‘A Scam or Not a Scam? That Is the Question’

by on March 8, 2019 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Judi Curry

On March 1st, 2019, I received an EMAIL from “Kroger Shop” welcoming me to the Kroger family of secret shoppers.  I was given the title of “Market Researcher” and am going to be paid $300 for each assignment I complete.  (At one time in my life I worked for a secret shopper company out of El Cajon, and made many purchases looking for dishonest employees as well as extraordinary ones. )

Attention

Further to your interest to participate in our research project at Kroger, we are pleased to welcome you on board, setting out the details of your job. You are being appointed to the position of a market researcher.
Kindly be informed that I have been assigned to be your supervisor throughout the project.

The rules and regulations and general information of the terms of appointment are as follows:

Your income per assignment is $300. The allowances, benefits and other terms and conditions of your employment will be as per company policies as applicable from time to time. If assignments are processed within 24 hours, you are entitled to a certain compensation.

JOB DESCRIPTION:

1} When an assignment is given to you, you would be provided details to execute the assignment and in a timely manner.

2} You will be making purchases and filing reports via email on your overall shopping experiences.You are expected to play an important role in meeting our expectations by pretending to be a regular shopper while observing and determining various factors that might require improvement.

3} Kindly use caution and restraint when making purchases so as to not go over the budget we established.

Areas often measured include:

Sales transaction and employee engagement.
Sales associate appearance and cleanliness.
Brand/promotion awareness and execution.
Product or service awareness.
Product or service availability.
Sales product up-sell approach and delivery.
Testing checkout protocols.

ASSIGNMENT PACKAGE:

Before any assignment, we would provide you with the resources needed. You’ll receive a packet enclosed with payment and assignment instructions through USPS mail within 7 business days which will cover the shopping at Kroger store and it will also your employment remuneration which is $300 per assignment.

We welcome you and look forward to your contribution to this project.

Please kindly acknowledge the receipt of this email.

Best Regards,

Mike Lawson
Survey Consultant

My assignments were laid out for me with very little deviation. It smelled funny.  I went to Google.com and looked up “Kroger Shop.” It looked like a scam but I wasn’t sure.

The following day I received this note on my MESSENGER –

“My name is Mike Lawson, I’ve been assigned to be your supervisor regarding the secret shopping job you signed up for. I sent you a Welcome on Board email yesterday. Please check your inbox/junk folder. You’ll receive assignment packet for your evaluation through USPS within 7 days. Send an acknowledgement email or ignore this text if you have done that. Thank you.” 

Hmmm.  A nice enough letter; followed through with the email.  Still smelled funny. So I called the corporate offices of Kroger.

The man that I spoke to knew nothing about anything.  Talking to him and trying to explain what happened was like talking to my 8 month great grandson.  He told me that I should go to the store and talk to the manger.

So this morning I took a little ride to my local Ralph’s grocery store – owned by Kroger – and spoke to the manager of the store. He told me it was a scam; to throw away everything; not to answer anything. He kept the copy of the letter I made for him, and I had him read the message I received.

And today, March 4th when I came home from my grocery visit I received this:

And inside the envelope was a letter showing the logo from “Kroger”, Walgreens” and Target.

This letter again thanked me for my interest in participating in the Kroger survey project. It told me that in addition, they want me to evaluate any Walgreens and Target store in my area.

And – attached to this letter, signed by Mike Lawson, was this.

My directions told me that I should go to my bank and have the cashier’s check cashed! If I can’t cash it the same day, I am to deposit it because funds will be available within 24 hours.  All surveys should be completed within 48 hours upon receipt of the cashier’s check.  Once the funds are available, I am supposed to withdraw the cash and deduct my $300 commission.  The remaining $1550 will be used to complete my secret shopping assignments.

There are other requirements, like purchasing Google Play Gift Cards to make my purchases.

The entire “assignment” looks professional.  There are so many questions.  I immediately called the local FBI office.  No one would talk to me; I had to fill out a report on-line.  Ticked me off, if you must know the truth.  I filled out the form and then called the SD Police Department.  They wouldn’t talk to be either and directed me to the same FBI department.  I did not fill out the second report.

So here I sit with a money order for $1900.  I certainly will not cash it because I am sure there is a down side to it.  I will give the FBI 24 hours to respond to my message before I have my Editor-dude publish this.  I am quite antsy about it; after all – I received an email on my personal account; I received a message on my messenger, and I received a $1900 cashiers check at my home.  Wouldn’t you be antsy also?

And did I miss an opportunity to make $300? Is this a scam or not? Are others in the neighborhood also receiving the same type of communication?  Are they depositing the money in their account? What is happening? Because I know that somehow it is going to come back and bite them.  I just am not sure how.

When I was writing my book “Liar, Liar” and came in contact with a “victim” of a scammer, the FBI would not take my report because I was not a “victim.”  Will that be the same thing here? I am not going to deposit the money, therefore I cannot be victimized?  Many questions but no answers. Yet.  Stay tuned – if you are interested.

Note: 24 hours has passed and I have not heard from the FBI. I have also not heard from the “Secret Shopping Company.”  I did go back to Ralph’s today and gave them a copy of the letter and check. This will be handed over to their fraud unit.  However, the question is still there: I have a “money order” – whether it is bogus or not remains to be seen. I am wondering if I will be receiving additional instructions.

One additional note – 3 days later. Because I received the information via US Mail I called the fraud unit there. I was, again, informed that I had to fill out a report either on-line or by US Mail. There was no one there to speak to me.

So now, 4 days later, I have a worthless $1900 cashier’s check sitting on my desk. I was so close to getting scammed.  Wonder if I will hear any more from the scammer, the post office, or the FBI. What do you think?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar SaneVoice March 8, 2019 at 12:02 pm
Avatar Daughter Michele March 8, 2019 at 1:07 pm

I told you that night what I think – I think we should take it to a check-cashing place & see if they’ll cash it for you. And then I think we should split it (ok, maybe not 50/50 but how does 60/40 sound? It was, after all, my idea!?). That minimizes the risk that they’ll access/empty your bank account later.

So? Do we have a deal?!

Reply

Judi Curry judi curry March 8, 2019 at 2:17 pm

You take it – and it’s a deal.

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Avatar unwashedWalmartthong March 8, 2019 at 1:10 pm

Perhaps they were looking for your personal banking information that would be more accessible once the cashier’s check passed through your account & a clearing house & returned to the con.
It looks like it could be a long con; they pull you in bit-by-bit, then they smack you down w/ a maneuver that wipes out your bank account.
Someone at your bank may be able to offer more information regarding the cashier’s check. They can check for legitimacy.

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Avatar ZZ March 8, 2019 at 5:40 pm

100% chance it is a scam. For one thing, the return address on the mail is 924 Bel Air Rd. That is the address of the most expensive house in California, a $150 million place with its own website

http://www.924belair.com/

Another way to know it is a scam is they ask you to buy a gift card. No legitimate business does that.

They are hoping the following happens:
You deposit the check. Because of your good credit/history with your bank, they make the amount available to you right away. Or they don’t, but you think it is cleared.
You buy a $500 “Google Play Gift Card” with your debit/credit card.
They ask you to send you the code on the gift card by e-mail.
They use the gift card to buy stuff online
A few days later your bank lets you know the check was fake, and sticks you with the loss.

Reply

Avatar ZZ March 8, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Further evidence this is a scam is found by looking up “realtimesurvey.net” on the “whois” database.

Doing this shows the site was created on 2/20/19. What kind of company is sending out $1900 cashier checks to strangers a week after their website domain is registered?

Here is an FTC site describing the exact scam they tried to pull on you:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/05/scam-story-secret-shopping-and-fake-checks

I suggest contacting the FTC rather than the FBI.

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Judi Curry judi curry March 8, 2019 at 7:33 pm

Good idea ZZ. Thanks for all the information. I will contact them Monday morning.

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Avatar Doug Blackwood March 8, 2019 at 8:57 pm

“If it sounds too good to be true”>
“There’s a sucker born every minute”>
Many thanks to the “Rag”, Judi, and other informed commentators!
This is why I love the “OB Rag”: keep up the good work!

Reply

Judi Curry j March 9, 2019 at 2:27 pm

Thanks, Doug.

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Avatar OB/PL Guy March 10, 2019 at 1:12 pm

It’s definitely a scam. It’s a good thing you did your research Judi. $300.00 per assignment?? That’s a red flag right there.

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Avatar Rufus March 12, 2019 at 6:18 am

“Kindly be informed that I have been assigned to be your supervisor throughout the project.”

Third-world English is a classic clue. Who talks like that? Nigerians!

Ms. Curry, you are a trained observer, a critic, a reviewer, a reporter. Don’t let someone dangling free money in your face compromise your critical thinking process!

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Avatar Cindy March 18, 2019 at 7:40 pm

Definitely a scam. I received a very similar cashiers cash with similar instructions to buy gift cards, etc. I filed a form online with the FBI. But my friend and I turned the tables on them and had some fun. I don’t remember how but we had a phone number which she called asking for more addresses to send out more cashiers check. She had them going for a while. Texted them a few messages, etc. the guy couldn’t let it go and kept calling her back. She would answer and they ask them to hold on for a moment put down the phone and not pick it back up. Dirtbags.

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Avatar micporte March 19, 2019 at 10:25 am

thanks for documenting… cool article, you are a good writer and researcher, and spy, although I shouldn’t say that online, but too late..
stay real,
online hacks?: been there, done that… let ’em die a slow death

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