Better Business Bureau warns ‘mystery shopper’ scam on the rise

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PARSIPPANY -

A Morris County man is out more than $7,000 as the result of a scam that targets people who are already out of work, and the Better Business Bureau tells Kane In Your Corner the scam is on the rise in this area.

“I’ve got to say, hook line and sinker, I was there,” says Steven Gogerty, who applied online for a job as a “mystery shopper.” His so-called employer told him he was hired and sent him three cashier’s checks, each for about $2,000. Gogerty was told to keep $200 from each one as compensation and use the rest to buy gift cards at various stores.

“I was basically just buying the gift cards and observing the service,” he says.

For days, he drove to store after store, buying the cards, then scratching off the numbers and texting them to the person he thought was his supervisor, so his “employer” could recoup its investment. He even painstakingly wrote numerous reports on the customer service. It wasn’t until about a week later that Gogerty’s bank informed him the cashier’s checks he’d deposited were forged and his account was overdrawn.

“I feel like I’ve been hoodwinked,” he says. “Just conned. It was a good con, I’ll give them that much.”

Melissa Companick of the Better Business Bureau says work-from-home scams are once again on the rise.

“We hear this pretty much every day through our BBB Scam Tracker,” she says. “And I think these are among the saddest because these are people who legitimately need work, who need money, who are looking for opportunities.”

Kane In Your Corner advises people looking for work to beware of red flags. In Gogerty’s case, it was the sheer volume of gift cards he was being asked to buy. A true “mystery shopper” could observe customer service and buy a $10 gift card or an inexpensive piece of merchandise; there would be no reason to buy hundreds of dollars of gift cards at a time.

The compensation might have also been a clue: $200 for assignments that would only take a couple of hours.

“If we all could make that kind of money, everybody would be working from home,” Companick says.

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