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Secret shopper scheme hits mid-Michigan

Posted at 11:19 PM, Dec 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-21 08:33:15-05

LANSING, Mich. — A lot of us could use a little extra money for Christmas and scammers are counting on that as they target mid-Michigan.

Their scheme is so well-done that it's even fooling some local banks.

The con artists behind a secret shopper scam made sure everything would look legit unless victims did a lot of research. One man reached out to News 10 when something didn't seem right.

Out of the blue, Adam Borton got a priority package in the mail with a shopping survey and check inside.

"It seemed really odd that someone would send $2,950 just to make sure that I do a survey," he said.

It was an Apple Store Mystery Shopping Survey Assignment from the Nationwide Marketing Research Program asking Borton to buy two Apple Store gift cards.

"One gift card for $1,300 and another for $1,350 depending if i did the transaction within 48 hours," Borton said.

If he scratched off the back of the purchased gift cards took a picture of the numbers and then texted them to a number on the form, he would get to keep $500.

The bank on the check was legitimate, but he decided to call his bank first.

"They looked up the account number, routing number and it was a completely legitimate check."

But Borton did some further digging and watched a local news story in Florida where someone was scammed in the same way.

He took a closer look and noticed the check had a void watermark as well.

"It's kind of scary. They have my entire name and address."

Melanie Duquesnel, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan said scammers can get people's personal information in a variety of ways.

"They'll look at Facebook posts, and if they can find anything on the dark web. You may have signed up for some kind of sweepstakes or situation and somehow that's been picked up and sold on a nefarious site," said Duquesnel.

Borton didn't contact the number on the form, but wanted to get the word out so others won't take the bait.

"If it's something suspicious, look into it before you do anything with it."

Borton has no idea why he was targeted. In other cases the people receiving the checks have gotten text messages pressuring them to cash the checks and buy the gift cards.

Some things you can do to avoid being scammed are:

  • Wait until the check is absolutely cleared which may take more than 14 business days.
  • Research where the check came from and the name of the company.
  • If you've never signed up to be a secret shopper, more than likely its a scam.