Iowan’s – Don’t Fall for This Fake Check/Gift Card Scam
Trust your gut...and remember the adage, "if it's too good to be true, it probably is".
Recently a friend was scrolling through Facebook and stumbled upon an offer that (at first) looked legitimate. It was (supposedly) from a giant well-known company and being a "secret shopper" sounded like fun and easy money. So, she took the bait, followed the link, and entered her home address. (Keep in mind, these offers can also arrive via text or email as well)
Fake check scam in Iowa
A few weeks later, a check for $2,950.52 arrived in the mail along with a letter, explaining in detail what to do next. It says that the check covers the assignment bills, evaluation costs, and your survey service commission payment of $450. After the dollar signs stopped going off in her head, things started to sound and look suspicious.
Red flags started popping up
Why would a company like Whole Foods be conducting a survey about purchasing Nike gift cards? If this is true, why does the denomination of the gift cards matter? Buy five $500 hundred dollar gift cards? Why wouldn't purchasing $25 gift cards provide the same shopping experience to evaluate?
More red flags. The instructions say to "peel the silver scratch-off area on the cards, (revealing the pin numbers) then capture the image of the cards’ front and back sides". As the FTC warns, once the scammer has the PIN numbers, they also have all the money from the cards. If anyone wants you to go buy gift cards and share the PIN numbers, it's a scam.
Who is ECFMG?
The check certainly looks legit. It says "Bank of America" on the top. But why is it from ECFMG and not Whole Foods? Turns out, the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates is a real thing and they are located in Philadelphia. It appears they're unknowingly being used as part of this scam.
Big surprise, the Whole Foods secret shopper offer is BOGUS!
The Federal Trade Commission website confirms that the offer originates from a scammer and not the actual Whole Foods. As the FTC explains, when someone sends you a giant check and convinces you to deposit it into your bank account then later when the check later turns out to be fake, your bank will want the money back. And you're "on the hook" for it.
Do you your part to help stop scammers
You can help fight fraud by filing a complaint with the FTC by clicking here. It's relatively quick and it might help another person from falling victim to evil scammers.