Scam hits Susanville mail boxes
According to the mailing from Solution Market Research located at 330 W. 42nd Street in New York City, the person receiving the mail has been selected as a mystery shopper in our local area. The mystery shopper will work three hours per week and be paid $300 per week while being trained. After three months, the salary jumps to $400 per week. After six months, the salary increases to a whopping $800 per week.
A cashier’s check for $3,980, drawn on Fort Sill National Bank, in Fort Sill, Okla., is included with the letter. The mystery shoppers are directed to deposit the check in their account. They may keep $300 as their probation training pay and $110 to cover their first purchases as mystery shoppers. Then they’re supposed to send a Western Union or Money Gram for $3,570 to company representatives to cover $170 in service charges and $3,400 in funds to be transferred.
“On the first step of your assignment you will pose as a potential customer shopping and spending $110 at one of the seven retail locations mentioned above,” the letter directed, “and on the second you will be trained in financial transactions by sending a Western Union or Money Gram to our training agents … ”
Chris Washington, a fraud analyst with Fort Sill National Bank, said the cashier’s check is counterfeit.
She said the information on the check is “somewhat correct,” and copies of the letter and the bogus cashier’s check have been mailed all over the United States. The scam is so big, she said 2.7 million of the mystery shopper letters have gone out to unsuspecting Americans so far in this year alone.
According to Washington, there are so many incidents like this the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Administrator of National Banks, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Treasury responsible for ensuring a safe and sound national banking system for all Americans, no longer accepts alerts about these types of frauds.
“It’s just too overwhelming,” Washington said.
The perpetrators of this particular fraud obtained “an image” of one of the bank’s legitimate cashier’s checks and then reproduced it.
She said some companies, especially those from Canada or England, ask people to fax or mail copies of cashier’s checks so they can obtain the correct account numbers and the correct image of a bank’s documents.
The perpetrators are not interested in cashing these legitimate cashier’s checks. They want the account numbers and check images so they can reproduce them for use in their frauds, Washington said.
Tellers with experience with such frauds might recognize the counterfeit checks, Washington said, but less experienced tellers might not.
“Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do,” Washington said. “Some people have called us first, and we’ve told them the cashier’s check is counterfeit. Some people have lost money.”
A representative who answered the phone at Solution Market Research in New York City said, “I don’t have any idea why the bank would say the check is not good.”
The representative hung up rather than answer questions about his company and its mystery shopper program.
Amber Miller, a senior operations risk specialist with Plumas Bank in Susanville, called this mystery shopper scheme “an oldie but a goodie that’s been circulating through the United States for months and months.”
Plumas Bank trains all its tellers, and the bank’s tellers frequently catch these bogus checks, Miller said.
She said all of these types of frauds have a common element — converting non-existing money into legitimate funds, usually by depositing a bad check and then wiring money to the perpetrators.
“The best weapon in fighting this type of crime is providing information to the community,” Miller said.
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