Archived Story

Holiday scams surfacing

Published 11:33am Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas is a time of giving to others, but residents should be wary this holiday season that they don’t give to others unknowingly.

Clanton Police Department is warning of a “secret shopper” scam that has surfaced recently and other scams that are commonplace this time of year.

Several local residents have received letters about a secret shopper program paired with a cashier’s check. The scheme asks the victim to cash the check, deposit the money, purchase some items and send a personal check or money order back with the remainder of the funds.

The cashier’s checks included are fraudulent, CPD Chief Brian Stilwell said.

“Some of these companies are legitimate, but if you are not familiar with them or you receive a check and letter about becoming a secret shopper in the mail unsolicited, it’s probably a scam,” Stilwell said.

Check such letters for spelling mistakes and incorrect sentence structure, which could be signs the program is illegitimate. Another sign of a scam is if the letter is asking the reader to send money outside of the country, Sgt. Robert Bland said.

“Cases like these are difficult to recover money for the victim because the offenders are out of the country,” Bland said.

Mickei Archie of Clanton has received several secret shopper scam letters. When she opened the first one, on Dec. 6, she initially thought the program was legitimate.

She became skeptical when she reached the end of the letter and noticed the email address given was a Gmail account, not one ending in a company web address as would be expected.

Archie’s information was listed as the return address.

“I immediately Googled the company listed, and an article came up about the scam from the FDIC,” Archie said. “If you had cashed it, you could potentially be convicted and had to pay fines.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t know anything about the Internet. They are going to get these close to Christmas, and they’re going to cash them.”

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