In 2018, nearly four years ago, a creative text message scam was born. The scam targeted gullible cell phone users who were looking for a fast way to make money. The message offered a seemingly easy job–secret shopping. A secret shopper is someone who is paid by a company to go into their store and truthfully evaluate the overall experience. Most companies hire secret shoppers so that they can understand ways to improve their business, and ultimately, increase profit.
There are secret shoppers for various businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and in this case; grocery stores. As long as the job offer is legitimate, becoming a secret shopper has the potential to be a safe, easy way to earn cash. This particular scam guaranteed that participants would receive $500 for each time that they evaluated a Whole Foods grocery store. The text message looked legitimate, and was extremely convincing. Various sources report that the scam was popular during 2018 and 2019, but seemed to subside during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, merely a year and a half later, the scam is back! The scam’s illegitimacy has become even more difficult to detect. The message is now longer, stronger, and more convincing.
The scam is actually pretty simple. Basically, the text message prompts victims to click on a given link and fill out an application. After filling out the application, the victim is sent a large check for hundreds of dollars, and is instructed to keep a small portion for themselves. Then, they are told to use the rest of the money to buy as many gift cards as possible. The victim is then told to send pictures of the gift cards (this should be a red flag) to the scammers. Here is the worst part: after sending the pictures to the scammers, the victim realizes that the check was fake, and that they have been scammed!
I recently received one of these texts. I included an image of the text for reference. If you are a targeted victim of this scam, refuse to become vulnerable! Here are a few red flags and warnings that I noticed when reading this message.
First of all, I thought it was weird that “Whole Foods” was texting random numbers, practically begging to give away hundreds of dollars to unknown people. The scammers are clearly trying to convince people to click the link, which is something that a major brand like Whole Foods would not do. The message states,“It’s fun, rewarding and you choose when and where you want to shop.” This is a major red flag. Successful companies would never beg someone to join because it is a privilege to work with a well-known company. I also noticed that the writing was not very fluid—some of the sentences seemed rushed and thrown together. If this were really the Human Resources Manager at Whole Foods, the writing would have been fluid and effortless. The message states, “You get paid $500 per assignment as you are not obliged to send a penny out of your pocket.” This quote says “send” instead of “spend,” which is a clear indicator of rushed writing! Lastly, I researched the actual Human Resources Manager of Whole Foods. Here’s a hint: it’s not Amy Williams!
To avoid becoming a vulnerable victim, make sure to research all messages before proceeding. If you would like to learn more about the details of the scam, please read this article: https://www.mashed.com/248424/read-this-before-opening-a-text-sent-by-whole-foods/