North Texas

Plano Teacher Falls Victim to ‘Mystery Shopper Scam'

If a company ever wants you to buy gift cards in exchange for money, that's a big red flag

After weeks of being away from the classroom, Skyla Harvey is gearing up for the new school year.

Over the summer, she had a lot of time on her hands, so her fiancé helped her find another way to make some extra cash.

"He got an email from a LinkedIn associate that said, 'Hey, I've been doing this secret shopper online for six weeks, and depending on how much time you have, you can make up $2,000 on the side.' I thought oh, sweet," said Harvey.

She signed up for the secret shopper job with DSG Associates Inc. online. The next day she was hired.

"15 minutes of my time for 350 bucks. Sounds easy," she said.

They mailed her an assignment package, which included three cashier's checks totaling $2,850 and a list of instructions.

"Go cash these three cashier checks and go down to your local Walmart and get five gift cards of $500 and let us know about your experience. Do not tell them that you are a secret shopper."

Harvey went to the bank the next day and deposited the checks.

She used that money to buy $2,500 of Walmart gift cards and kept the rest of the money as her commission.

"The other thing they asked me to do was to scratch off the back, the silver part of the back. I kind of thought that was a little strange but I thought, well you know it will save me from having to send them the cards," Harvey said. 

She texted them pictures of the back of the cards. They were so impressed by her diligence, they offered her another job.

"I was excited. Oh, they think I did a good job," she said.

"That night, Wednesday night, I just looked at my Chase account just to make sure what's all in there," Harvey said. "I am negative $2,000 and I have nothing in savings. It's zero and it says negative. I went, oh my God. How do I not have any money? How do I not have anything?"

Harvey learned the cashier's checks she deposited were fake and she was responsible for covering the funds.

"It Hurts when you feel like you have nothing," Harvey said. "Like when you don't even have $25 to open up another banking account to have some sort of money," Harvey said.

As for DSG Associates, the company is real, but the impostors behind this scam have no connection to the company. The real company is warning consumers about these rampant schemes that have cost consumers tens of thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately for Harvey, the warning signs came too late.

"It was like, you might as well come to my house, rob it, take everything in my house and leave me just sitting here with nothing 'cause it's how I feel," Harvey said. 

The NBC 5 Responds team has received several complaints from consumers who have fallen for this same scheme, so here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Never deposit a check from a stranger, no matter how good the deal seems

• If you want to sign up to be a mystery shopper, the the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America has a list of legitimate companies here

• If a company ever wants you to buy gift cards in exchange for money, that's a big red flag

Online: Mystery Shopping Providers Association

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