A scam asking people to work as secret shoppers in return for payment cleverly uses a code of conduct and ethics, and very real-looking fake cheques, to try to legitimise a complete fraud.
The scam operated earlier this year in the US, with two operators netting $150,000 before being arrested. But it appears there are new operators trying to carry out the scam in Australia.
Through newspaper classified ads titled Office Help and Customer Service Positions that have appeared in the Hobart Mercury on July 5 and 12, readers are promised an immediate start and paid training worth $300. All they need to do is call a telephone number in Victoria to get started.
Successful applicants chosen as regional ‘representatives’ are sent an employment package containing a training assignment and a bank cheque drawn on the Commonwealth Bank for $2960.
The assignment is to bank the counterfeit cheque, pose as a MoneyGram International customer and wire, through a payment of $2605.50 to an address in Canada.
The objective is to test and evaluate the MoneyGram payment system, which the scammers say they are rolling out across Australia. MoneyGram is a money transfer system that is not connected to this scam in any way.
To get respondents to act quickly they must complete the assignment within 48 hours. Meanwhile, the applicant is left out of pocket $2605 when the fake cheque fails to clear.
The assignment, which must be done with “unyielding personal integrity” according to the scammer’s Code of Conduct. Violations to the code will not be tolerated, with threats of legal action for breaches coming from the same scammers who purport to act with the highest standards of business conduct and ethics.
Consumer Protection is concerned the scam could spread nationally and have moved to warn newspaper publishers not to publish the advertisements. However, the ads could appear in employment sections on websites.