Banking officials warn area residents that the lake area is experiencing a type of employment fraud involving “secret” or “mystery” shoppers.


The scam preys upon the individuals whose desire to secure a job blinds them to the scam.  Victims are promised an easy-to-perform part-time job that works within their schedule and pays well.


Scammers lure their victims in with job postings advertising secret shopper positions. Such ads tout the ease of the work, the short hours and the money to be made from merely visiting stores each day to make purchases, and they stress that no special training or educational background is required.


Banking officials warn area residents that the lake area is experiencing a type of employment fraud involving “secret” or “mystery” shoppers.

The scam preys upon the individuals whose desire to secure a job blinds them to the scam.  Victims are promised an easy-to-perform part-time job that works within their schedule and pays well.

Scammers lure their victims in with job postings advertising secret shopper positions. Such ads tout the ease of the work, the short hours and the money to be made from merely visiting stores each day to make purchases, and they stress that no special training or educational background is required.

“Con artists are opportunistic with the downturn in the economy, more people are looking for work,” Central Bank of Lake of the Ozarks Senior Vice President John Porth said.

Someone who answers a mystery shopper ad receives an employment packet containing a variety of items, including a training assignment and a cashier’s check or company check made out for a large amount, typically a few thousand dollars. The victim receives a telephone number where the person answering supposedly verifies that the check is valid.

The assignment explains that the “shopper” is to pose as an ordinary bank customer (either at a particular named bank or his/her own), cash or deposit the check there, then wire the funds he receives from the teller to an address that has been supplied to them in the information packet. The “shopper” will also typically be told it is imperative they complete the task within two days, or else they will not be hired again.

The pressure put upon the shopper to get the check cashed and ship the money within two days keeps the victim from discovering that the check they were given was counterfeit. Once this information comes to light, the “mystery shopper” is left on the hook with the bank for the value of the counterfeit check.

The checks may look authentic and may even bear the name of an actual bank or credit union.

A few lake area residents have been scammed out of thousands of dollars through these tactics, which led Central Bank to put the word out. Most of the time, banking officials can disrupt the scam in time to protect their customers’ money, but not always.

“We’re seen quite a bit of (scamming). We catch the majority of it just by normal conversation with our customers,” Porth said.

Contact Rance Burger at rance.burger@lakesunonline.com.