Consumer Warning: "name dropping" mystery shopper scheme

Name drop in mystery shopper scam
(Source: Jeff Ferrell/KSLA)
(Source: Jeff Ferrell/KSLA)

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - A concerned citizen is stepping forward to warn people in the Ark-La-Tex to be on the lookout for a very convincing scheme aimed at stealing your money — it even comes with the false hope and promise of a fun job.

Tammy Willson of Haughton readily admits she came so very close to falling for the financial scheme that could have cost her several thousand dollars at the very least.

Willson said luckily she spotted enough red flags to warrant her to take a closer look before signing up to be a so-called "mystery shopper." She recalled how the whole ordeal began innocently enough earlier this month when she received an email.

"That myself, along with others, have been selected to become a mystery shopper," Willson said.

The offer even claimed local State Farm Insurance broker Sam Spivey recommended her. So, she filled out a form and sent it in. A letter came in the mail the following week.

"No return address," she said. "That was the first red flag.

Her second red flag: It was posted marked out of Rochester, New York. But Willson said the third red flag convinced her this was not on the up-and-up because inside the letter contained a cashier's check totaling $3,152.

"I'm like, 'money like that does not fall from the sky in my lap, okay. I didn't hit the lottery, okay."

But Willson added that the cashier's check looked incredibly legitimate, as did the detailed instructions that later came in the mail as well, explaining how to begin her mystery shopper job.

All she had to do, according to the directions:  Mail back 5 money orders totaling $2,600.

"Do not detach the receipt attached to the money order," said Willson as she read the instructions aloud during our visit.

Willson then detailed why this instruction was red flag number four.

"No proof, no evidence!" she said. "You're not even keeping the receipt that you purchased the money order! They've got it all."

She said a call to the bank on the check confirmed it was a fraud.

"The average person would have taken that check, ran to the bank and probably gone on a shopping spree," Willson said.

As for Sam Spivey, he told us it appears Willson was far from the only target. His own daughter texted him saying his LinkedIn account sent her a message.

"She said, 'dad, I think you've been hacked,'" Spivey said. "I've just got this email wanting me to come to work doing mystery shopper' or something like that."

Several other friends called him in the coming hours. Spivey said despite the best efforts of him and his staff they cannot seem to reach anyone in person at LinkedIn.

Willson said she will bring in all the evidence to the Bossier Parish Sheriff's Office after the Easter holiday, but said she contacted us to make sure the public got the warning right now before anyone falls prey to the scheme.

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