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New twist on popular secret shopper scam

The secret shopper scam has been taking victims for years, but now it has found a way to victimize even those who don't fall for it.
The secret shopper scam has been taking victims for years, but now it has found a way to victimize even those who don't fall for it.

The original scam works by a scammer sending someone a check in the mail and telling them to buy an item and file a report on the customer service. They then pocket $100 for the work and return the rest of the money.

The problem is, after a few days, the person finds the check is bad but the money returned is already gone.

Joseph Brogden was a victim of the mystery shopper scam and he didn't fall for it. He never accepted a check, never went to a store, and never sent any money back. Yet lots of mail, some of it hateful, is coming his way.

"They started in the beginning of June. It started with a few then it started to more and more and more and then I was getting 5-6, sometimes 10 a day," Brogden said.

And it wasn't just mail. It was also phone calls. "I have actually got 12 phone messages from people who find my phone number and call to say, 'Hey, I got this package, what do you want me to do with it?'" he said.

If that wasn't bad enough, Brogden's name is making its way onto the Internet.

"My name is associated with this and it was starting to show up on the Internet when I Googled my name with 'postal money order.' People were reporting it to, there was a 'Yahoo Question' and there is a website called 'Ripoff Report' which had my name," he said.

Brogden has been keeping track and the return mail and phone calls alone show a scam that is worth more than $100,000.

He kept everything and then called the postal inspectors.

"He did all the right things," U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson Jeff Fitch said. "Number one, you want to report it immediately. And two, do not respond. Don't mail stuff back to whoever is sending it. Don't put the checks or the money orders in your account, they're counterfeit. Just hang on to them, report it to law enforcement."

How did Brogden get involved? No one knows for sure, but Fitch said his local address makes the package look legitimate.

"We put a lot of messages out there about you know, be on the lookout. If this stuff is coming from the United Kingdom, from Canada, from Australia, from Jamaica, we say be on the lookout. If it is a nice, local address you think to yourself, "It might be OK,'" Fitch said.

Brogden is dealing with this because of his legitimate U.S. return address. "That kind of freaked me out. I just don't like the idea of someone is associating me with some illegal scam," he said.

If someone starts receiving mail like this, they shouldn't ignore it or throw it away. They should call postal inspectors to put it on the record.
Related Topics:
business 7 On Your Side u.s. & world scam shopping scams internet
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