HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Waikiki woman narrowly avoided being scammed in what’s an all-too-common scheme.
Deborah Kirk got a text earlier this month, telling her that Whole Foods was looking for people to evaluate their stores. She would be paid $400 each time she performed an evaluation task, which would take only 20 to 30 minutes each.
Kirk hit a link in the text to apply.
“As soon as I hit the button and typed in the information, something clicked in my head and went ‘Ah, I’d better check this out,’” she said.
“We’ve seen this scam before,” said Roseanne Freitas of the Better Business Bureau. “It’s a ‘mystery shopper,’ ‘secret shopper’ kind of employment scam.”
Freitas also said that scammers are getting better at making everything look like its real.
“The spelling is fine, the grammar is fine. Everything is looking really legitimate. And that’s making it even harder, and people will fall for it,” said Freitas.
The scammers soon sent Kirk a cashier’s check for $2,450.52. It looked like the real thing.
“The watermark. You can see right through it, so looking pretty legitimate,” said Kirk as she held the check up to the light.
Kirk was instructed to keep $450 as her commission, and then to evaluate stores selling eBay gift cards with the remaining money.
“So you have to cash the check, have your money in hand, go buy all these two thousand dollars worth of gift cards, and then you have to scratch it off and sent it to them,” said Kirk, referring to the scratch-off PIN for each card.
“Seems pretty innocent -- until the check they sent you gets through the system in the bank, and it bounces,” said Freitas.
“A cashier’s check really meant, okay this is from the bank, we know this is a legitimate check. We now know that’s not necessarily the case. They are forging the cashier’s checks,” Freitas added.
Kirk was already on to the scammers and did not cash the check.
“It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on,” she said.
If Kirk had cashed the check, Freitas said she’d be out of luck.
“You have no recourse. So you’re out whatever amount of money they sent you," said Freitas.
The Better Business Bureau said the best thing to do is to call the store -- in this case, Whole Foods -- and ask if they had sent the text. Freitas said that chances are that they did not send it.
Meanwhile, Kirk said the scammers sent her one more text, asking if she had purchased the gift cards.
“They texted me again and told me I must reply now, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, exclamation mark. And I thought, well, that’s pretty pushy.”
Kirk did not respond to that text, and hasn’t heard from the scammers since.