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A.G. Warns Of 'Mystery Shopper' Scam

Iowa's A.G. is warning of a new scam preying on holiday job-seekers.
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The Iowa Attorney General's office is warning of a new scam preying on holiday job-seekers.

This scam, like many, involves a check. But, the checks are getting more sophisticated, fooling victims, bank tellers and wire transfer businesses all around the country.

Missi Bishop was not looking for work when an employment opportunity came in the mail.

"The check fell out and I went, 'wait a minute. I don't know nobody that's died in the last year.' So I know I didn't inherit no money'," said Bishop.

Bishop received a corporate check made out for $3,995.

"If you look at it, it looks really, really, really real," said Bishop.

The accompanying letter asked Bishop to cash the check and take the money to a Western Union. Then wire transfer all but $410 and observe how the Western Union employees do their jobs. She's to fax in the results and keep the extra money as her pay.

Bob Brammer with the Iowa Attorney General's Office said it's the hot scam right now, and the checks are better than ever.

"They're fraudulent. They're counterfeit checks and if you wire the money, I call it wiring it down the rat hole, because you'll never retrieve it," Brammer said.

Brammer said it's the hot scam right now, and the checks are better than ever.

"What's really disarming and dangerous, I think, is the checks look so good. And people think 'well, the bank will know'. The bank doesn't know," said Brammer.

Bishop got suspicious when she noticed the postmark was from Canada, the bank address was in Pennsylvania and the business claimed to be from New Jersey. The big paycheck for such a small amount of work was a tipoff, too.

"That's what my mom always says, something sounds too good to be true, chances are it is," said Bishop.

She called the Attorney General's Office, and they said that's the right move.

"People are being cheated. They're being cheated out of thousands of dollars, and Lord knows the banks are going to come back for their money, and you're going to have to repay it," said Brammer.

Brammer said Western Union and many banks are aware of these scams.

But, in this particular scam, you're the mystery shopper, so the con artist is encouraging you to keep the source of the money a secret.

The Attorney General's Office working with U.S. and Canadian authorities, but the wire transfers are anonymous, the return addresses are fake and the phone numbers often go back to pre-paid cell phones.

Iowa Attorney General's Office

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