Tricia Driessen. director of the Center for Financial Education in Sioux Center, says con artists may call or send a letter or email claiming you’re overdue on a bill or you’ve been picked for a “secret shopper” program and in either case, you need to act right away.
“They’re sent out to buy these gift cards and are told to send pictures of the numbers,” Driessen says. “The cards are almost immediately drained. There’s very little recourse and the money is essentially gone.”
The scammers are good at what they do, Driessen says, and they can be very convincing.
“These people are very crafty in how they ask you to get this money for them,” Driessen says. “They play on your emotions. They make it sound like it’s going to be a tremendous opportunity. You’re best off to hang up.”
Cody Huizenga, with the Better Business Bureau, says the Secret Shopper scam can take different forms and you need to be wary.
“Either you get something in the mail and it’s a legitimate-looking check and they want you to go out and buy some stuff and then send a portion of the money back,” Huizenga says. “Ultimately, this check, if you deposit it, after a couple of days, it will bounce.”
The BBB tracks scams that are reported in Iowa and gives other information regarding the various cons. Huizenga says the best advice to consumers is to be vigilant.
“Even just clicking on a link, if you get an email, we tell people to be very cautious in clicking on it,” Huizenga says. “Do some research. Check it out on BBB.org and check out other sites, too. See if there’s any reviews.”
If in doubt, Huizenga says to call the nearest chapter of the BBB, and report scams to the appropriate government agency.
By Mark Buss, KSOU, Sioux Center