Beware this secret shopper scam

CINCINNATI -- When Hamilton County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Pipemeier received a check for $2,730 and a promise of more money in the mail, he and his staff knew to be suspicious. 

The letter attached to the check claimed to be from Market Force, a consumer experience research company, and requested the recipient spend a small portion of the money at Walmart as part of a secret shopper program. In exchange for that -- and transferring the remaining money to two other people -- that recipient would earn $350. 

Pipemeier didn't fall for it, but his office wanted to make sure any other potential victims knew the scam was out there.

"We want to alert people that if it seems too good to be true, it is too good to be true," prosector Julie Wilson said. 

Market Force is a real company that conducts real secret shopper surveys, but its website cautions readers against scams run by third parties attempting to appropriate its logo and brand. 

One of the tell-tale signs that you've gotten a letter from a scammer rather than the real Market Force? Receiving a check like the one that landed in Pipemeier's mailbox.

"These checks are not good and your bank will then look for you to make good on the deposit," Market Force's website reads. "Market Force does not pay shoppers in advance of a shop."

Any consumer who receives a scam letter in his or her mail should contact local police, the Federal Trade Commission or the FBI.

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