Mystery shopping scam goes after Crowley resident
By: Jeannine LeJeune
CROWLEY - Crowley resident Valon Martin Phillips knew something was up when she received a check via UPS yesterday from Roy E. and Bernyce Goldstein out of Wellington, Fla.
At about noon, she opened up a check for $1950 and she was told to cash it and Western Union the money back to them, but keep $400 to do some mystery shopping for the company.
Phillips believes a scam artist tried to prey on her.
According to instructions enclosed with the check the objective was to observe and report back on a local Western Union outlet. The money was to be wired to Westminster, London, United Kingdom to a Derrick Perrin.
The letter claimed to be from Ryan Pinket, COO of JKT Evaluation, Inc. No official letter head was on the letter, however.
After investigating what she deemed as out of the ordinary, she learned that similar scandals had hit mystery shoppers in the past.
According to a warning issued by the Federal Trade Commission in January 2007, “In secret shopper scams, the consumer, hired to be a secret shopper, is asked to evaluate the effectiveness of a money transfer service. The secret shopper scenario is just a scam to get the consumer’s money.” The FTC described to a tee what almost happened to Phillips.
“You know, if I had went to the bank to cash that check and went Western Union the rest, I would have gotten in trouble. It was my face in the bank and my face at the Western Union place.”
Phillips has done mystery shopping in the past, but this was different than her normal assignments.
Starting at about 6:30 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, Phillips received several e-mails from “JKT Evaluation, Inc.” and “chief operating officer, Ryan Pinket”. The e-mails began with a notification of the upcoming package that included the check.
She also received several text messages throughout the day assuring her the check wasn’t fraudulent.
“I have text messages on my phone from him,” she said, “trying to get me to go to the bank, to trust him so I would cash the check.”
It is apparently not the first time someone has received an e-mails under the scam. The Anti-Fraud International’s website (http://antifraudintl.org) makes mention of the scam as does ivetriedthat.com. It appears from both websites that the scam is relatively new–with both website postings coming in the month of July.
“He kept telling me in the text messages to let them (the bank) know that it was fraudulent, basically trying to get me to cash that check” said Phillips.
In regards to this scam, the e-mails email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com all appeared in both the letter and e-mails sent to Phillips. Ryan Pinket’s e-mails to her were from the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The FTC says that anyone who thinks they have been targeted by a counterfeit check scam should report it to the following agencies:
- The Federal Trade Commission Visit ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service Visit www.usps.gov/websites/depart/inspect or call your local post office. The number is in the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory.
- State or local consumer protection agencies Visit www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General, or check the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory for appropriate phone numbers.