So you wanna be a mystery shopper? Meet, Timeiki Hedspeth, age 39, from Houston, Texas. She may have reached out to you, via email, to recruit you to be a part of her “Mystery Shopper” team. She recruited throughout the United States.
What fun you might think, especially given how little one has to do, to earn a little pin money.
Apparently she was quite good at recruiting mystery shoppers, to evaluate “money transmission services” as she was able to scam more than $6 million from her victims.
Hedsperth, that’s her in the photo to the right, at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Virginia, was convicted in July by a federal jury, and sentenced in November to 15 years in prison.
Share this tweet with others: Want to be a Mystery Shopper — Be aware of this scam where you “assess Western Union or Money Gram”
How did she scam her victims?
Instead of me paraphrasing, let me share what the Department of Justice said verbatim:
The investigation determined that participants in the scheme, including Hedspeth, recruited individuals throughout the United States via email to serve as “Mystery Shoppers,” in which the individuals would receive financial instruments, such as a cashier’s check or Postal money order, to evaluate the services of certain money transmission services, including Western Union and Money Gram.
Once a recruited individual, or “Mystery Shopper,” responded to the email solicitation with interest, the conspirators would obtain personal identification information from the Mystery Shopper, which was then placed on the counterfeit cashier’s check or Postal money order.
The conspirators would then mail the Mystery Shoppers a counterfeit cashier’s check or Postal money order for the Mystery Shopper to negotiate at their own bank, keeping a portion of the payment for their services.
The Mystery Shopper would then wire the majority of the funds to conspirators or other recruited individuals who retrieved the transmitted funds and engaged in further distribution of the fraudulent proceeds.
From 2010 – 2016, Hedspeth had millions of dollars worth of counterfeit checks and money orders emailed or shipped to her for distribution to Mystery Shoppers, and retrieved and forwarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds from money transmission services.
There you have it. The mystery shopper cashed the phony check, took the proceeds and wired a large portion of the withdrawal from their bank, and put the remainder in their pocket. Only when the bank entered a charge-back on the check due to it being fraudulent did the victim realize they had just robbed themselves.
Has the Mystery Shopper scam happened to you?
Clearly, if Hedspeth and her co-conspirators were able to steal over $6 million, they had more than a few victims. If you have been scammed (in the US), contact the FBI at 202-324-3000 and tell them you are reporting a financial fraud, or go online to https://tips.fbi.gov.
Stay safe, and remember the adage, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.