Detective warns of scam checks that ‘sound too good to be true’

Detective Kyle Seratt

PADUCAH — When it comes to checks showing up in your mailbox, a McCracken County detective warns: “If it sounds too good to be true, it typically is.”

Local 6 talked with Detective Kyle Seratt with the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department about a secret shopper scam targeting residents in recent days.

The scam letters and checks were delivered using priority mail envelopes.

“We haven’t seen it in a while,” said Seratt. “It is an old scam, actually. The ones that we have received have been sent in your typical priority mailer.”

Seratt says over the past few days, at least six people have told the sheriff’s department they’ve received the scam in their mailboxes. It works like this:

  1. A person would receive a letter in the mail that says: “This package contains your assignment regarding the secret shopper program you applied for. You have been selected and hired to be  a customer service evaluator in your area. “
  2. The letter comes with a counterfeit check that appears to be worth $2,380.
  3. The letter instructs the victim to cash or deposit the check and withdraw the money “instantly or the next morning.”
  4. The person is told to keep $350 as commission, then spend $30 on a product at the nearest Walmart to evaluate the customer service.
  5. After that is completed, the letter tells the person to spend the remaining $2,000 on four $500 gift cards. The letter gives the following reason: “We are examining the availability of the Walmart gift cards and customer service at Walmart. While at the store, evaluate the quality of customer service delivery, condition and arrangement of cards at the store. Particularly, we want to know if they stick enough Walmart gift cards for customers.”
  6. Once the gift cards are purchased, the letter instructs the person to “scratch off label to reveal code at the back of the cards and capture clear image of the front and back of each card and email them to the above email.”

One of the scam letters

“All they need are the numbers off of the card and the security code,” said Seratt. “Once they have that, they have that money accessed within seconds, actually. And, once that money is accessed online and moved, it is very (difficult), if not impossible, to trace.”

Seratt said receiving checks or offers out of the blue is an obvious red flag. But, there are other signs to look out for. For example, one of the fraudulent checks says it’s from the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. But, the school district’s website has a page that specifically warns people about the scam.

Seratt said the letter itself also has red flags. The email address listed is usually a generic AOL or Gmail account rather than an account from a credible organization. The letter also doesn’t mention the name of the person you’re supposed to contact.

One of the scam checks

“And the other part of it is, they don’t want to speak with you or communicate with you directly. They ask that you text them,” said Seratt.

Seratt said those who have received the counterfeit checks should contact local law enforcement. Detectives with the sheriff’s department are working with agencies across the country to try to pinpoint where the scam is coming from.

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