Missey Sechrist, a single mother of three, had just lost her job when she started searching for a way to make ends meet. The search took her online where she started looking for ways to make money from home by assembling products or stuffing envelopes. She found a company offering a chance to make $500 per week as a mystery shopper.
Sechrist said she filled out an online form, supplying the company with her name and contact information. A short time later, a packet that included an introductory letter and check for almost $3,000 arrived in the mail.
"I told the boys, if it was a real deal, it could be exactly what we needed," Sechrist said.
But it was not legitimate. Lucky for Sechrist, she had the foresight to ask the bank teller's help before depositing the check into her account.
"The check looked real. The company listed on the letter, - Navistar, Intl. and WorldVIZ, Inc., sounded official and I needed the money," Sechrist said.
What she didn't need was a bigger financial problem. The teller told her the bank account and routing number - linked to Bank of America - were valid. That account contained $400, about $1,600 short of the check she had been sent. The teller said if Sechrist was willing to take the risk, she could have the $400 and the remaining amount would be deposited to the account when and if the check cleared.
"I told her I didn't want anything," Sechrist said.
Instead, she went to the Stephenville Police Department where she learned more about the scam.
It goes something like this: You are instructed to take the bulk of the money sent - about $2,250 - back to the company via Western Union. The purpose of the transaction, according to the company, is to evaluate the money transfer service.
Here is the catch: That is your money - the check sent to you from the mystery shopper service will never clear the bank. You will owe your bank the full amount of the check cashed, almost $3,000.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is," Police Chief Patrick Bridges said, adding that although the scam is an illegal operation, the scammers will likely not be caught. "Most of the time, these operations are based outside of the country (in this case Spain), making it hard to take enforcement action."
Bridges also offered advice to avoid being victimized.
"If you receive an offer and did not request the information, disregard it," he said.
On the other hand, if you did express interest, use tools like the Internet to research the company name on websites for the attorney general, federal trade commission, Better Business Bureau or snopes.com.
"People have the ability to do a lot of research on their own," Bridges said. "Take time to research the offer and the company making it. If it is a scam, you can usually find leads. If questions remain, call local law enforcement officials."
Sechrist said she learned a lesson and was taking the opportunity to warn others.
"I want to make sure nobody is victimized by these people," she said.