Woman almost falls for secret shopper scam

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One Jacksonville woman dodged a bullet when she caught on to a scam before it was too late. This scam includes a twist that first left her believing it was the real deal.

Jane Jones was excited when she read the message in her LinkedIn profile. It was from a colleague and trusted friend.

"She was saying there is this wonderful opportunity to make some extra money through a mystery shopper website," Jones said.

Jones googled the company mentioned in the message, We Check, and found that they are legit. They hire secret shoppers for all types of businesses. So Jones decided to go for it, and register.

"A week or two down the line they sent me a text that they were sending my first assignment. Cool beans," Jones thought.

A few days later, a priority envelope arrived. The only thing inside was a check for almost $3,000.

"It's a nice little chunk of money," Jones said. "Made out to me exactly how I would endorse it."

After she opened the check, Jones got a text with instructions:

"Deposit the check in your bank account, keep x amount for yourself and you get extra for gas money. Then take a $1,000 to Western Union and wire that to me, and then fill out this form on how their customer service was."

Jones immediately knew something wasn't right. Then she heard from the friend who sent the original message.

"About the same time I got the check, she had sent an email out that same day saying her Linked In account had been hacked," she said.

Her heart sank. While Jones Googled and found the actual, legit company, she realized she made one huge mistake.

"Instead of clicking on the spot with them, I went back to her email and clicked on her email, her link," Jones told us. "it was because sometimes if you do that, people get extra money."

That link took her to a fake site controlled by the hackers. Had she registered through the actual site, she would have been immediately been taken to a page with a warning about this very scam.

Crime and safety analyst Gil Smith says she's lucky.

"She said she looked into this to a certain degree, but she didn't look into far enough because they were setting her up to lose a lot of money," Smith said.

Jones called News4Jax because she wanted to share this story. She believes if it could go this far with her, you could get taken in too.

"I kind of feel like a complete idiot, I can't believe I got taken in. But I want to show people how easy it is to get taken in."

Jones is lucky that she never deposited that check. Smith warned that you can't trust a link, even from a trusted friend.

'We Check' has more information about some key ways you can recognize this scam. This is the warning posted on the website:

"WARNING: People are attempting to defraud consumers out of money using We Check's name. Many of these are coming via LinkedIn messages, and are using different names of people with a "@outlook.com" email address. We Check does not recruit via LinkedIn, we do not send cheques to consumers asking them to do mystery shops, and ALL legitimate email messages from a We Check employee will have our "@wecheckservice.com" email address extension. If you receive such offers, we suggest you report it to your local police, and shred/destroy all documents you receive; you do not need to contact us."

If you are interested in becoming a secret shopper, The Federal Trade Commission recommends you use the website mysteryshop.org to search a database of mystery shopper assignments and learn how to apply for them.