St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 6, 2010 –
The Columbia, Mo., office of Express Employment Professionals
is among several of the company’s offices nationwide that have been victimized in a “mystery shopping” scheme designed to steal money from unsuspecting consumers.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges anyone who receives unsolicited invitations to work as a mystery shopper for Express Employment Professionals to view them with caution. The Oklahoma City-based job search firm says it does not hire anyone for mystery shopping positions and that any such solicitation is bogus.
Tyree Byndom, manager of the Columbia office of Express Employment Professionals, says he has received inquiries this week from residents of Virginia and North Carolina about legitimate-looking bank checks and letters purportedly sent out by Byndom’s office. The BBB received a similar inquiry from a woman in Georgia.
In each case, the thieves used the Express Employment Professionals’ corporate logo and the Columbia office’s address at 601 Business Loop 70 West in an attempt to make it appear that consumers were dealing with a real, reputable company.
The BBB first learned of the scam from the family of a young woman in Dacula, Ga. The woman says she received a legitimate-looking Citibank check for $3,975, signed by “Michael Moore” with Express Employment Professionals’ Columbia office. An attached letter, also signed by Moore, asks that she deposit the check into her bank account, take $200 as payment for working as an undercover shopper, and send $3,650 of the remainder back to the company via a Western Union wire transfer.
“Congratulations!!!!!” the letter says. “For a minimal investment of time and no risk to you, you too can take advantage of this opportunity and increase your income.”
Such a mailing is a typical mystery shopper scam. Victims who are tricked by the scheme are not aware that they are depositing a bogus check and wiring cash back to the scammers, usually in Canada.
Adrian McBride, manager of the BBB’s Columbia office, called the scheme, “a textbook example of a mystery shopping scam.
“For someone to use the name of a decent, reputable business to try to steal money from consumers is despicable,” he said.
Kirk Auston, assistant general counsel for Express Employment Professionals in Oklahoma City, said this week that company offices in California and Massachusetts also have been used by the thieves. In those cases, he said, the checks and letters were sent to temporary employees of Express Employment Professionals.
“This is all over the country,” he said. He said the company intends to notify all of its employees and offices to be on the lookout for the phony mailings. He also intends to turn the information over to law enforcement officials.
The BBB offers the following tips for consumers receiving unsolicited checks in the mail.
- If you don’t know who sent the check, it is likely a scam. Checks can be made to look genuine and can even fool experts.
- Never take any job that suggests you deposit a check and wire transfer money back to a company or individual. In virtually every case, the check will turn out to be fake and you will have lost any money you sent via the wire transfer.
- Check the BBB for Reliability Reports by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 706-324-0712.