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TROUBLESHOOTERS: Mystery Shopper Scam

Morris Jackson is a single parent, and with the school year right around the corner he wanted to make sure his daughter had everything she needed.

So he went online, searching for ways to bring in extra money.

He said an ad for secret store shoppers at stores like Target and Walmart caught his eye.

“It said for the first survey you receive $150 and for the second $300. Even though I’m on disability, going to the store is something that I do anyway and I could sit in the cart, ride along, and so I thought it was something I’d be able to do.”

He got an email stating his first assignment would come in the mail.

A couple days later a letter arrived.

Inside was a piece of paper stating what he was supposed to do.

He told Jessica Cook he felt apprehensive about what else was there.

“Not a check, but a money order. Guaranteed funds in advance.”

$980 to be exact.

These were the instructions:

  • Deposit the money
  • Buy 2 Walmart gift cards, worth $400 each
  • Purchase a cashier’s check for $20
  • Email a front and back picture of the check to

When you take off $10 for the cost of purchasing the cashier’s check, the letter states Jackson would make $150.

He was required to send a text to (845) 232-0571 for further instructions on what to do with the gift cards.

He’d be using them at the same store during his second task.

“Red flags and balloons and fireworks and everything started going off. It just didn’t seem right to me.”

Jackson said he called the number listed and left a message.

He never got a call back.

Using his knowledge from his years in banking he looked over the money order.

He also pointed out that the letter was mailed from someone named Charmaine Parker in Grand Prairie, Texas, but was postmarked out of North Houston.

Those cities are more than 3.5 hours apart.

Coming up short on who Parker is, Jackson turned to what he knew, which was the place where the money order was bought.

He said he called the Central City Bank of Saint Louis and talked to the branch manager, who told him it was a scam.

“I mean it was just a gut feeling you know…You see it on the news all the time and unfortunately a lot of people are taken advantage of. I was just lucky.”

The scam started in the Midwest, but the branch manager told Jessica Cook it’s gone nationwide and is impacting thousands of people.

If he would have fallen for this, Jackson said he wouldn’t have been able to pay rent, utilities, or groceries.

As for whether he’ll look for something else?

“No. I think I’ll just pray and I’ll put my trust in God that he supplies me and my daughter with all of our needs. It’s not worth the risk because had I done this, I can’t believe how long it would have taken me to recuperate from all the fallback that this would’ve cost.”

The bank manager says police are investigating.

Jessica Cook reached out to Walmart for a comment.

A spokesperson released the following statement:

“Unfortunately, people occasionally take advantage of our reputation to perpetrate these kinds of scams. Walmart never solicits mystery, or “secret” shoppers via e-mail, mail, or any other public means.”

Jessica Cook

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