'Mystery Shopper' Scam Shut Down

09/25/2012 05:42 pm ET

New York state has shut down two websites accused of running "mystery shopper" scams that duped victims looking to make easy money by working at home.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ordered offline Idealcorp.net and Survsonl.com, both of which are run by T. Crefideal Corp., in the alleged scam.

Not all mystery shopper programs are suspect. Many above-board retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate service at their stores by hiring undercover shoppers.

But Schneiderman said the targeted websites were anything but legit.

Here is how the swindle worked: victims were sent bogus checks for $2,000 and instructed to cash them and keep $300 as payment. Then they were to wire the remaining $1,700 overseas using Western Union and then rate how the company did in completing the transaction. But once the victim's bank identified the check as counterfeit, their $1,700 was gone and they were left liable for paying the money back.

"These scams are particularly insidious because they target individuals looking for ways to bolster their income in today's challenging job climate," Schneiderman said, according to Legal Newsline. "While legitimate 'work from home' opportunities do exist, scammers who are simply stealing money under the guise of offering employment are on notice. Our office will continue to protect consumers and shut these bad actors down."

Schneiderman warned consumers to be wary of any work-at-home job that seemed too good to be true. Often they are, he said, especially when they involve the transfer of funds using wire services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.

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