State of Tennessee Press Release; April 1, 2010:
Fake Tennessee Unemployment Benefit Checks Being Used In Secret Shopper Con
NASHVILLE – Commissioner James Neeley of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper and Mary Clement, Director of the Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) Consumer Affairs Division, are cautioning Tennesseans about cashing checks that come in the mail for services as a secret shopper.
The fake check, which appears to be an unemployment benefit check, bears the name and address of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The recipient is instructed to deposit the check in his or her bank account and then withdraw the amount in cash. The recipient is then instructed to use a portion for shopping purchases, keep a portion for time invested, and take the remainder to a money transfer service and wire the money to a contact in London.
“We’ve had a number of calls from individuals who immediately recognized it didn’t seem right for our department to fund secret shopping services for a marketing firm overseas,” Labor Commissioner James Neeley said. “We are working with the proper authorities in this matter and want to get the word out quickly that this is a scam.”
All of the checks recovered have been in the amount of $3,400. It may take several days before a bank determines the deposited check is not real, potentially leaving the recipient liable for the entire amount and any additional bank charges.
The Tennessee Consumer Affairs Division advises that legitimate businesses will never pressure you to send money by wire transfer services, and you should end the transaction immediately. There is little recourse if there is a problem with a wire transaction.
If you think you have been a victim of this or any other counterfeit scam, you should report it to the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Postal Service. Consumers may file a complaint or call the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs for more information at 1-800-342-8385 (toll free inside Tennessee) or (615) 741-4737 or online at www.tn.gov/consumer/. To file a complaint with the FTC or for more consumer tips, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.