By Michael Praats | May 5, 2021 at 3:14 PM EDT – Updated May 5 at 7:49 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – When Autumn Blake got a text message from a number she did not know, she was skeptical, but curious. She had been looking for jobs and thought the text was a legitimate offer, but as she moved forward with communications with the person on the other end of the line, she began to see some red flags.
“It started out with a simple text message; it looked like a legit job offer from Whole Foods saying they were looking for mystery shoppers in the Wilmington Area,” she said.
But as things went on, Blake said she knew that something was amiss. She filled out a form that asked for basic personal information, which she filled out, then, she got a text saying she had been selected to be a mystery shopper for Whole Foods.
“Each trip you got paid $400, you could do up to three trips a week for six weeks,” she said.
As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is; however, curious to see what was next, she waited on the next text. When it came, it told her that a package was being mailed to her — and it was. When it arrived there was a sheet of paper in an envelope along with a check for $2,900.
“As soon as I saw the check I knew this was a scam, it sounds too good to be true it is too good to be true,” she said.
The check seemed legitimate and was from a well-known bank that Blake actually used, but being skeptical of the offer, she reached out to the bank to confirm the legitimacy of the money. The bank confirmed the check was from an account, just not an open account.
There were other red flags that led her to believe the offer was not legitimate. The instructions that she received had a letterhead from Whole Foods but told her to go to Wal-Mart, and buy hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards, then instructed her to take photos of their numbers, both front and back, and email them to the people on the other end of the line.
That is something that Attorney General Josh Stein says should be a red flag for anyone.
“Here’s the deal, if you ever encounter a secret shopper opportunity and you have to pay any money whether it’s through a gift card or wiring money or a check, that’s a scam! When you have a job you get paid for that work, you shouldn’t have to pay anyone,” he said.
But the secret shopper scam is just one scam of literally hundreds, he said, and there are ways to keep yourself safe.
“There are a lot of red flags to look out for when someone’s trying to scam you. If they want you to buy gift cards for them, five-alarm fires should be going off in your head because what they are trying to do is take the money using the code from those gift cards, and once they get that cash, you can not get it back,” he said.
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