Can You Really be Paid to Shop?

Who doesn't want to make a little extra money on the side? Those ads promising big bucks for stuffing envelopes or becoming a mystery shopper can seem attractive. But be careful. In some cases, they are a scam.

Counterfeit money orders are at the heart of this scam. It starts with victims responding to a job ad that says: "receive money orders like these in the mail - then go shopping."

US Postal Inspector David Nitz explained, "They would go to Wal-Mart, make purchases, rate their service they received at Wal-Mart, then they would go back to Western Union and mail back the remaining money to suspect."

After following those instructions, the victims would get a surprise. The money orders they deposited into their bank accounts were counterfeit.

Postal inspectors were tipped off to one recent case after customs intercepted a package containing $400,000 worth of counterfeit money orders.

"After making contact with this suspect did a search of her home and found $300-thousand dollars worth of money orders," Nitz said.

In this specific scheme - there were 750 victims and more than $300,000 in losses. Inspectors say the scam is on the rise and targeting vulnerable victims.

"A lot of victims are already in financial distress. To get involved in something like this just compounds the problem," Nitz said.

"Don't get involved in something that was unsolicited. Somebody sends you money orders or checks and you don't personally know them or haven't been personally doing business with them you shouldn't be cashing those checks," Nitz warned.

Postal inspectors say if you ever want to verify if a money order is "real" you can take it to a post office. Employees have been trained to detect counterfeits. Also, call the Better Business Bureau to check out any business that tries to solicit you.

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