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Mystery shopper scam strikes again

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picture of shopping bagsIt sounds pretty good: you walk into a store like any other customer. Then 20 minutes later, you’re done, ready to write a report that will earn you $50. And then you can do it again.

If Shopper Systems and some companies like it were to be believed, mystery shopping jobs like this were not only widely available, but could generate “insane profit.” All for just $2.95 for training and a week’s trial, then $49.95 a month after that for an up-to-date list of interested retailers — and you’d be free to cancel any time.

But they couldn’t be believed, the FTC says. According to the FTC’s complaint, people who paid to be mystery shoppers found there were few, if any, jobs in their area. And the jobs that did exist paid a lot less than $50. People who tried to cancel found they were still charged $49.95 a month, not knowing they were also enrolled in a second “opportunity” running their own webstore.

The companies and people behind the alleged scam have agreed to settlements with the FTC that ban them from selling business or work-at-home opportunities and require them to surrender assets to the FTC.

Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities are out there, but so are plenty of scams. Don’t pay to be a mystery shopper — information about mystery shopping jobs should be free, and certifications offered are often of little value. Many professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best, and opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies.

Want to learn more about these kinds of scams and get tips on finding legitimate mystery shopping jobs? Read Mystery Shopper Scams at ftc.gov/bizopps.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Comments

Got a check for$3,575.98 just didn't look right and the letter that came with it didn't seem really professional not really an addresses or company name and phone so I checked through BBB sure enough SCAM TOP OF PAGE SAYS SECRET CUSTOMER NO SIGNATURE ON BOTTOM OF PAGE. SO GLAD I WENT WITH MY FEELINGS AND KNOWLEDGE OF PROFESSIONAL LETTERS THEY USE WEBSITE HELPDESK@ BESTMARKINC1. COM James Baragar phone on note to text when check gets deposited 409 292 8879

Just got 3,575.98 check and letter with phone number and e mail...asking me to deposit and let them know when i deposit

Received $2900 check, asking me to keep $400 and buy the ebay gift cards from the rest and email the gift card codes to Info @ mysurveyresults. org This is a scam, free money for no reason has to be a scam :)

Received the exact same. Checked it out at my bank. I'm not getting scammed again.

Got a similar check in mail last week, after being reached thru LinkedIn... and have been contacted by txt (385-288-1913) to follow up on check deposit. Too shady... don't fell for it.

Just received letter and check for 3,575.98 in the mail telling me to deposit check and text 409-292-8879 stating that i have deposited it from Secret Customer and to email James Baragar- helpdesk@ bestmarkinc1. com. Not today scammers.

I got a check in the mail and it came with 5 steps. To text a number *task received " and then deposit it into my bank and text the number again. The check is for $2440 it says 200$ of it is for me to keep. It says once the money is available in my account text the number again and it will text back with a list of instructions. On the paper it says it wants me to go to any walmart. The name of the company on the head line says Second to None. I'm very sceptical.

Received a check for $2900 to do research on Apple. Was told to purchase two iPhone X's and evaluate the store/sales person. Then send the phones to the research firm so they could evaluate them. Deposited the check, which cleared but then bounced.

I thought I was signing up with a legitimate secret shopper company, Bestmark, through a Google search. The sponsored link used a similar url of Bestmarkinc1 but was clearly a scam website. I signed up but became suspicious when the large check arrived, and especially when it asked me to wire money. Thanks to all of you who posted previously for enlightening me and others!

Same as many others. I received a check for $2950. I was asked to buy eBay gift cards as a secret shopper and send photos of the gift cards. They had also emailed me telling me this check was in the mail. The emails were very suspect and I was thinking this was a lot of money to send people without actually even talking to them beforehand. Thanks for all the posts.

Got my check in the mail today. Did a little research and found the name of the guy James Baragar at 409-292-8879 is still at it. I wonder if he still finds people to scam. But a check for 3,348.48 to go to a gym for a 5minute review doesn't work for me. I sped to my Post office. No sucker sticker for me.

I received a letter and a check for $1989 to buy 3 $500 my vanilla reload cards and report back how there customer service was to there agency and that the other $400 was payment for services is this a scam if so what should I do?

It’s never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don’t know, and then buy reload cards for them. This sounds like a scam. Some people turn those checks in to the bank, police or post office.

In a mystery shopper scam, the shopper gets a check. The instructions say, deposit the check in your personal bank account, withdraw some cash, and buy reload cards to send back. But the check is a fake.

It may seem like the check you deposited has cleared,  and the money is in your account. But later on, when the check turns out to be a fake, you will have to pay the bank back for all the money you took out. The other person got the reload cards, and you are left to repay the bank.

I received a priority mail envelope with a mystery shop preliminary instruction sheet and a money order for $997.50, I was told to write my name on the money order that is a USPS money order. I am to write Chris Coleman in the company's address. once I deposit the money I am supposed to text 347-786-6908 and write "FUNDS DEPOSITED" and I am to keep $150 for myself. The mystery shop is to go to the financial department at Walmart. With the deposit supposedly a waiting period of 24 hours for the deposited money order. Once I verify with the bank the money is in my account I am supposed to text again 347-786-6908 and write "FUNDS AVAILABLE". Once Shopper Fact Inc. receives the message further instructions will follow. The enclosed letter with these instructions has a name at the bottom: Clay McNail, Coordinator of ShopperFact, Inc., contact telephone number: 347-786-6908 and an address: 330 A St, Ste 213, San Diego, CA 92101. I am to complete the assignment as quickly as possible so other assignments will be sent to me. I did sign up in Feb 2018 for three mystery secret shopper companies. I don't recall signing up for this one although there was one site that charged $35.00 that I was not about to pay. I had entered some personal information which makes me believe this is how my true address was on a Priority Mail envelope. ShopperFact, Inc is on the internet. There was an area to email them which I did two days ago and I have not heard back from anyone. That's the scenario? The next thing is taking this stuff to the P.O.

I got the same priority envelope today with the exact info as posted above.Except the name on the bottom of mines is Timothy Cavanaugh, same phone number and extension everything is the same. I knew this was a scam when they told me to deposit the money into my account. NOT gone happen!!

Yall do know right if you can cash it you can keep the money that's what the police will say

My girlfriend just recieved a check for 6k+ through priority mailing. This only a couple days after filling out job applications and being emailed by a private employer for a shady shopper scheme.

I AM SURPRISED THE WALTON'S DO NOT STOP THIS SCAM! HOW MUCH MONEY IS ENOUGH!..STAY WAY FROM CASHIER'S CHECKS, INSTAGRAM, AND WESTERN UNION...3 RED FLAGS!

When I got this kind of a check, I told myself that free cheese is only to catch a mouse, and threw away the check.

I just received a check for 2960.00. I am suppose to deposit it in my bank account. Then send 980.00 via money gram at 2 different locations. Evaluate and make a report. Then I keep 4 hundred for myself. Should I consult my bank

You could show the check to someone at your bank. This sounds like a fake check scam.

If you deposit the check, withdraw money immediately and send it, you will probably end up losing money. This FTC article tells more about fake check scams.

The post office has nothing to do with this scam. Belive I'm a mail carrier. We know nothing about what's inside. We just deliver!

I got scammed!!! I had registered for shadow shopper to make some extra money, received a USPS mail with $2450. Deposited the check, once the funds were available I followed the instructions to complete the Walmart task. Realized it later that it was a scam. I lost savings i was working hard to save it for 16 months old. I feel so devastated

It happened to me as well. I'm overdrawn, didn't realize it was scam till it was already too late. I'm a smart educated woman but feel like a complete idiot. I'm sorry this happened to you.

I just received one super randomly, i think it was a craigslist add i answered. This time its a demo company from AZ and its the exact amount 3900. same job deposit except this is where they got creative...they want me to get the money orders from the post office and claim this is a secret researcher job to rate the services of the post office and fedex. which makes no sense cause the people im sending the money too are normal address with like a normal weird gmail under travis dominguez. The lil slip inside looks legit. they even claimed that if i didnt reply that they would send a service agent to come pick up the check. luckily i live down the street from the police station so i'm just gonna hand this over to them.

doesn't anyone at the FTC want to gather info to catch/shutdown the scammers?

I was contacted by e-mail to be a Mystery Shopper and review some financial institutions. I signed up for this and two days later received a check for $3,935. As soon as the check was delivered I started receiving text messages from (559) 316-4607 with instructions to deposit the check and make sure not to start my assignments until I was sure the funds had cleared. I took the check to Citibank and told them it was part of a "Mystery Shopper" assignment and asked when funds were available. They said immediately, so I thought the check was good.I was told to go to Walmart and make a transfer to a Gary Parrish, Tucson, Arizona 85711. Amount to wire: $2,500. I did so and sent them the receipt. I was asked to tell the customer service rep. that I knew the sender. I was not comfortable with this, but the customer service rep. never asked if I knew the receiver or not. I was then told to go to Western Union and transfer $800 to Amber Griffin of Beaumont, Texas 77707. I did so and sent receipt. They kept me working at an unbelievable pace to be entitled to a $200 "bonus for fast paced employees. I got back to my apartment at 6:00 PM and received an agitated message that I had to go back to Walmart as the transfer instructions were wrong. I had not made a mistake they had. Walmart is far from me and I was annoyed at having to spend more money on Uber (total $200 lost) to go back there during rush hour, but did so. I became suspicious as they kept changing the amount I was to send before I got to the Walmart and also because they asked me to send the funds to the same Amber Griffin as I did for Western Union. If they were evaulating two companies, why was the same rep. receiving the funds? I didn't get an answer to this and was also asked to ask Walmart if they did money orders as that would be my assignment tomorrow. I thought it starnage that if they were evaulating Walmart they would not know this. But since I got all the money back from Walmart, I thought there might have been a legitimate mix up. The next day they told me that I was to go back to the Walmart and buy a money order and send to the same Amber Griffin as above. I got talking to the Uber driver and didn't want to reveal too much about what I was doing but when she learned I was going back and forth to do money transfers she became concerned as she had heard about this scam. I then googled and found information about this scam on the FTC website. I told the company I thought they were a scam and that I was going to Citibank to check on the check they gave me. They started threatening me. After I reported the fraudulent check, Citibank then froze my checking account!!! I had to get the Assistant Bank Manager to call the fraud dept. and unblock my account minus a hold on the check. The Citibank Asst. manager immediately knew it was a scam. A shame the tellers are not as clued up. I blocked the scammers on my cell phone. I am out $812.50 for the Western Union transfer plus about $200 in uber fees. But it could have been worse had the scammers not made a mistake and my Walmart transfer of $2,500 would have occured. They also claimed they were going to send me a second check today with my bonus and more money for assignments but I never received it which is another reason I got suspicious.

I received a text message from area code 707 telling me to check my mail for my "assignment." Sure enough, I got a check via USPS Priority Mail for $2,900.42 drawn on First Community Credit Union (Houston Texas). The package with the assignment was mailed from Puerto Rico, and a total of three different names contacted me:

Mike Cashman - via email from urveygroupinc@ gmail.com and text from (707)676-3667 Mark Carter - on the assignment sheet - I was instructed to send my "report" to info@ mysurveyresults.net
Andre M. Williams (reference on check).

The assignment was to buy $2,500 worth of Ebay gift cards at different stores and send pictures of the front and back after I scratched off the silver cover. My payment would be $400.

These people claim to be from Mars Research based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I called Mars Research and they told me that their name has been used numerous times to scam people.

The whole package looks very unprofessional, wrinkled and dirty copy of the assignment.

This is a scam. My daughter received a check from this "company." As I read through the letter I found some grammatical errors which further proved this company as a scam. The check is issued from a bank in Hawaii, Central Pacific. The routing numbers did not match. I attempted to call the number and no one answered,no greeting for voice message just a beep.

Just received a check from Daniel Miller for $2950. To be cashed and purchase 5 wallmart gift cards and keep the rest. Nowhere does it have a place to evaluate the employee at anything. The high $$ amount was a red flag and asking me to cash a check...really, what a scam! I even looked up the credit union the cashier check was drawn in and they did exist...but if it's too good to be true, be careful and do your homework before cashing checks!

I received a Cashier's Check in the amount of $2,985.00 from stanley gregory@ jobs-fieldagentinc. net with instructions regarding "mystery shopper" long story short my account on frozen for forgery as well as being charged for "CASHIER CHECK"

A friend was roped into a mystery shopper scam where she purchased $1800 worth of iTunes gift cards. Her first language is not English. What should she do?

She should keep the iTunes cards to herself. Do not give the iTunes cards to the scammer or anyone working for the scammer. Do not tell the scammer the numbers on the back of the cards. She can stop communicating with the scammer. She does not need to email, text or talk to him again.

She can call , Apple Support at 1-800-275-2273 and explain what happened. If she wants to get her money back, she can ask Apple Support how to get a refund. Or, she could go back to the store where she bought the cards and ask how to get a refund. 

If you have more questions, please send another comment here. Thank you.

i just received a check in the mail yesterday for 1950 with a letter that had the company intellishop on it giving me instructions on the mystery shop and two names in arlington texas i had to send money to, came in a usps priority mail evelope and everything
it would be nice to have that kind of money but i refuse to deposit this check in my bank account

I received a check of 2950.00 and was asked to shop at the Apple store and purchase gift cards. SCAM -- who would send a stranger money- SCAMmers

Got the secret shopper info from a friend of a friend on LinkedIn. The name of the company is Ardent, Inc. I was interested so asked for info. Knew something was up when I got a check for $2,420. I mean seriously, I am so mad that someone thought they could feel me in. Check shredded!

I just got the same thing !? Telling me to buy 2000$ in Ebay gift cards & all this mess. I'm shocked because the cahiers check looks legitimate has the water mark & everything but what I saw was the routing number is second. It should always come first plus the name on the check is different from the name on the envelope that sent it & the email name is different. This is ridiculous. It's a good thing I'm skeptical.

I received a check for 1890.76 for Thomas Karter with instructions to go to Walmart and purchase 2 iTunes Cards both totaling up to 1590 and the 300.00 is mines to keep as my commission/salary. Also instructed to text when package was received and after transaction and every step was completed text or email. Thomas_karter @aol. com. This has got to be a scam. I know not long ago I filled out something on line to get paid to do surveys. It’ll be great if I found a company that was actually legitimate.

Same thing. $2950 check to today to be a mystery shopper for Warren Patterson (Head of Recruitment).

Received check for 2950. Told to deposit keep 300 and buy 2650 in iTunes and send the cards to a specific address

Recieved a check of $3875. To buy 8 gift cards in 2 different walmarts in less than 24 hours...lol...

I got a postal MONEY order for 1000 looks so real

I received an email from a 'Coleman Smith' with email address colemansmith@ for a Kroger Survey Assignment. Received a priority mail envelope with a task sheet and a check for $2468 asking me to evaluate the nearest store selling eBay gift cards. To visit any of the listed stores and pick up any denominations and buy cards worth $2100; the $348 is compensation for my participation which did not add up. It further states, if I completed the assignment on the same day I received the check, I am guaranteed an extra bonus of $200 in the next assignment. This company/person uses the name of another company called Ardent Services but spells theirs with an extra 's'. I have previously worked in risk management and seen fraudulent/forged documents and this stood right out. What a scam!

I received a check for 2,960.50 it was made out to me with no instructions in memo it says preauthorized payment. It is drawn off of Fifth Third Bank

To date I've received 53 of these secret shopper checks.ive never cashed a one they all have the same motive.cash right away,if in 24 hrs complete and you get a Bonus!!! Either wire the money
To someone else or buy gift cards and report numbers to a phone number.text only!!! Or email numbers off back to a gmail acct or Yahoo acct.I scam them and say the bank has a hold on releasing funds so I tell the bank go to help and take the check to.my casino where I have a players acct.they will cash it.then I tell the scammer that I put the money in my players acct but thru temptation I take $750 out and go.to the slots
I play for awhile and guess what I hit on $1500 on a machine.i tell them I deposit the winnings into my players acct and that I'm going back again to try my luck at blackjack!!! I thank them profusley for letting me be a secret shopper.Boy do I get the threatening emails.i turn every envelope that has the mules address.as the sender along with the instructions I don't touch the materials hoping the postmaster can get fingerprints.the sender has had there credit card info stolen and it's used to send the 2 day air packet.

I received a check for 2,990 and another one for 4,990. The remitter was Garlvin Wright but the signature didn’t look like a Garlvin but instead a Mike. The task was to go to an Apple store and purchase gifts cards then fill out a paper. For a ligitamite secret shopper company they wouldn’t have you hit the same store twice in a row. But this company sent the first check wanting gift cards then a day later sent the next check asking for me to hit the same Apple store. Both checks were a cashiers check of Texas gulf federal credit union 2101 north Fulton Wharton Texas. Each check was an overnight delivery. An Indian guy kept calling me asking have I completed the task yet? His number is 2137251717 also called from a 1-800 number. Don’t do it! It’s a scam! Company name was: National shoppers research marketing program. I thought it was legit because it came through financial aid with my school. Good thing I researched first.

I got details through school too but fell for the scam!!!! I feel like crap, same phone number too. Filed a report with Postal Service, FBI, credit card company, Google, my school, my bank, & filing police report tomorrow. How crappy hope karma gets these people!!!!!!!

I just received a check for $2,800 from Limerock Industries to do mystery shopping. They want me to go to Wal-Mart or bestbuy to purchase gift cards totalling $2,400. My pay is $300. I already knew it was a scam with the cards because they wanted me to scratch the back to reveal the codes and send a clear pic in a text. They got the wrong one this time! You have to be slicker than the scammers these days.

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