It looks like another lottery scam is making the rounds in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. This time, people are receiving letters that tell them they’ve won $125,000 in something called the “Shoppers Sweepstakes Lottery.”
There’s a cashier’s check enclosed, naturally, for $3,875, drawn off Evansville Teachers FCU.
The instructions are (say it with me, now) to cash the check and wire $2,875 back to the company, which in this case is “Dominion Investment Securities, Inc.”
To me, this is all déjà vu, that feeling you’ve been somewhere before. This is probably because this lottery scam is exactly like countless others I’ve seen over the past couple years.
Just make sure you don’t go all jamais vu if you get one of these letters. That’s the opposite of déjà vu—you’ve seen something a million times, but you feel like it’s the first time you’ve ever been there.
Tell your friends, tell your neighbors: please don’t feed the con artists.
Yesterday I posted the text of an email our CEO received from “US_Surveys Inc.” and challenged you to see how many “this is a scam” warning signs you could spot.
Here are the answers I came up with:
- The “From” and “To” field both contained the recipient’s email address. Now, she didn’t send this thing to herself, so that means they were spoofing the “From” line. If this was really from a company called “US Surveys,” wouldn’t you think it would say “From: [somebody]@ussurveys.com,” or similar?
- It was set on “high priority.” They want you to think it’s a limited time offer, and if you don’t act now, you’ll lose out.
- Wonky spacing and punctuation (“Our company(US Surveys)” and “Secret/Shopper”) throughout. Most real companies take a little more care when sending official communications.
- Look at the payout: $100 for 30 to 60 minutes of work. That means they’re promising $100 – $200 per hour. I hate to break this to you, but real secret shopper jobs don’t pay anywhere near $200/hour.
- This: “The requirements for this position is to be no younger then 21 years old.” Bad grammar is a red flag (as is poor spelling).
- They want you to have an account at a certain financial institution (Citibank). The only jobs that usually require you to use a certain financial institution are when you work for that financial institution.
- They want you to open a new Citibank account, to be used “for this position only.” That’s even weirder than #6 above.
- The contact person uses a Gmail address. Gmail is a free email service like Hotmail, Yahoo!, etc. Real companies have their own email addresses (okay, small local businesses use free ones sometimes, but they’re usually not trying to get you to fall for a mystery shopper scam).
- The corporate “branding” isn’t consistent within the message. They’re “US Surveys” one minute and “US_Surveys Inc.” the next. Real companies are a lot more careful about how they refer to themselves.
- The whole concept of the message. Companies don’t just contact strangers out of the blue for job openings. Even companies that do the “recruiting” thing make you fill out an application and hand in a resume first. Okay, companies with $200/hour positions might contact you if you’re a well-known expert in your field, but their credentials will be visible (and you’ll already know who they are). They also won’t be in the mystery shopper business. Rocket science or brain surgery would be more like it.
So these are ten things I found that should tip you off that it’s a scam. I’m sure there are even more, but ten is such a nice, round number.
This message has made its way around the world—we’ve had a pretty big jump in traffic here the past two days. I hope everyone is realizing that this email is fraudulent, and nobody ends up wiring money to these clowns. You may have lost your job in this lousy economy, but losing several hundred dollars to a scam isn’t going to help you one bit. Keep looking for a real job (or strike out on your own), and stay positive.