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Monday, 22-May-2017 21:01:21 EDT
ask sean: scam alert

Something a little different this week... Have you experienced a money scam?
Ask Sean.


So you'll have to forgive me as I'm cancelling this week's exciting adventure of Ask Sean. Instead, I'm going to share with you a little story that happened to your hero and how you can avoid it from happening to you.

Story begins with an employment ad on Craigslist. Now I'm not entirely sure which ad it was that I submitted my resume to, but regardless, I received a call about it the other evening. A woman by the name of Tiffany Wilson called to say that she had read over my resume and she believed I'd be a great candidate for a Mystery Guest service they had.

A Mystery Guest program basically involves someone going into a restaurant, bar, shop, whatever and pretending to be a regular customer. Eat the food, ask about a product, check for cleanliness, name tags, customer service etc. You fill out a survey and this report gets forwarded to the store owners so they know what kind of image they are giving out to their customers. A rather valuable tool that many companies use.

In the case of the job that I was offered, Tiffany told me that I would be making $200 for every survey I completed and they would pay for expenses like gas, the meal, or even whatever I happened to purchase there. This sounded like a great secondary job to supplement my income and was a great excuse to check out some places I hadn't been to before.

Tiffany told me that they would need to assess me beforehand, so I would be doing a practice survey first and she would be mailing me a package with some information as well as some cheques to cover my costs. She said that she would have to evaluate whether I would be trustworthy (as I'd be working without their direct supervision) and that I should not tell anyone about the job, as it would invalidate the integrity of my missions. She told me that I would receive the package and she would call me for further instructions.

Though nothing obviously bad was hitting me at this point, I was getting a little suspicious about the whole thing. So after hanging up, I kicked my smartphone into gear and did a Google Search on the phone number that she called me from. The first link that came up had dozens of quick reviews rolling out; all with the operative word: 'Scam'.

Basically, what this 'scam' does is, they send you a few cheques along with the instructions and 'welcome to' paperwork. They tell you to deposit the cheques in your account (in this case it would have totaled $3000). You deduct your $200 from that and you are to send them a Western Union Money order to the tune of $2800 to 'prove' how honest you are. The problem is, the cheques that they sent to you will bounce (though it will take a few weeks for you to find out) whilst your money order is long gone and irretrievable.

This is very similar to the infamous Nigerian Prince scheme that has been going on for decades (see image above). In that case, a 'Nigerian Prince' sends you an email saying that he has a lot of money that he needs to get out of the country, but politics are crazy there and he needs your help. He will send you X amount of money to get it safely out of his country, you get to keep a tidy sum for your services, and then you forward on a money order from your account to a different country. Again, the Cheque you receive will bounce, your money order will disappear, and you are out thousands of dollars.

Most people have heard of this scam, and it's mostly seen as a joke. But each year, this very same Nigerian Prince scam has made millions of dollars. Not everyone is aware, everyone thinks helping the Prince out will mean easy money for them, and then someone in some foreign country (where they can't be prosecuted) runs around with their money.

Hell, I've even seen one scam where a popup window showed up at the bottom of my browser that said 'Are you a victim of credit card fraud? Enter in your credit card number and we will give you a free assessment'. I actually laughed out loud at that one, but you know that there is likely a whole pile of people that entered in their credit card numbers for that scam too.

Anyway, after figuring out what was going on, I called the RCMP's non-emergency line and was forwarded a number to their Fraud Division. I submitted my report and was told to fax them copies of all of the content that I would receive from the scam company. Again this included some welcoming paperwork, a fake survey, and two very real looking cheques (even had holograms embedded in them) for about $3000.

Now chances are, this will be the last of this. The phone numbers they use are from a phone card, the number she told me to call her back on is likely already changed (I failed to answer her call yesterday when she was to give me 'further instructions') and there is a great chance that they are not even in Canada to chase down. I'm even starting to suspect that Tiffany Wilson is not even her real name.

But at least I didn't get scammed and now you know how not to as well.

Please pass this article around to warn others. These types of scams are everywhere and you really need to keep everyone aware of what to look for when things are 'too good to be true'.

Ask Sean will be back next week...

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Sean Michael is an enigma wrapped in a riddle and his bio is none of your business.

Sean Michael
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Ask Sean is an advice column to be used for informational and for entertainment purposes only. By submitting a letter to this website, you grant SayItCanada permission to publish it on this site or elsewhere including print publications. Your name and email address will never be included or distributed. Due to the large number of letters received, there is no guarantee that a question will be responded to.

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