Paid to shop? Beware of those ads promising big bucks for being a mystery shopper - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

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Paid to shop? Beware of those ads promising big bucks for being a mystery shopper

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Counterfeit money orders are at the heart of this scam.

It starts with victims responding to a job ad that says: 'Receive money orders like these in the mail - then go shopping.'

"They would go to Wal-Mart, make purchases, rate their service they received at Wal-Mart, then they would go back to Western Union and mail back the remaining money to suspect," says U.S. Postal Inspector David Nitz.

After following those instructions, the victims would get a surprise.  Nitz says the money orders they deposited into their bank accounts were counterfeit and they would be in a situation to repay that to the bank.

Postal inspectors were tipped off to one recent case after customs intercepted a package containing $400-thousand dollars worth of counterfeit money orders.

"After making contact with this suspect did a search of her home and found $300-thousand dollars worth of money orders," says Nitz.

In this specific scheme – there were 750 victims and more than $300,000 in losses.

Inspectors say the scam is on the rise and targeting vulnerable victims.

"A lot of victims are already in financial distress. To get involved in something like this just compounds the problem," says Nitz.

Some simple advice: "Don't get involved in something that was unsolicited. Somebody sends you money orders or checks and you don't personally know them or haven't been personally doing business with them you shouldn't be cashing those checks," says Nitz.

Postal inspectors say if you ever want to verify if a money order is "real" you can take it to a post office, employees have been trained to detect counterfeits.

Also, call the Better Business Bureau to check out any business that tries to solicit you. And never send money back to anyone who sends you a check or money order unless you know exactly who they are and you're certain they are legitimate.

Sarah Panko

Sarah is the anchor/ producer for News Three First Edition at 5/4 central time. She also brings you the latest Consumer Reports on the Nightwatch at 11/10 central. More>>

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