Attempted scam in progress! Need self-defense maneuvers
October 11, 2021 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Hi all - I'm embarrassed to say I fell for Part I of a scam; I gave contact info for what I thought was a mystery shopping gig and have now received a cashier's check and instructions on which Amex gift cards to buy. *facepalm* I'm obviously NOT going to participate; anything else I need to watch out for?

UGH. So - yes, that was stupid. My husband got a text about a mystery shopping assignment that he mentioned to me; he thought it was from a gig site that he's interacted with before in his consulting work, so we both thought it was probably legit. I filled out contact information on a Google form (no credit card or bank info, but definitely address and phone) and promptly forgot about it. This morning I received a text and email full of spelling errors (UGH) saying that my "assignment" would arrive in the mail this morning; I received a USPS Priority Mail envelope (the tracking checks out) with a cashier's check and instructions to buy American Express gift cards. Scam-o-rama!

I searched Metafilter and, based on a few older answers, have already reported it to the USPS Inspector General through an online form. I thought about reporting it to the police but I live in Chicago and they A) probably won't do anything, B) have a low vaccination rate and C) are police.

Is there anything else I need to do defense-wise? My credit files are already frozen due to some other ding-dong trying to use my ID for unemployment a year ago. I won't engage further with them but they do have my address and phone.

Argh. Help?
posted by sencha to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you don’t cash the (bad) check at your bank, you’ll be fine. Just don’t talk to them again.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:47 PM on October 11, 2021 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding the overeducated_Alligator. Them having your address and phone number would put the onus on them to try to follow up with you - and they are looking for an easier mark instead of someone they have to keep following up with. My gut feeling is you still may get a few calls from them, but then they'll be distracted by Edna P. Murgraves in Pope Lick, Arkansas who's given them all the info they've asked for and is actually cashing the check, so since Edna's actually further along in the scam than you are they will soon focus on her and give up on you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:51 PM on October 11, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn’t be too worried about them having your address and phone - that’s pretty widely available publicly and not something they can do much with.

If you’d like, you can report it to the FTC. It’s helpful for them to have aggregated information about what’s going on, but don’t expect an individual response of any kind.

Also - don’t beat yourself up about falling for the first part of the scam! It can happen to anyone. You didn’t give away any important personal information and you didn’t lose any money, so you’re in good shape.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:57 PM on October 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

They're unlikely to use your address or phone number except to harass you, and they really don't have time for that. They got more victims to scam.
posted by kschang at 1:06 PM on October 11, 2021

You might contact the issuing bank to make them aware.

If it's not a forgery, they'll know to deal with that customer. If it is a forgery, they might be able to mitigate damage for other potential targets.
posted by bunderful at 1:10 PM on October 11, 2021 [7 favorites]

They already had your phone, they texted you (or your spouse).

I would tape the check to the refrigerator as a daily reminder. Otherwise ignore.
posted by AugustWest at 1:12 PM on October 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

My name and phone number are readily available to anyone who wants them, in the phone book. Almost everyone's used to be; I wouldn't give it another moment's thought.
posted by kate4914 at 1:48 PM on October 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the reassurances! I did report it to the FTC and, at their website's suggestion, to the Illinois Attorney General's office. Googling the phone number the text came from generated many many hits on various scam reporting websites, so clearly these guys have been a problem for a while. UGH. (Poor Edna.)
posted by sencha at 1:53 PM on October 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I agree with the consensus --you're probably fine. In all likelihood, they're only running one type of scam, and if they do contact you again, they'll just try to convince you that it's legit and you should go forward, or guilt you into it, and then give up when they realize you know it's a scam.

However, I'd be on alert for any further scams coming from the same scammer, or someone who got your address from them. If they're running a more sophisticated scam, or have partners, they could plausibly attempt to leverage this into different angles involving "the police" going to arrest you for 'stealing' the check, or "your bank" with a fraud alert, but they just need you to confirm your account number, PIN, and expiration date off of your debit card to 'confirm your identity' before they can 'cancel' some pending fraudulent transaction. Perhaps you might even get an unsolicited call from some vaguely governmental agency that needs personal information to open your case file, or from someone trying to sell you some credit/fraud protection. Again, not likely, but possible escalation paths.
posted by yuwtze at 2:07 PM on October 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yep, agree with Yuwtze that you should be suspicious of any “follow-ups.” Don’t bother engaging with the spammer at all. If you get calls, block them.

I’m sorry this happened to you. Don’t beat yourself up too much. You caught on at the right moment. If you think there’s anyone in your life similarly vulnerable, it would be a mitzvah to share your story with them.
posted by amanda at 2:33 PM on October 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

You might contact the issuing bank to make them aware.

There's not much point in this. There's nothing that a bank can do about forgeries like this other than not treat the checks as valid, which they weren't going to do anyway. You'll just end up wasting your and some CSR's time. If it were a non-cashier's check, there might be some point in letting the bank know that someone's forging checks in a customer's name, but a bank will always know whether a cashier's check is valid or not because they issue them.
posted by Candleman at 3:18 PM on October 11, 2021

I fell for Phase One, too -- but as soon as I saw the check in a FedEx pack I knew what was going on. They pestered me and I ignored them for like ten days. Since then, nothing.

As everyone says, congratulate yourself for smelling the rat!
posted by wenestvedt at 3:53 PM on October 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Many people don't realize that checks often take weeks to "clear" in fact, but most banks will "release funds," putting the money in your account after a few days. The week-or-more-long window between those two days is how these scammers are able to catch suckers.

They will presume you have immediately cashed the check, and the fraudulent check will be detected by the bank within a couple of weeks (instead of clearing), and after that point, the gig is up as far as teh scammers watching your case. If you want to jerk them around a little, that's up to you, but if you at any point tell them that the check hasn't been desposited yet, then they'll be hounding you to initiate your part as the scam victim.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:14 PM on October 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

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