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Consumer Advisory - Do Not Cash Cheques from Companies You Do Not Know

Alert.

A secret shopper scam is targeting New Brunswickers, the Financial and Consumer Services Commission is warning.

Recently, a 13-year-old Minto girl received a cheque by mail for $3,900 and was informed she had qualified as a secret shopper. Her parents called the police; shared the story and pictures of the cheque and letter on social media; and reported the incident to the Commission.

“I was shocked at first and thought that this was too good to be true,” said her mother. “Fortunately, we knew not to cash the cheque, but I could not help but think that people could easily get themselves into serious financial trouble if they did.”

Variations of the scam have been making their way across the country in recent months. The Commission is spreading the word about this and other similar ones to protect New Brunswickers. At least three other residents have reportedly been approached.

“Scams take all sorts of shapes and sizes and can change slightly from one to the next,” said Rick Hancox, Chief Executive Officer of the Commission. “What stays the same is that the offer comes out of the blue, and they want your money up front. Do not send money or provide personal information or credit card numbers to people or companies you don’t know, especially over the telephone or the internet.”

The scheme starts when an individual receives a cheque from a company and a letter asking to spend some of the money at a certain store. The company asks for a certified cheque or a money transfer in return and advises the individual that they can keep the rest of the money as compensation.

While the cheque appears authentic, by the time the victim finds out the cheque is not real (it can take up to a week for the bank to determine if a cheque is counterfeit), it is too late. The person is out potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Said Hancox: “Ask yourself: Why would a company mail money to me? How would it know that I’m not just going to keep the money for myself? Think critically about offers that are almost unbelievable. Protect yourself and your loved ones from losing hard-earned money.”

Hearing from New Brunswickers about suspicious financial and investment activity early is integral to combatting fraud and the harm it can do. Please contact the Commission at 1 866 933-2222 (toll-free) to get further information, to make a complaint or to express other related concerns.

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission provides protection to consumers and investors from unfair, improper or fraudulent practices. The Provincial government established the Commission on 1 July 2013.

The Financial and Consumer Services Commission brings together regulatory authorities for securities, insurance, pensions, consumer affairs, co-operatives, credit unions, caisses populaires, and loan and trust companies. It is an arm’s-length Crown Corporation self-funded by the fees and assessments paid by the regulated sectors.