SPECIAL REPORT: Iowa Nice, Iowa Scam - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL REPORT: Iowa Nice, Iowa Scam

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TAMA COUNTY (KWWL) -

Can you spot a scam? A number of people want to say they can, but thousands of dollars are stolen every year from innocent victims in Iowa. 

Mary Ann Kucera is a proud mother and grandma. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to hurt her, but that’s what one person did - a scammer, coming out of Texas we believe. It all started after Mary Ann received a letter in the mail.

“And I opened it up and whoa... 18-hundred dollar check, you know! I thought oh my gosh,” said Mary Ann. 

The scam was disguised as a Walmart secret shopper opportunity. Attached to that check, was a letter of instructions. First thing on the instructions, Mary Ann needed to cash the check and keep three hundred dollars for herself. Next, she needed to head to the store.

“I gave $1,500 dollars to the clerk and told him I needed to wire $1,450 to this guy in Austin Texas,” said Mary Ann.

The next instruction was to spend $50 in the store, remember the experience, and take the survey. 

In the end, Mary Ann thought she made $300. She started with a $1800 check, wired $1,450 to the guy in Texas, and spent $50 at the store. That would leave $300 for Mary Ann.

“So I was really excited ‘oh I made $300 dollars.’ But then Thursday morning at 8:00, the bank called me that that check was no good,” said Mary Ann. 

Mary Ann was out nearly $1,500.

“I just started bawling. I bawled most of that day. I was so mad because, I was mad mainly at myself that I let myself get suckered into something like this,” said Mary Ann.

It's devastating, but Mary Ann isn’t alone. After a quick Google search, several hundred people saying they have received the same exact secret shopper scam. 

“You see the Walmart survey. You know Walmart!” said Mary Ann. 

KWWL tried to contact the man identified as the research manager, Mr. Andy Hugs. Hugs stating in the survey instructions to only text, not call when the money had been transferred. We never heard back from him. 

Over at the Tama County Sheriff’s Office, this one stings. Mary Ann is Sheriff Kucera’s aunt.

“We like to believe that when people are calling us they are being honest and reputable and it turns out to be the other way,” said Sheriff Kucera. 

He says just last year, Tama County saw 166 calls for scams, anything from IRS to home improvement scams.

“You know we’ve got probably I would say close to 70 some thousand dollars over a year and the total amount of money that people have lost, not just one individual but several people where they did go along with the scam so to speak,” said Sheriff Kucera. 

It’s a problem and doesn’t seem to be stopping. The important lesson, do your research.

 “Check it out. Check it out beforehand. Call whoever,” said Kucera. 

KWWL reached out to the Walmart Mary Ann went to, they say they have nothing to do with this scam. In fact, they see this a lot, when scammers use names of large retailers to get money out of people. The best advice, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

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