Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Secret Shopper" Scam Letter Received on 15 July 2010

It seems to be the easiest job around: shop at a store, eat at a restaurant or use some sort of service. Then, you write an evaluation of the quality of service for your boss, whose company was hired by the owner of the service provider to check-up on their staff to make sure they are treating the customers right and that the quality of the product or service is kept at a professional level. Since shopping, eating at a restaurant, etc is easy enough by itself, it seems to be the perfect job. Do something you like doing and get paid for it.

Sadly, most of these "Secret Shopper" jobs that are offered on websites like Craigslist and Backpage are scams. The "employers" ask you to send them your personal information, so that they can work some kind of scam on you, such as identity theft. Once they know where you live and how to contact you, you could soon find yourself receiving calls from people that you don't want to talk to and receiving mail from mailing lists that you never signed-up for. Those are just a few things that can happen if you sign-up for a "job" with agroup like these.

Here is a typical example of a scam letter. I received it today:

From: "Kimberly Kilgore" 

Subject: ******************** SECRET EVALUATOR ********************

Retail Survey Concept is a market research company that uses Mystery/Secret Shopping or Mystery/Secret Evaluation to measure quality of retail service or gather 
specific information about products and services. We work with some of the largest, reputable businesses in the world;from Fast Food to Petroleum, 
Technology or Fashion Retailers and more.

Retail Survey Concept is presently recruiting SECRET EVALUATORS in all states of 
the USA.

POSITION TITLE: Secret Evaluator


START DATE: Immediate

COMMISSION: $200 Per Assignment (2 Assignments weekly).

JOB DESCRIPTION & RESPONSIBILITIES: You will be hired to conduct an all expenses 
paid surveys and evaluation exercises on behalf of RETAIL SURVEY CONCEPT®. Your 
job will be to evaluate and measure quality of retail service or gather specific 
information about products and services. As our mystery shopper posing as normal 
customers, you will expected to perform specific tasks—such as purchasing a 
product or using a service.

We presently have a couple of outstanding contracts, which means you will be
directed to outlets, firms and corporate bodies to report on your experience by 
forwarding us a mail.

PLEASE NOTE: You will be provided funds in advance for any upcoming survey via 
Checks and Wire Transactions to cover expenses.

You do not require any special skills for this opening, however in order to
Apply for this job you need to ensure you have access to your e-mails two( 2)
times a day and will reply to all notifications promptly.

Interested Candidates should simply fill the form below to make an Official

Full Names: 
Address Line 1:
Address Line 2:
Zip Code: 
Phone Number: 
Cell / Mobile Phone Number: 
Current Occupation: 
Have you had any work of this nature before: 
Email Address: 

Kimberly Kilgore,
Evaluation Manager.

All applications should be sent
©2006-2010 Retail Survey Concept™ Corporate Headquarters
3231 Industrial Boulevard,
Bethel Park, PA 15102 ..

Being a person who takes little for granted anymore, I did a trace of their IP, to find out where the email actually originated from. I copied and pasted the headers (not displayed here in order to save space) and discovered that the letter had originated from within the USA, as opposed to a foreign country where most such letters come from. Specifically, the email cam from Marinette, Wisconsin. Notice how at the end of the email they said that their address was in Pennsylvania? If the email was legitimate, then the email should have come from Pennsylvania. Either that or they should have given a Wisconsin address instead.

Also notice how they are using an AOL address, instead of an email address from their own company, like The reason scammers use Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL, etc is so that they can close these accounts if law enforcement starts sniffing-around, it makes it easier to conceal themselves from people they've scammed and they can open a new account anytime they wish to keep the scam going.

I next tried to find the supposed company headquarters at 3231 Industrial Blvd, Bethel Park, PA by using Google Maps, which can show you the actual buildings at the street level. To keep it short, there is no such address. The map pointed at a location in the middle of the road. It bears noticing that they gave no phone number for you to call. The better to keep themselves distant from victims complaining that they never got their reimbursement checks or even whatever paychecks they were promised.

I also did an Internet search for "Retail Survey Concept" and got no hits, at all. Not really a surprise, considering everything else I found. I also got no matches on the email address. The name "Kimberly Kilgore" got me 161 matches on a search of Facebook, though.

When I saw the email in my Inbox, I thought it was part of a 419 Advance Fee Fraud scam, due to the overuse of asterisks in the subject line and the title being typed in all capital letters. That's how a lot of those scammers send their letters, too.

All the warning signs are there:

  • flashy use of eye-catching symbols in the Subject line;
  • extremely high rate of pay offered;
  • Company name does not show on any Internet searches;
  • email uses a disposable address;
  • no phone number given;
  • given physical address does not exist;
  • IP address does not match the given physical address.
With people across the USA trying to find a job - any job - scammers sink to a new low when they exploit people who are living in fear of not being able to pay their bills, buy food or get medical care due to lack of money. Scammers have shown themselves willing to use any tragedy, including Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 Attacks, to make themselves money at the expense of the innocent.

If Retail Survey Concept has a response to any of what I have posted, I'd be glad to see it.

Duane D. Browning
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