Expensive lesson learned about scam
By Darren Lum
July 19, 2016
It’s a $2,300 lesson a Haliburton man won’t soon forget.
On a limited income, Steve Young was looking for a way to make few bucks to pay for upcoming birthdays for loved ones. He accepted what he thought was a job to be a mystery shopper for the company Mystery Shopper after seeing a pop up ad on his cellphone.
Young made contact and received a letter that tasked him with going to stores and buying items. At first glance, the letter looks professional. However, on careful inspection a few things don’t seem right. The word “Mystique” is in the header of the letter, which was supposed to be from Mystery Shopper, for example.
He was sent a cheque for $2,920, which he deposited in his account at the Bank of Montreal in Haliburton. He was told that $420 of it was for his training, and purchases for the job, which he did locally and at Walmart in Bracebridge. The Bracebridge trip he thought was strange since his contact didn’t know it was an hour away. However, he complied and made the trip borrowing his daughter’s car. Once there, he called his contact, who told him to go to the nearest bank and deposit money. He later learned the cheque was fraudulent. Unfortunately he had already sent his $2,300 while in Bracebridge with an expectation the difference would be his payment.
Young wants people to learn from his expensive lesson.
“I’m on the hook for this money,” he said. “I got it as a pop-up on my phone. If [you] see it or anything like this avoid it like the plague.”
Without a regular Internet access, which he gets only through his mobile phone, he didn’t do an Internet search until after the cheque from the scammers bounced.
He has since learned there are other people who have been duped like he was. He wishes they came forward publicly so he wouldn’t be in this situation. This prompted him to go public.
“It’s my own stupidity and once I heard other people were caught in this too ... I wanted to get it out there. Don’t do this,” Young said.
The 64-year-old has back and knee issues. He moved here in 2007 after quadruple bypass surgery to live with his daughter. Unable to work, he depends on Ontario Disability Support Program and lives in a small apartment in the village. With his physical issues, employment opportunities are limited.
Young said it’s difficult for him to walk more than a few hundred metres into town before needing a break.
Without employment and a poor credit record, he is at a loss as to how he’ll pay back the money, hoping a payment plan can be worked out.
Since he was scammed, he contacted the local Haliburton Highlands OPP detachment. He said they couldn’t help him.
“I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to let them know that this is going on,” Young said.
Mystery Shopper is similar in name to Mystery Shopping Canada, which Young learned after the fact has a company website warning the public about the scam.
“I should have looked at that first instead of after I did what I did,” he said.
Young accepts responsibility for the mistake and still holds the Bank of Montreal Haliburton branch in high regard. He met with branch manager Richard Wannan, who could not offer much help.
Wannan said due to confidentiality he was not at liberty to discuss what was said specifically.
Wannan, with 21 years of professional banking experience, said this isn’t an isolated incident, but did not elaborate on specific numbers. He said that in his career the scams and frauds that face bank customers has grown “significantly” and thieves are becoming more sophisticated.
There are red flags for the public to recognize, Wannan said. Never give bank information or your SIN.
A bank knows your information and they don’t need to ask you for them. Question things. No one should be asking you for money if they just sent you money.
“Found money is not money found,” he said. “If it sounds too good to be true then it’s too good to be true ... you should never have to send money to anyone if they give you a cheque.”