RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An offer that seems too good to be true simply showed up at Brad Beatty's front door just days before Christmas.
"Nobody is going to send you $2,900 to do them a favor," said Beatty.
He was sent a priority overnight envelope congratulating him on being selected for Secret Shopper, a program where you are rewarded for spending free money and sending in a survey about the experience.
"They're making you feel like you're doing a deal and getting paid for it, but you're not, because they're going to take that money right away," Beatty explained. "When the bank finds that the check is fraud, they're going to take it out of your savings, and you're out of the money."
The letter also includes a $2,900 cashiers check.
"This doesn't look like a real check to me, there's no watermark," explained Beatty.
Beatty was told to keep $400 and use $2,500 to buy five $500 Walmart gift cards. From there, he was told to take a picture of those cards, peel the silver scratch off from the back, then email the photos, along with a survey about his shopping experience.
Beatty reached out to NBC12 hoping to prevent someone from falling for the scam if they receive the same thing in the mail. He says he has no idea how someone got his address and cellphone number, but he has been contacted several times since the package showed up at his home.
One text message says if Beatty completes his assignment in a certain time frame, he will get a $100 bonus.
"If they give out 10,000 I bet 50 to 100 people will do it and lose money. I don't want to see anyone lose their money," he said.
A quick search on the Better Business Bureau's Scam tracker shows there have been more than 700 reported "Secret Shopper" scams in the U.S. There have been five reports in Richmond - the most recent complaint is from September and almost exactly describes what Beatty was sent in the mail.
"I got an email saying I was chosen as a Walmart secret shopper. In about two days after, I received a check drawn on a Nationwide Insurance bank account. The instructions told me to deposit the check, and within two days, go to Walmart and buy gift cards, recording my experience. I was then supposed to send photos of the gift cards I purchased for proof that I did it. I was to keep the difference between the gift card purchase and the check. The company has been texting me to ensure I understand and report my progress."
On Walmart's website, there is a page dedicated to Fraud Alerts - one of them warns against mystery shoppers. Walmart says they don't "utilize these services or hire associates to perform services on behalf of other retailers or companies." They encourage people to report anything they may feel is fraudulent.
The letter sent to Beatty says he is not to disclose he is is evaluating the store through Secret Shopper because it will "deter the purpose of the whole program."
NBC12 reached out to someone who has been texting Beatty, claiming to be with Secret Shopper. In the letter originally sent to him, the representative says they can be reached through phone calls or texts, but they only answered via text saying they are not a scam and instead, they are a research evaluation program aimed at improving customer satisfaction.
"Just be very careful and check things out before you go cashing checks," said Beatty.
The BBB says if something come via mail or e-mail seems good to be true, it most likely is. You can always report scams here.
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