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Looking to earn some holiday money? Beware of these jobs scams

Woman promised big money for becoming a secret shopper
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Posted at 4:28 AM, Nov 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-29 06:28:24-05

With money tight, many people want to earn a few extra dollars over the holiday season.

As a result, scammers are coming up with very creative ways to rip you off during the holidays, whether it's through offers, mystery shopping jobs, shipping packages, or other cons designed to steal your money.

Cindy Senour was prepping for the holidays when she received an urgent Priority Mail envelope in the mail.

"I'm thinking, "Gosh, did I pay my taxes? What did I do," she wondered.

Letter offers secret shopper job

Inside was a letter with Walmart's logo on top, saying the store had chosen her to be a secret shopper. Enclosed with the letter was a check that would more than pay for all of her Christmas gifts.

"The first thing I saw was a $4,000 check," she said. "I thought, oh wow, a jackpot!"

The letter instructed her to deposit the check in her bank account and then use the money to buy Walmart gift cards to test the store's cashiers. It then told her to take photos of the gift cards and send them to a "secret shopper manager" who would inspect them.

But something seemed off.

"People are not going to randomly send me a $4,000 check," Senour said.

Good hunch: The check was fake and would have bounced a few days after she spent all that money on gift cards.

Warning of a holiday scam

Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau says some holiday job offers can seem like an easy way to make some extra cash at first.

"What the red flag is with many of these," she said, "is when they ask you to buy gift cards."

So how do you know if a job offer is legit? First, she says, is to check up on the company to make sure it is legitimate.

"Is it Walmart's real website? Is it Best Buy's real website," she said.

Next, McGovern said, is to ask yourself if you actually applied or did the offer come as a surprise.

"If they just sent you an email saying 'Hey come work for us,' that's a red flag as well," she said.

McGovern says there are three keys to spotting a fake job:

First, she says, is being told to make purchases.

"When they send you a check and say you need to go buy your own office equipment," she said.

Second, she said, is there's no interview. The final key is they're moving really fast.

"They ask you to start right away," she said.

McGovern says if something starts to feel off, listen to your gut.

"Take that step back and say, 'You know, I just don't think this is right for me,'" she said.

Senour worries that families struggling to pay for the holidays could easily fall for these scams.

"I think that's terribly sad," she said.

She says to be suspicious of easy job offers, and don't waste your money.

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