Local veteran loses nearly $4,000 to secret shopper scam

Secret shopper scam warning

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a scam that has tricked Northeast Florida residents out of thousands of dollars.

“They get the victim to deposit the check into their account, withdraw cash from that check and then send it out, usually on gift cards,” CCSO Detective Michael Pesek said.

Content Continues Below

The latest victim of the scam is Wendell Borom, a local veteran who says he is working to support his wife and two young boys.

“It was anger, panic,” Borom said. “You’re not just taking money from me, you’re taking from my two little boys and they mean the world to me and that’s why I get up and do everything I do, every day.”

Borom said someone calling themselves Richard Fitzgerald messaged him on the website LinkedIn. He advertised a business that employs residents as secret shoppers to get customer feedback on a company.

Action News Jax found at least five emails between Borom and “Fitzgerald” with a list of assignments. "Fitzgerald" then mailed Borom a check to deposit and told him to use that alleged money to purchase clothes and Walmart gift cards.

Three days after the first purchase, Borom said he found more than $3,000 taken from his bank account. He was forced to freeze his account and shut it down.

“Everything looked legit,” Borom said. “It came from a person on LinkedIn, and they had the credentials and everything.”

Pesek said the scammer is able to steal money through the cashier check. He said CCSO has traced some of the gift cards back to California but have not identified a suspect yet.

Pesek said his office has seen this scam every year. He is warning residents to call and verify the business with police before giving any money away.

“The biggest thing is, the victims have to be active participants in this,” Pesek said. “If a victim sees a check and it doesn’t come from a legitimate business, someone they’re doing business with -- money is not free.”