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Irish Lottery? Sorry, you didn’t win!

Yes, my savvy blog readers, you knew about this. But please read on, because further down I’m going to go into some newer nuances of this persistent scam.

The Nigerian or 419 Scam is pretty classic. A person needs to transfer money to the States. They’ll give you a cut if you accept their deposit/check/whatever. You put the money in your account and transfer them back everything but the fee. So they give you a $5000 check and you deposit it and transfer back $4000.

Bad news, your bank later tells you. The check was worthless and you paid the $4000 out of your own pocket. (There are other forms, which involve you giving out information which simply allows them to pillage your account.)

Well, now people are getting notified that they won the Irish or Canadian or Romanian lottery. They’ll get mailed the winnings but they need to send back a “processing fee” or something similar. Maybe you have to send the processing fee before you get the check. Either way, the check is bogus and you get zilch.

People are too smart to fall for these, right? *sigh* Nope. A good friend of ours works as a bank teller. She says that they keep getting customers coming in to deposit their foreign lottery winnings and planning to send a check back. Some of them have a hard time believing that this is a scam! They have the check, after all! (Or the bogus money order.)

Ok, you’re too smart for all of those?

Here’s the one that inspired this post and shocked me by its fiendish cleverness.

Mystery shopping money transfer scam.

I can’t find the site right now, but I was reading someone’s tale of woe after being scammed by a mystery shopping company. Worse than not being reimbursed or anything (save the receipts if you’re a mystery shopper!).

He signed up with a group and was told that his first assignment was in the mail. He received a check for something like $250. He was told that they were testing the money transfer station at a Walmart near his house. He was supposed to cash the check and wire back $125, then fill out a survey about his experience, ease of the transfer, all that mystery shopping stuff. The other $125 was his reimbursement.

Maybe MS pros are shaking their heads, but with all the hype you hear about mystery shopping (from some quarters), it’s not a completely unbelievable amount.

So, you guessed it, he later gets a call from the bank that the check bounced and he’s out $125. Could have been a lot worse. But this is a lot scarier than the others.

1) He signed up with the company, it wasn’t a random check in the mail.

2) It was presented in a new and comparatively legitimate context. This was the first time I’d heard of this scam being connected to mystery shopping.

I’m sad to say that I never win the Irish lottery, though Micah does. All I get are ads promising that I’ll please her better if only I get \/1@**@. I don’t know who “her” is, but I’m sure she’s pretty sad because I never click on them.


guinness416 December 19, 2007 at 6:52 pm

Hey, if it helps you feel less sad, I enter the Irish lottery and I still don’t win 🙁

PiggyBankBlues December 19, 2007 at 8:17 pm

i don’t win anything, not even those big bears you get by tossing rings onto milk bottles…

RacerX December 19, 2007 at 8:18 pm

There is nothing worse then praying on the ignorance of others. This is the Internet version of Snake Oil.

However, there has to be some level of personal responcibility as well.There is a great artical in the current Fortune talking about a security company added an ad to an internet sites rotation ads after they touted “They make sure every ad on their network is legit.”

The security company placed this ad:

“Is your Computer clean of Viruses? – Want some?”

The ad ran 100,000+ times and…over 500 people clicked on it!!

Becky December 19, 2007 at 9:58 pm

I also can’t believe that people still fall for these scams. That is sooo frustrating! I had never heard of the mystery shopping one, though. Thanks for the info 🙂

mrsmicah December 19, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Come to think of it Becky, I think there’s another up and coming scam which involves Craigslist and other internet sales.

The person says that they cut the cashier’s check or money order when planning to buy it from someone else. But your price is lower, so they want to buy it from you. So they’ll mail the check and can you wire/mail/whatever the extra back? Along with the other.

Oh yeah, but the check is fake and you’ve already send them the item and some $20-50-100.

Fabulously Broke December 20, 2007 at 7:57 am

Wow a new blog layout.. how long have I been away!?!?!?

Secret Shopper December 20, 2007 at 9:21 am

Most of these scams I have seen involve much larger amounts of money–often thousands of dollars. The “shopper” is told to keep $300 for a couple of hours of work, and wire $2500 to $4500 to someone in Canada.

These people are not being scammed by mystery shopping companies. They are being scammed by the same slime who run these other scams. Just because someone puts up a site saying they are a mystery shopping company, that doesn’t mean that they are. Anyone can put up a web site claiming to be anything.

A good way to verify if the company is legitimate is to see if they are a member of the MSPA. Although many legitimate companies are not members, if they do belong you can trust that they are for real.

The scammers usually solicit their victims by claiming they found their resume online at a job hunting site, so watch out for this if you have your resume posted online.

Also, use some common sense. Why would a company send a valid check for hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone they have no relationship with? The recipient could simply cash the check and keep the money. These checks are always bogus.

Mystery shopping is legitimate, but its popularity has certainly brought out the scammers.

Cathy Stucker
Author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual

plonkee December 20, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Like guinness416 I’ve entered the real Irish lottery and haven’t won anything either.

And you’re not the only girl that gets those ads for mis-spelled pharmaceuticals. I do sometimes wonder whether I’m giving off the wrong vibe.

Ashley December 20, 2007 at 5:03 pm

You would think a person who won the “Irish lottery” would think – “hey, when did I play the lottery?” And then realize they never did.

Christine December 20, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Canadian lotteries, eh? How foreign and exotic! Get me some of that!

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