It seemed like a good opportunity for Randy Smith to land a job. A SNEWS® subscriber, Smith responded to an Outdoor Industry Jobs (www.outdoorindustryjobs.com) listing posted on the SNEWS job site seeking a "Secret Shopper" with relevant market research experience. The pay advertised was $70 to $100 per hour.
As Smith and others would soon learn, the listing was a scam, and it has since been removed from the job board.
Smith's revelation of the scam began Oct. 6 – the day after he responded to the listing, he received an email from a Harold Madoc at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for considering this wonderful opportunity. Conducting surveys is one of the most effective ways to understand clients, customers and employees, to this effect, we hire individuals both locally and out of the country to conduct survey on variety of products and services that are either about to be introduced to the market or already in existence.”
The email asked for Smith’s address, phone, age and phone number, which he subsequently provided on Oct. 10, making note that much of the requested information was on the resume he had submitted with the job application.
On Oct. 12, Smith received the following email (editor’s note – we have not corrected or edited the email in any way):
Thank you for choosing to be a Secret Shopper.This is a very wonderful opportunity for you to engage yourself in some of the activities you love such as shopping,visiting cinema's and other business organizations and still earn income for your services.
Please do get yourself acquainted with "Mystery Shoppers Ability to Remain Anonymous" i sent to you earlier,you have a lot to learn from it before embarking on your assignments. Your information has been received and assignments are being prepared.The details of your assignment will be made known to you in my next email.
Please be informed that no secret shopper is allowed to use his/her personal money to complete any assignment such as purchases of any kind that you might be required to make.
A check for your assignment and compensation will be mailed to the address you provided, I hope it is your current address.
I want to believe you are fully ready to take up your first assignment which will be communicated to you soonest.
Thanks once again.
Harold L. Madoc
On Oct. 13, Smith then received the following email:
Subject: Secret Shopping Assignment For Randy Smith
Attention Randy Smith,
In line with your Secret Shopping application,Trend Watch Group invites you to run a survey on three prominent business establishments in your area.
The 1st is a Western union outlet
The 2nd a Wal-Mart store
The 3rd a Restaurant
The management of a Western Union location have reported laps in the services of their management and some members of staff.
The complaints were based on reports which their customers forwarded anonymously and Phone calls to the head office.
Your Secret Evaluation would be
1) To Ascertain that these lapses exist by proceeding to a Wal-Mart location to make a purchase of any item(s) of your choice worth $50.00 preferably an electronic item.
The purchase of an item will enable you gain entry and spend some time at the particular Wal-Mart location to take note of the activities taking place at that particular time.
Reasons for the Wal-mart assignment
(I) Poor services
(ii) Rudeness to customers
(iii) Excess charge
(iii) Inappropriate opening and closing time
2) To ascertain the ease and advantage/disadvantage of on-line and instant transfers as against sending out checks and money orders. You will make a transfer of fund from a Western union location to a Mystery shopper in another location. The funds would be picked up by our mystery shopper at the exact location where customers have reported fund missing.
Reasons for the Western union transfer assignment
I) Customers have reported their money missing
ii) Slow services
iii) Unbalanced exchange rate
iv) Incompetent workers
v) Inability to handle large transactions
3) You would have to record the time at which you got to the location and how many minutes/hours it took you to get service.
4) Upon receiving the funds, address of the various locations would be forwarded to you, and also the Name and address of whom the Mystery shoppers transfer would be made to. You would have to keep a comprehensive report on every activity you carry out. Be aware that the purchased $50.00 item(s) will be kept by you for your personal use leaving you with a duty fee (remuneration) of $100.00
5) You would also provide the name of the cashier that attended to you.
Another email will be sent to you containing your duty description and all other information that will enable you have a successful completion of your duty.
NOTE: The restaurant duty will be assigned to you upon the completion of these first 2 duties.
You are not required to use your personal fund for any of these duties for whatsoever reason,the check for your assignment has been made out and will be delivered to you soon.
Your duty fee is $150.00 which is also included in the check that will be delivered to you.
It is highly important you check your mail more often and reply to any email sent to you in a timely manner because this is a very vital assignment.
Please kindly acknowledge the receipt of this email,let me know if it is clear to you.
Harold L. Madoc
Smith told SNEWS that his alarms bells, which had been going off quietly for several days, went into full alert over this email. He immediately emailed Madoc back and told Madoc that he was no longer interested in the job. Madoc sent a subsequent email, which was quite aggressive, claiming Smith had entered into a contract and he was obligated to fulfill it. Smith did not respond to that email.
On Oct. 18, Smith received two U.S. Postal Service money orders for $995 each via FedEx from Madoc and the Trend Watch Group.
“The return address on the FedEx envelope was a firm in Marietta, Ga.,” Smith told us. “When I called them, I was told that I was the third person who had contacted them on the same subject that day.” The firm told Smith they had no idea who Trend Watch Group was or what the money orders were for or about and assured him they did not send them. In addition to contacting SNEWS, Smith also immediately alerted the Oregon Attorney General's office.
We contacted Laurel King, owner of OutdoorIndustryJobs.com (the jobs partner site with SNEWS) who told us “I actually thought it was legit because there was a phone number, email and a good description. I debated not letting the job on the site because it was not an outdoor job, but since it was paid with a credit card that was legit, I decided to let it go.”
King was contacted by phone by one person and by email by four other individuals shortly after the job posted, each alerting her to the fact the job posting was a scam. She removed the job from the website after the first complaint.
Each person provided King with details of the correspondence with Madoc and in each case, the story was identical to the one Smith experienced – they were to deposit the two money orders for $925 each and then from their own checking accounts wire money to another mystery shopper in the Philippines.
“Fortunately, the scam is so obvious that most people would not fall for it,” King told us. “One woman who emailed me copies of the money orders said she checked with the USPS and found they were fraudulent.”
King told us she contacted Madoc by email and he claimed he had no idea what was going on and that someone “must be hacking into my email so please take down the job listing.”