If you get this deal from Walmart, it’s a scam, retailer warns

Retailers are working to keep an open line of communication with shoppers, whether they’re sending out promotional flyers by mail or providing order information via text message. But while this constant contact can help businesses retain loyal customers, it can also cause major problems when scammers seek to exploit it. Today, one of the country’s largest and most popular retailers had to expose a new scam using its name to target shoppers. Read on to find out why Walmart is warning you to be careful of one type of message right now.

READ NEXT: 5 buyer warnings from ex-Walmart employees.

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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), criminals use phishing schemes to trick you into giving them your private information by fraudulently posing as a “legitimate business”. Security firm Zscaler’s ThreatLabz Phishing 2022 report indicated that there was an overall 29% increase in phishing attacks last year compared to the previous year.

But the retail sector has seen the biggest increase in these scams. According to the report, retail and wholesale businesses saw a more than 400% increase in phishing attempts. “The report found that phishing attacks lure victims by impersonating big brands,” Security review Explain.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest retail companies, Walmart, has found itself at the center of a new scam.

An elderly man stands in the kitchen of his house with bills in one hand
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Shoppers from several parts of the United States have recently reported similar stories of scammers using the Walmart name. The latest incident comes from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a resident named Linda De Simone told BRProud.com that she received a letter supposedly from Walmart, recruiting her for a secret shopper opportunity with the retailer. She also received two checks, one on October 1 and one on October 8, with instructions on what to do with the checks as a secret client.

It’s almost the same thing that happened last month in Bianca Baluyut, a resident of Elk Grove, California. On September 16, ABC10 reported that Baluyut also received a check and a letter containing secret instructions for his upcoming trip to Walmart. But the Elk Grove resident said she received a phone call the next day from someone also claiming to be a Walmart associate. “I think…Walmart has my information. I’m doing grocery pickups, maybe it’s really from them,” she told the outlet.

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Signage outside a Walmart store
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Walmart lists secret shopping, also known as mystery shopping, as a common scam on its Fraud Alerts web page, explaining that it does not use this type of service. “Unfortunately, sometimes bad actors take advantage of Walmart’s reputation to commit these kinds of scams,” a spokesperson for the company told ABC10. “Walmart never solicits mystery or secret shoppers by email, mail or any other public means.”

De Simone said her letter instructed her to deposit the mailed checks totaling more than $4,000 into her bank account and then purchase eight $500 Walmart Visa gift cards. “I wish it was real, but I know it would drain me and my bank account if I followed through,” she told BRProud.com. Baluyut, on the other hand, received a check for $3,345 and was instructed to deposit the money in her bank, then go to Walmart and withdraw three money orders, according to ABC10.

“The problem is that the check is fake, so when it bounces (is returned to your account by your bank as ‘insufficient funds’ or ‘drawn on closed account’) – which happens after the money has been wired ‘money – the consumer is liable (in some cases, criminally) to the bank for the full amount of the forged check, plus additional penalties,” Walmart warns on its website. According to the retailer, some shoppers are even tricked into giving information into their personal bank account, which can make them victims of identity theft.

HDR image, Walmart checkout lane, cash register customer paying, shopping cart - Saugus, Massachusetts USA - April 2, 2018
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While you could be targeted by the Secret Shopper scam via email or text message, De Simone told BRProud.com that her letter arrived in a United States Postal Service (USPS) priority envelope. Baluyut told ABC10 she received an envelope via UPS certified mail. “It looks very real and I kind of thought, wow, why me?” she says.

Fortunately, the two buyers were able to avoid falling victim to the scam. Walmart lists signs of fraud associated with the Secret Shopper scam on its website that you can also use to protect yourself. According to the retailer, these communications are “often associated with fictitious departments or a branding initiative with letters or emails from addresses that appear to be ‘Wal-Mart’ or an address such as ‘[email protected]'”

At the same time, Walmart requires any potential hire to first complete a hiring process that includes legal paperwork and drug testing — and these secret shopper scams don’t follow the same requirement. “Never deposit a check you receive in the mail from a ‘mystery shopping’ company. No legitimate company will pay upfront and ask you to send some of the money back,” the company advises. “Remember, if it sounds too good to believe, it is!”

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