Beware of holiday work scam

HOUSTON There is a scam going around that promises part time work, but leaves victims out thousands of dollars.

Anyone looking for extra income needs to use extreme caution when answering on line job ads, especially right now because the old secret shopping scam is back, just in time for Christmas.

"I went to and I was looking for a way to make extra money," she said.

Taquitha Peoples had no trouble finding what seemed to be the perfect part time job on Craigslist. The ad offered $200 for secret shoppers. When Peoples responded to the offer, she soon got a package and a check for $3,750.

"I had to go to Wal-Mart and spend $100 there and then make two wire transfers to Michigan in the amount of $1,620 for each wire, but it was to the same person," Peoples said.

Peoples says she cashed the check, went shopping then used money gram to wire a pair of $1,620 checks to her Michigan contact. Peoples even filled out evaluation forms. A few days later Peoples' bank discovered the check she'd cashed was counterfeit.

"Now my bank is holding me for fraud, saying I had something to do with it," People's said.

Peoples bank has put a hold on all of her money, holding her responsible for coming up with $3,750. The company that offered the job cannot be reached.

"When it comes to somebody ripping you off by a check, you are going to bear the loss," said University of Houston law professor Richard Alderman.

Alderman says the secret shopper scam has claimed several local victims recently, and in each case, the victim has to reimburse the bank to cover the fake check.

"All these scams the same thing, you are given a check, you are told go ahead and cash it," Alderman explained. "After you get the money, some of it you will give back to me, and you keep the rest for yourself. These checks are all going to bounce."

Alderman says with the economy claiming jobs, these kinds of scams will become more common. Peoples' advice for those who see similar offers, "Don't do it, don't do it, because you don't know who to trust."

Craigslist does warn job seekers to avoid any offers that deal with MoneyGram and Western Union because these kinds of scams often ask victims to wire money using the services. If you get a check from someone you do not know who wants to you give them some of the money back, don't do it.

How long will the bank leave that hold on her account? Until the money is returned.

Remember, it's illegal to pass a fake check. Doing this could leave you answering questions from law enforcement. In fact, Peoples had to fill out a police report to formally document that she did not benefit from the secret shopper scam.

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