RNC warns public about ongoing scams

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The RNC is warning the public of a number of fraudulent scams that have been more frequently reported in St. John’s area.

• Secret Shopper Scam

Also known as the Mystery Shopper Scam. In this case people receive a cheque in the mail along with directions and performance evaluation sheets. They are asked to become a secret shopper. Secret shoppers are asked to cash the cheque and use a portion of the funds to purchase items at businesses, usually chain stores, and to evaluate the businesses. They are also asked to wire money to a specific location and evaluate the money wire service. The remaining funds are to be used as payment for their secret shopping services. In scams such as this the cheque being issued is a fake.

Secret shoppers end up cashing the cheque, wiring money to a non-traceable person, then find out from their bank that the cheque was a fraud. The secret shoppers are responsible for returning the money to the bank, and are out of pocket the money that was wired.

• Emergency Cash Scam

In the typical scenario, a grandparent receives a phone call from a con-artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren. The caller goes on to say that they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. Typically they claim being in a car accident, trouble returning from a foreign country or they need bail money. Recently this has become more popular as an e-mail. Victims don't verify the story until after the money has been sent as the caller specifically asks that they do not want other relatives or friends to know.

• Online Meetings

In this case the victim receives an anonymous response while on a social networking site. The initiator of the response usually mimics the victim’s circumstances as a way of having something in common to speak about and bond over. The initiator will then move towards an online romance and then usually come up with a story to borrow money, to come visit. Once they get a little money they realize they have this person on the hook and will come up with a litany of reasons to get more money. This will continue until the victim either expends their life savings or they realize they are being scammed.

• Microsoft Scam

Someone from "Microsoft Tech Support" calls to fix your computer. They make it sound urgent; you have a serious virus, or your computer is wide open to the Internet showing all your personal files and information. The caller then guides the victim through the process to gain full remote access to the victim’s computer. However, once access has been gained the caller gathers personal information from the computer to access bank and credit card information.

• Classified Websites

Classified websites like Kijiji, NL Classifieds, NL Buy and Sell and Craigslist and many more similar sites are credible sites run by honest people. However despite efforts on the part of these sites to eliminate fraudsters some still manage to get through. In fact these websites usually have warnings about scammers. They also direct consumers on how to avoid becoming victims. These sites are set up to bring a seller and a buyer together, face to face, in the same way a newspaper classified ad does. The problem is people are sending money for items, via e-mail and wire transfers, to people outside of where they live whom they have never met for items they have only seen pictures of. As well we see where people have shipped goods overseas, most commonly to Nigeria, after they have been duped into believing they have been paid by phony e-mails from PayPal. Sites like e-Bay are somewhat different. They offer buyer protection and also allow you to see how long a person has been using their service, how many items they have sold and the approval percentage.

But there are also things one needs to be aware of:

We have seen where a seller contacts a bidder who has been a runner up and usually gives a back story like they have another item the same as was just sold. They offer to sell this item to the bidder at the last price they bid. The vendor will then say he would like to sell outside of e-Bay. If the bidder attempts to make such a purchase and it goes awry, e-Bay is of no help as the deal was done outside of them.

• Credit card purchases for mail orders

We also see where people call local merchants looking to have items shipped to other areas. The caller will use stolen credit card information gleaned from credit cards that are still in the possession of the rightful owner and thus not reported stolen. Because of this the sale is approved and it isn’t until the card holder gets his statement that the transaction is discovered.

The RNC advises that unsolicited mail, phone calls, emails or pop-up messages that asks for personal information should not be responded to.

If you are conducting any type of business online or over the phone, make sure you know who you are dealing with.

Anyone with information regarding these type scams or any similar incidents is asked to contact the RNC at 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). You can provide information anonymously on the NL Crime Stoppers website at


Organizations: Microsoft Tech Support, Crime Stoppers, PayPal

Geographic location: Nigeria

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Recent comments

  • saelcove
    November 10, 2012 - 09:54

    how do you cash a fake cheque

  • Taylor Stevenson
    November 09, 2012 - 19:52

    Once upon a time there used to be a Better Business Bureau in Newfoundland who would speak with the media and citizens weekly about the current scams in our areas and they would help people have a voice when it came to conciliation with a business. However, then that service was shipped away from Newfoundland and is now being serviced by our, already overworked, police force. Of course! The End