Scam victim who lost thousands: ‘Don’t get suckered in’

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A little extra cash this holiday season can sound enticing, but the victim of a job scam warns that you should be extremely careful.

That central Indiana father, who asked CBS4 Problem Solvers to keep him anonymous, said he is out more than $6,000 thanks to scammers.

"Here I'm the one getting treated like a criminal," the man said. "There really is absolutely no help if anything like this happens to you."

The man was looking for jobs online, when he got an email saying, "Trend Source Inc is hiring for 'part time mystery shoppers.' Pay is $200 weekly." He emailed back and soon received an envelope, with a letter inside.

"(It said), 'Here's a check for so much dollar amount. Take out your $200 fee and then go do these transfers," the man said.

At first, he said he was wary, because he'd heard about job scams before.

"I actually left it in the bank for four days before I even thought about doing it," he said. "Before I went and did all this, I did all the research."

He pulled the trigger, and ended up wiring four $1,100 payments through Western Union and MoneyGram to people in Houston, Texas.

Supposedly, he was secret shopping the wire services themselves, but it turns out he wasn't secret shopping anyone.

"I got a phone call from my bank saying that the checks that I put in were no good," he said.

Now, he's out the $4,500 he wired, plus he has to pay his bank back, not only the money, but also fees associated with the bad checks.

He reported the scam to the police, Indiana Attorney General, and Federal Trade Commission, but he said no one has been able to help him. As far as the money goes, he is on his own.

"I don't sleep. I can hardly look my family in the face because I've done them wrong," the man said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers took his case, and paperwork, to Tim Maniscalo with the Central Indiana Better Business Bureau. Maniscalo found some red flags in the letter and emails.

You can view them yourself here: Shopper scam letters

"All this stuff is pretty much a form," Maniscalo said.

Here's are some things he and CBS4 found that stick out:

  • Letter addressed "Dear Prospective Agent," instead of the man's name
  • Email address has an extra "C," from @tsourceincc.com
  • Manager's name and addresses in Texas show up in posts by other victims on FTC scam alert blog online
  • Multiple websites for "T source" or "Trend Source," including one mystery shopper company, mean scammers could be spoofing real company

A web search by CBS4 Problem Solvers also turned up an Australian company called "Secret Customer," whose logo appears to be used on the letter the man received. This points to the scammers using multiple company names and logos to try and fool victims.

"I want people to know that you've got to look deep. Don't run (any) risks, don't get suckered in," the man said.

The man agreed to speak out, not only to help other possible victims, but also because he's frustrated that he has not found anyone to help him find and prosecute the scammers.

Maniscalo said that is likely because most scammers are located out of the country.

"Some of these countries are not particularly interested in trying to nab these people," Maniscalo said. "Once you send the money, particularly if it's via wire transfer, it's gone, nearly impossible to get back."

"It took a lot for me to work up the courage to (speak out) but people need to know what’s going on and not be suckered like me," the victim said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers hears about a lot of scams that involve someone sending you a check, then asking you to take some of that money and send it to a third party. You should never send money to a person you don't know, especially via wire transfer. According to the FTC, it can take weeks for your bank to discover a fake check, so even if it appears that it cleared into your account, you could still be held liable.

If you wired money to a scammer via Western Union between January 2004 and January 2017, the FTC has secured a settlement with that company. You can fill out a form to get your money back at the link here.

If you have a problem you'd like the CBS4 Problem Solvers to consider, you may contact us at ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com or 317-677-1544.

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