Don't be fooled by secret shopper scam

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PHOENIX -- It's an old scam with a new twist.

I can't tell you how many people write me asking, hey, is this for real or not?

With so many folks out of work these days, it may seem like divine intervention when you get a check in the mail for say $2,000, $3000 or maybe even $4,000.

Now, the check comes with instructions, but whatever you do don't follow them.

Gale Holverson has a lot of family coming in for Christmas and like many grandmas she intends on spoiling her grandkids with toys.

To help with some of that shopping, Holverson searched the Internet looking for a part-time job.

She didn't make any immediate decisions, however, something did happen.

"Out of the blue I got a letter in the mail for secret shopping," she said. "I said, 'Oh, great! Pay me to shop? Wonderful!"

Holverson had seen some secret shopper postings online but never pursued them, so she was kind of surprised to learn she had actually been hired as a secret shopper.

"Well, gosh, it's any woman's dream to be paid to shop, ya know," she said. "That's like, 'Oh wow!"

Enclosed with this letter was a list of instructions and a check for $4,100.

According to the letter, she was supposed to deposit the check into her bank account, which she did.

Holverson said she wasn't worried because everything, including the check, looked legit.

"I researched it, I talked it over with my husband, and we looked and everything looked legitimate, and I called the number and they answered normally and so we deposited it in the bank," she said.

After depositing the $4,100 check, Holverson was supposed to head to Wal-Mart and wire most of that money to Canada by using MoneyGram, a wiring service found inside Wal-Mart.

Part of her task as a secret shopper was to evaluate the customer service they provided.

"To check on the MoneyGram business, to see how the employees explained things to you, and that kind of thing," she said.

Holverson wired two different sums of money to Canada.

She wired $1,440 and then she wired $2,700.

Before the transfer took place, though, Holverson said the customer service rep asked her if she was sure she wanted to do this.

"She says, 'There's a lot of scams, are you sure you know who you're sending your money to?" Holverson said.

Well, she thought she did. Days later Holverson realized that $4,100 check was fake, but by then it was too late because she had already wired most of the money to a conman in Canada.

"I'm really angry with myself for being such a goofball, but crying and being upset about it isn't going to fix the situation," she said.

Holverson's Christmas now is going to be a little lean and she wants you to learn from her mistake.

"I thought I'd be the last one to get scammed, but they get ya," she said. "Anytime that you have to pay money or send somebody money, red flag. No! No!"

Why are so many people falling for the scam? Well, the fake checks people are getting look real.

The check one Valley man received looks real, it feels real and there's an account number. Sometimes the conman puts a well-known corporation at the top, making the check look even more convincing.

But don't be fooled.