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Secret Shopper Scam Alert

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A KELOLAND mother of two found what she thought was a perfect job on a local classified site.  But she soon discovered a mystery shopper job was a scam and she was out some cash.

“They go for the girls because girls like to shop.  Why not get paid to do one of your favorite things?” Brandy Terwilliger asked.

Terwilliger thought it sounded ideal.  She could take her boys shopping and get paid for it.

“It said it would pay me $350 a job.  Plus whatever I would buy with the stuff, I would get to keep the stuff I bought,” Terwilliger said.

Terwilliger found the job on a local classified site, so figured it was legit. 

“That doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.  What often times happens, these scammers have stolen credit cards they use to place these ads on legitimate sites,” Jim David of the Better Business Bureau said.

When Terwilliger first called about the job, they tried to get her credit card number. While she didn’t give it out, she did receive a check in the mail and her first “secret shopper” assignment.

“The first assignment was to send $1,499 to an international processing center in London, England.  I wasn’t going to send the money until I knew the check cleared,” Terwilliger said.

Terwilliger’s suspicions were raised the moment she got the letter.

“The envelope had a Canada stamp on it and I was like, ‘okay, you’re sending me a letter from Canada to send money to London.’  And the phone number on the top of the page is in New York,” Terwilliger said.

“The forms look legitimate.  The logos on the page look legitimate.  But they’re not; they’re scammers,” David said.

While Terwilliger didn’t wire any money overseas, she did do the secret shopping assignment while she waited for the check to clear and spent about $100 at Walmart. 

“Luckily it was only $100. If it would have been more, it would have hurt a lot more,” Terwilliger said.

That’s because she soon found out her suspicions were correct.

“I started freaking out. I called my bank and I asked them why isn’t this check going through.  And they said it’s coming back from a closed account,” Terwilliger said.

And now that the con artists have her name and address, Terwilliger can expect to be the target of other illegitimate offers. 

“She might be contacted she’s won a lottery somewhere, or a publisher’s clearing house sweepstakes is hers.  So, she needs to be very careful,” David said.

There are legitimate secret shopper companies out there, but make sure you check with the Better Business Bureau first to make sure they’re on the up and up. 

It’s Consumer Protection Week and the Division of Consumer Protection with the South Dakota Attorney General’s office is trying to get more people to report fraud. You can do that by contacting the division at 1-800-300-1986 or sending an email to

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