DOJ: News Release

McGrath Warns Montanans About “Secret Shopping” Scam

HELENA – Attorney General Mike McGrath on Tuesday warned Montana consumers to be wary of a scam targeting the state that combines phony checks from a real Montana bank with a “secret shopper” pitch.

“People need to remember that you don’t get something for nothing,” McGrath said. “If someone you don’t know sends you a cashier’s check unexpectedly in the mail and asks you to cash it and wire some of the money back to them for whatever reason, it’s 99.9 percent certain that it’s a scam.”

In recent weeks, victims throughout the nation have received packets in the mail from “Shopping Group Agency,” a company that claims to hire secret shoppers to help businesses improve their customer service. The mailing includes:

  • a fraudulent cashier’s check for $4,968 that claims to be drawn on a Montana bank – Ravalli County Bank in Hamilton;
  • details of a “PAID training assignment” that involves making purchases at well-known businesses;
  • a one-page code of business conduct and ethics, and
  • a customer service rating form.

Victims are asked to pose as customers to evaluate the service provided by various businesses, including Western Union and MoneyGram. As part of the evaluation, they are asked to cash the check, keep $704 as training pay and expenses, and wire $2,640 via Western Union and another $1,320 via MoneyGram.

“These checks are absolutely worthless and anyone who cashes them and wires the money as instructed ends up owing that money,” McGrath said. “Once the money is wired to the criminals running this scam, it’s gone. There is no way to get it back.”

Ravalli County Bank has posted a special notice on its website at warning people that the checks are counterfeit and showing what they look like.

According to Ravalli County Bank’s assistant cashier DelRey Wilder, since February the bank has received over 85 fraudulent checks from around the nation. While the bank has received calls about the fake checks from Billings, to date no checks have been cashed by victims in Montana.

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