Money-transfer scams target local shoppers during holidays

Christmas time means financial stress for many families, it’s also one of the times of year when scammers try extra hard to take your money.

Hannah Moore of East Boston said she was almost the victim of one such scam when she got a letter that appeared to be from Wal-Mart asking her to be a secret shopper.

“When I got the letter I was like ‘oh my gosh thank you, this is going to be great,’” Moore said.

New mom Hannah Moore thought Christmas came early for her family.

“I had taken a survey online from Wal-Mart because I ordered a picture from them, just asking if I was happy,” she said. “A few weeks later I received this letter in the mail with a check for $1996.55.”

The letter asked Hannah to be a paid mystery shopper. The check and even the phone number looked real.

“It’s the Wal-Mart logo, the director of operations signed it. There’s all these stores and everything. It looks real,” she said.

Hannah knew the extra money would come in handy. She deposited the check then went on line to get her work instruction.

“You have 24 hours to complete assignment or you’re disqualified and so you put your money in the account, then you take it out, then you click on the thing, you see they’re wanting you to send money to different people in the world,” Hannah said.

Using the check she received, Hannah was supposed to wire cash to people she didn’t know and keep the rest of the money. That made her suspicious. So she didn’t do it.

It’s a good thing because that fake check bounced.

The Massachusetts Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs took a look at the scam letter.

“This is a very sophisticated form of the secret shopper scam. It makes you think this is real. It’s a well done attempt to steal your money,” Undersecretary Barbara Anthony said.  

What makes this different is the high quality of the forgery and the detail of what you’re asked to do.

“I think they even give you some excuses for why you have to go to Western Union they’re checking to see if western union is operating correctly in terms of its wiring functions. Again, very well thought out,” Anthony said.

Wal-Mart says it never uses mystery shoppers and doesn’t solicit customers for help.

“The letter and website are not affiliated with Wal-Mart… We are currently looking into our options to have the site taken down. We will continue to monitor this situation closely,” a spokesperson said.

Hannah says this thanksgiving she’s thankful she didn’t fall for the fraudulent scheme.

“It’s a little upsetting because it’s Christmas time and Thanksgiving we kind of had plans to you know presents and food it’s ok. We caught it,” she said.