Office of the Attorney General
Latest Scams Target Out-of-work Kentuckians
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway warns out-of-work Kentuckians to be leery of the latest wave of scams to hit the Commonwealth. The Office of the Attorney General has received an increased number of complaints and inquiries about so-called "Secret Shopper" and Automated Clearing House transfer scams that have cost victims thousands of dollars and prey upon those who are experiencing tough times.
"Kentuckians struggling to make ends meet can easily fall victim to con artists’ gimmicks. I encourage everyone, particularly those seeking work, to be extra vigilant and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said General Conway.
In the "Secret" or "Mystery" shopper scams, scam artists target job-seekers through newspaper ads, internet job sites, direct mailings or emails and online resume postings. Scammers will tell their victims that they have been chosen to serve as customer service representatives and perform secret shopper duties. They will then mail a packet that contains an instruction sheet and a check for a large amount of money, usually several thousand dollars. The victim is told to act within a short time frame to deposit the check into their bank account and then wire the funds, using Western Union or some other service, to a specified location, usually out of the state or out of the country. The victim is asked to evaluate his or her experience at the wiring service office and send back the evaluation form to the "employer." In return, the victim is directed to keep a small portion of the money from the original check as compensation.
What the victim doesn’t know is that the check is counterfeit and the victim will be held liable for the funds, thereby losing the money they sent. The victim will also be held responsible for any overdraft fees that may occur as a result of the large withdrawal.
In the Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer scams, scammers use software installed on a victim’s computer, through an attachment on an email, to gain access to the victim’s online banking system. The scammers then transfer money out of the victim’s bank account and into the account of a consumer, who believes that they have been hired as a secret shopper. The consumer is then told to wire the funds to a specified location, keeping a small stipend as compensation. In these scenarios, money from the victim replaces the counterfeit check, with the end result of the consumer wiring stolen money to the scammers.
The following tips will help consumers from falling victim to these types of scams:
- Treat the money you wire the same as cash. Once money is wired, it is unrecoverable. Only wire money to trusted friends.
- Never pay a company to hire you, no matter whether they require you to send money in the form of purchasing training materials, becoming certified, or some other manner. If a prospective employer is requesting money, it’s probably a scam.
- Only open emails from people you know and delete any emails that look suspicious. Even opening a spam email can install malware or a virus on your computer.
- Investigate mystery shopper agencies before you commit. Anyone can post a newspaper or Internet ad. Although genuine mystery shopper jobs exist, they rarely yield the pay promised by scams.
- Beware of offers that require a strict time frame. In these cases, the time constraint is aimed at getting the victim to send the money before discovering that the employment is a scam or that the check is counterfeit.
- Be leery of checks received in the mail. Even if a bank initially verifies that a check is legitimate, the bank may later discover that the check is counterfeit; void the funds, and leave you liable.