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Rip-Off Alert: Warning signs were there in secret shopper scam solicitation

Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities are out there, but so are plenty of scams. How do consumers determine fact from fiction? (KSNV)

Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities are out there, but so are plenty of scams.

How do consumers determine fact from fiction? There are red flags to spot.

Marilyn Ackerly received an email that asked her if she would be like to be a secret shopper.

“One of my neighbors, who lived across the street from me, had been a secret shopper,” she said. “And I remembered her doing it.

“I thought, ‘Oh, this would be kind of neat to do … doesn't take a lot of time.’”

She was immediately sent money orders along with instructions on how to evaluate a San Francisco store.

The directions said she should deposit the money orders, make a purchase and then send the remaining funds back.

She followed the directions and prepared for a second job, but there was a problem.

“They recommended that I go to another bank,” Ackerly said. “Well, I really didn't have another bank. The lady at the bank started to process things and they said well they are fraud. They are fraudulent.”

Ackerly then knew it was all a scam and then found out the first money order she deposited was also counterfeit.

“I was out all of that money – $996, plus they charged me a $12 fee,” she said.

The retired teacher admits there were red flags. The first email said "Attention: Esteemed Secret Marilyn Ackerly."

“There's a couple problems,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Ricky Vida. “There were some grammar mistakes. They used English that normally Americans wouldn't use.”

Ackerly said she hopes telling her story will prevent others from becoming a victim.

“I think it needs to be shared,” she said. “I hadn't heard anything negative about them before. So, we need to share that.”

If you ever fear or question whether you have received a counterfeit money order, you can take them to a U.S. Post Office for evaluation.

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