News and Alerts
Part-time jobs as “Secret Shoppers” are growing in popularity, but be forewarned of scams which attempt to trick victims into unknowingly passing counterfeit checks when they complete a training assignment and/or are tasked with testing the effectiveness of a money-wiring service.
Please do not fall for theses scams. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If you do receive a cashier's check that looks like it came from Foothill, please refer to the links below to see if the check in question is authentic and legit. This is not only happening to Foothill Credit Union but to numerous banks and credit unions as well. Please be vigilant!
Scam scenario #1
The victim receives an employment packet containing training materials, along with a check that is made out for $2,000-$3,000. The instructions for this assignment instruct the victim to act as a customer at either their own bank or at a bank specified by the sender to cash the check and then have the funds wired to a specific address.
Scam scenario #2
The victim thinks they are completing a secret shopping assignment for Money Gram, a money-wiring service and receives a package containing a valid-looking cashier's check with the instructions to deposit the cashier's check into his/her own account. To test Money Gram's service, the Secret Shopper is then instructed to wire a majority of the check's total back to the Secret Shopper company.
How the scam works and tricks the victim
To pay the Secret Shopper for his/her time and assistance, the victim is instructed to keep a small percentage of the money as their commission. What the Secret Shopper does not realize is that although the cashier's check may originally clear, the check is a counterfeit and will be returned unpaid once the money has been wired out of the country. It is at this time that the victim will be notified by his/her financial institution that the check was counterfeit and that he/she is responsible for the financial loss. The Secret Shopper can be out hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
Variations of this scam have the victim/Secret Shopper wiring the money from various banks, credit unions and Wal-Mart® locations, but the scam can be carried out at any institution that wires or money transfers funds.
What you can do to protect yourself
- If you would like to become a Secret Shopper, check the credentials of the organization before you accept an assignment.
- Never use your personal account to make “business” transactions and remember that legitimate companies would not ask you to do this. If you use your own financial account, you will be held responsible for any deposits and withdrawals.
- Never accept a check from a company or individual you do not know without checking to make sure the check is real and that the funds are available. If you suspect the validity of a cashier's check, ask your Credit Union for assistance
Types of Potential Check Scams
- Mystery Shopper
- Receiving overpayment for an item you placed for sale online
- Being notified that you have won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes
- Being notified that you are receiving an inheritance from a recently deceased, unknown relative that you have never heard of
- Unsolicited (from an unknown source) faxes, letters, or emails asking for an immediate response
- Being recruited to cash a check or money order to supposedly allow transfer of funds to your account and being told that you can keep a percentage of the funds
Mystery Shopper Check Scams:
Mystery Shopper Scams use fraudulent offers, fake checks and wire transfers to persuade unsuspecting consumers into sending money to identity thieves who are often located outside the U.S.
How do these scams operate?
A random source posts an ad or promotion looking to hire “mystery shoppers” in exchange for payment. These promotions can be in the form of letters, e-mail solicitations, text messages, or advertisements. These scams pull people in with incentives such as “stay-at-home positions” and “easy money”.
What is at risk?
After responding to the ad, consumer will receive an “employment package” containing a fake cashier’s check (often for more than $2000). Consumers are asked to deposit the check into their bank/credit union account, pose as a shopper and then use wire transfer to send the balance of the check after purchases and "salary" to an address usually outside of U.S.
The risk is that the check is fraudulent, so when it bounces – usually after the money has been wired – the consumer/member is held accountable.
In some instances, consumers are asked for personal bank account information so that the fraudulent company can deposit money into their account for payment, which never is never received and increases the chance of identity theft significantly.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Do not open or respond to unsolicited e-mails asking you to become a mystery shopper or secret shopper.
- Never deposit a check you receive in the mail from a “mystery shopping” company. No legitimate business will pay in advance and ask you to send back a portion of the money.
- Be aware—if something sounds strange, it most often is.
What can you do if you have already given your information to the unsolicited source?
If you do give your information unsuspectingly to a random source, you may contact Foothill Credit Union at (626) 445-0950 or visit to your Foothill branch to close your account and open a new account. You should immediately change your passwords to protect your accounts.
Who is responsible if there is a loss to my account?
- You are responsible for your own account, as only you can determine whether the funds are legitimate or not.
- If you have already deposited the check and wired the funds, you will be held responsible. Even after you have withdrawn the funds, you are still responsible for checks you deposit that are returned to us unpaid and for any other problem involving your deposit.
Can the Credit Union determine whether my check is good or bad?
Identity thieves today have access to technology that enables them to recreate checks that look legitimate. It is not always possible to distinguish a real check from a fake one. You must know who is giving you the check and do not accept checks from unknown sources.
Contact your local police department if you believe you have become a victim of fraud or have been in contact with someone who is trying to commit fraud. If you are a member of Foothill Credit Union, you can contact us at (626) 445-0950.
Surprise Delivery Scams
Just when you thought you'd heard it all. Beware of people bearing gifts.
The following is a recounting of the incident from the victim:
Wednesday a week ago, I had a phone call from someone saying that he was from some outfit called: "Express Couriers,"(The name could be any courier company) He asked if I was going to be home because there was a package for me that required a signature .
The caller said that the delivery would arrive at my home in roughly an hour. Sure enough, about an hour later, a uniformed delivery man turned up with a beautiful basket of flowers and a bottle of wine. I was very surprised since there was no special occasion or holiday, and I certainly didn't expect anything like it. Intrigued, I inquired as to who the sender was. The courier replied, "I don't know, I'm only delivering the package." Apparently, a card was being sent separately... (the card has never arrived!) There was also a consignment note with the gift.
He then went on to explain that because the gift contained alcohol, there was a $3.50 "delivery/ verification charge," providing proof that he had actually delivered the package to an adult (of legal drinking age), and not just left it on the doorstep where it could be stolen or taken by anyone, especially a minor.
This sounded logical and I offered to pay him cash. He then said that the delivery company required payment to be by credit or debit card only, so that everything is properly accounted for, and this would help in keeping a legal record of the transaction. He added couriers don't carry cash to avoid loss or likely targets for robbery.
My husband, who by this time was standing beside me, pulled out his credit card, and 'John,' the "delivery man," asked him to swipe the card on a small mobile card machine with a small screen and keypad. Frank, my husband, was asked to enter his PIN number and a receipt was printed out. He was given a copy of the transaction. He guy said everything was in order, and wished us good day.
To our horrible surprise, between Thursday and the following Monday, $4,000 had been charged/withdrawn from our credit/debit account at various ATM machines.
Apparently the "mobile credit card machine," which the deliveryman carried now had all the info necessary to create a "dummy" card with all our card details including the PIN number.
Upon finding out about the illegal transactions on our card, we immediately notified the bank which issued us a new card, and our credit/debit account was closed.
We also personally went to the Police, where it was confirmed that it is definitely a scam because several households had been similarly hit.
WARNING: Be wary of accepting any "surprise gift or package," which you neither expected nor personally ordered, especially if it involves any kind of payment as a condition of receiving the gift or package. Also, never accept anything if you do not personally know or there is no proper identification of who the sender is.
Above all, the only time you should give out any personal credit/debit card information is when you yourself initiated the purchase or transaction!Go to main navigation