It looks like a big payout: a check from a major retailer with your name on it.
But there's a catch. It's actually one of the latest scams targeting consumers in our area, and one of our viewers brought it to our attention. David Byrd of Upper Marlboro, Maryland told us he received a strange letter in the mail that appeared to be from Walmart.
“The postmark is from Spain so you say, what is that about?” said Byrd. “Here you're getting a letter from a company here in the States, but the postage is from overseas?"
The letter had “Walmart Inc” printed on it. In the letter, there was a job proposal.
Byrd said the letter had a great offer. “We're going to hire you to go to other stores and buy stuff on our behalf and you get to keep the merchandise .... but we want you to serve as our quality control evaluator.”
The pitch was for what is known as a “secret shopper." And there was a sweetener: the letter came with a check for $1,995.15.
"This is a good looking check," Byrd said. "It has my name, it has my address, it has my zip plus four on here.”
On the back of the check is what looks like a watermark of some kind.
“You see all this and you say, boy this looks pretty legit," Byrd said.
But he doubted. Byrd told News4 he never filled out a survey and he’s not looking for a job. “This seems like the old something for nothing," he said.
To see what was up, Byrd followed the letter’s instructions and visited the website listed in it.
But Byrd says, when the site loaded, there was no Walmart logo. Instead it asked for password and user ID that was included in the letter. Fortunately for Byrd, he stopped short.
"This is a scam right here,” he said.
Byrd was right. Walmart says it does not solicit secret shoppers. In fact it confirmed fraudsters are sending fake messages via text, email and snail mail.
The criminals ask consumers to deposit the enclosed check, then wire the money back for one reason or another. But Byrd did not bite.
“I don't think I’ve worked with anybody who has given me the check up front and then said 'OK, get to work.'”
Even if you deposit the check and the funds appear, that doesn't mean the check is good. The Federal Trade Commission warns until the bank confirms the check cleared, the consumer is responsible for any money withdrawn against that check.
Fortunately, you don't need to fall victim. Here are some resources that can help you spot and avoid scams: