Saanich resident bilked by online mystery shopper scam

Saanich Police issue warning after resident swindled out of nearly $1,000

A Saanich resident is out nearly $1,000 after they applied online to be a mystery shopper.

The scam isn’t new but it continues to reshape itself and slip through the cracks of usually reliable online job sites, said Saanich Police acting Sgt. Jereme Leslie.

“Often what happens is once you apply to a certain ad posted on Kijiji or Craigslist and after some correspondence you’ll get a cheque, or cheques, in the mail to pay for your services and to cover the cost of the products or services you’re secretly shopping for,” Leslie said.

In this instance the victim applied to a mystery shopping posting on Following that, they received two cheques in the mail, totalling $2,750.

The victim deposited one of these cheques into their bank account. When they attempted to deposit the other cheque, they were informed the cheque was fraudulent, but the victim had already wired two transactions for $990 through Western Union.  The resident is now out that $990, Leslie said.

“The scam often relies on the cheques being deposited into a back account by ATM so the bank won’t find the deposit for a day, maybe two [on the weekend], and in that time the victim has wired the difference through Western Union or wire service,” Leslie said.

Despite working with Saanich Police and other law enforcement agencies, Western Union can’t spot a scam such as this without any communication from the victim, as the information needed to wire the money is minimal and confidential.

“Some scams will even tell the mystery shopper to ‘monitor’ the performance of the clerk at Western Union, or whatever money transferring company they use,” Leslie said.

He said Western Union or similar institutions are used because the money is virtually untraceable once it’s been wired.

There are several minor variations of this scam, Leslie explained. One of those carries an additional caveat that the mystery shopping company will claim it can only send cheques for $1,000, in lieu of sending a more specific amount for a product.  The instructions also tend to suggest visiting a chain store or restaurant.

Scams such as this target the most vulnerable people who are seeking jobs and therefore cannot afford to lose money through a scam, Leslie added.


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