MINOT, N.D. - Imagine getting a check in the mail, out of the blue, for nearly $3,000. Sounds too good to be true, right? That's because it probably is.
Minot businesswoman Lorena Starkey got quite a surprise in the mail before the holidays.
“A couple weeks ago I received an express mail, and like a big, large envelope - a check,” Starkey said.
That check, worth $2,900, addressed to her. But, as they say, money doesn't grow on trees.
“I was very suspect,” she said.
Starkey said she thinks a scammer got a hold of her email and phone number after she innocently signed up for one of those 'secret shopper' programs on LinkedIn.
She looked into it and discovered the scammer issued the checks with the name of a random business out of Florida on the check's letterhead.
“I spoke to the receptionist, and I explained that I received a check, didn't know what it was for, and she said, 'This is fraud,” Starkey said.
And it didn't end there. Starkey said the scammer has continuously contacted her by email and text, pressing her to cash in on her apparent new fortune.
“From what I can gather, as soon as you deposit that information, or that check, they will receive your information. They will then have access to your bank account,” she said.
The Federal Trade Commission offers advice for consumers on scams like this.
Consumers should resist the urge to 'act now' if they receive money. Also, research the legitimacy of a 'mystery shopper' or 'hidden shopper' program. Some retailers do use it a way to test customer service. Never under any circumstances wire money to someone at their request. And if you get what you think is a phony check, contact the FTC and your local Post Office.
As for Starkey, she said she's glad she didn't cash in on this phony fortune.
“For an unsuspecting person who's either not paying attention or wouldn't question that,” she said.
Starkey has not responded to the scammer's inquiries.
If you want to learn more about potential scams, you can log on to the FTC’s website at: consumer.ftc.gov.