I just received a check in the mail for $3,975.62 from a company calling themselves Bottle Crew Research. After opening the envelope, which had a Canadian postmark (postal code M4L 3T0) and no return address, I found the check written on Bottle Crew's Charter One Bank account in Detroit. Bottle Crew is a legitimate company in Bloomfield Michigan that manufactures bottles. The crooks used Bottle Crew's real Bloomfield, MI address on the letter head, but the phone number (905-781-1180) shown was Canadian, and fax number (212-918-9307) is a New York number.
Here's the abridged version of the scam letter...
"Our online data source has identified you as a candidate interested in an additional income part-time job. Therefore we are pleased to invite you to participate in a paid Consumer Research Program in your area of residence as a Customer Service Evaluator (Mystery Shopper)...
As one of our possible 5,700 shoppers selected for this project, you will visit selected businesses in your area and secretly evaluate things like customer service, store location and appearance as well as product quality...the current consumer services evaluation you are undertaking will attract a participation pay of $300.00 a week...participation can go as high as $600.00 a week after six months...you must keep you identity and assignment as a mystery shopper CONFIDENTIAL...You must not take this letter to your assignment...
The first assignment will take place at any WESTERN UNION or MONEYGRAM agent near you...You will pose as a customer sending the stipulated amount listed below to one of our training agents...The second evaluation will take place in one of these major retail outlets: BEST BUY, WAL-MART, MACY'S, JC PENNY, SEARS or K-MART...
...go ahead and deposit your check. Upon availability of funds, your coordinator will provide you a computer generated receiver name...Withdraw the required amounts and proceed to evaluations..."
Here's the breakdown of the $3,975.62...
Participation Pay for the first week $300.62
Stipulated Amount For Money Gram Evaluation $3,475
Money Gram/Western Union Service Fee $100
Funds for retail shopping assignment $100 (the letter says I get to keep the purchased goods, how very sweet of them)
Thankfully, I knew this was a scam from the start. I am posting this because, unfortunately, I know there are many people out there who will get taken by these people. So, for those of you who don't already know, I'll explain the scam...
In this particular case these crooks stole the identity of a legit company, but in some cases they manage to steal the ID and check books of individuals...
1. The crooks write a check on the bank account of victim "A" (the legit company or individual)
2. The crooks send the check to victim "B" (YOU). They make up some elaborate ruse such as the "part-time secret shopper" job offer they sent me.
3. Victim "B" deposits the check into their bank account; depending on the bank the funds will likely be available immediately or at most a day or two, but the availability of the funds does not mean the check has really cleared.
4. Victim "B" withdraws the funds from their account
5. Victim B wires the money to the crooks using a "receiver name". By having the money wired using a "receiver name" the crooks can pick up the money from Western Union or MoneyGram using the receiver name and pass code instead of an ID
6. The crooks receive the money, do the happy dance, and move on to their next victim
7. Victim "A" is happily living their life, completely unaware of the series of events; UNTIL they receive a notice from their bank that their account is overdrawn.
8. Victim A begins the long arduous process of trying to prove they did not write the bad check, and trying to explain to everyone they've written legitimate checks to why the checks bounced
9. Victim "B" (YOU) is happy, having made a quick $300 doing something so simple, and is looking forward to their next assignment
10. Victim B receives notice from their bank that their account overdrawn because the check bounced after they withdrew the bad funds
11. Victim B tries to contact crooks to no avail
12. Victim B begins the long arduous process of trying to explain to everyone they've written legitimate checks to why the checks bounced
13. Victim B receives notice that they are now being investigated for CHECK FRAUD
Please folks, don't be a victim, no legitimate company is going to just send you a check out of the clear blue sky.
Brooklyn, New York