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Beware of mystery shopper scams

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I confess… I once was a mystery shopper. Decades ago, I shopped at stores to see what they were charging for certain products and visited restaurant chains to evaluate the food and service. I wrote up a report, sent it in, and received a check for my work. Nothing I could make a living from, but it helped fill the gas tank.

Back then, it didn’t occur to me that responding to a mystery or secret shopper ad could set me up for a scam. Now I know – if you’re looking to make extra money as a mystery shopper, it pays to do some homework to make sure the job is real.

Recently, we’ve heard about a scam that begins when you get an email offering “secret shopper” jobs with retailers like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Best Buy or Home Depot. If you click through to the website, it looks like you’re on a retailer’s site – but you’re not. You’re asked to provide some personal information to get started, and told you’ll soon get a cashier’s check for around $1,500. You’re instructed to deposit the check into your account to “activate” your employment, keep $300 of that money as “advance payment” to cover initial expenses, and wire back the rest.

Problem is, the “job” isn’t real and it’s not associated with any actual stores. You’re dealing with a scammer. That check is a fake. If you deposit it, you’re on the hook to pay the bank back.

Following these tips can help you avoid a mystery shopping scam:

  • Do your research. Most legitimate secret shopper jobs are posted online by reputable marketing research or merchandising companies. A quick internet search can help you verify the company’s reputation, legitimacy, or flag any complaints. Scammers like to use the names of well-known companies like Home Depot or Wal-Mart to gain your trust.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Wiring money is the same as sending cash – once you send it, you can’t get it back.
  • Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know. If the check turns out to be fake, it will eventually bounce. And since you are responsible for any deposited checks to your account, you will owe the bank the money you withdrew.
  • Never give your personal or financial information out online. Guard your personal information, and treat it as if it were cash. Refrain from entering your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers online or by phone to someone who gets in touch with you.

You don’t have to pay to get into the mystery shopper business. We have more advice on finding legitimate mystery shopping jobs. If you suspect a scam, report it to the FTC.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Comments

I just got a cashiers check for $2,390.00 From A bank in Indiana
Notre Dame FCU The Info looks legit but when the letter came in it came in an envelope by USPS paid postage and it came from A Tessa Failen 2534 Bangle St. Fayetteville NC 28306-6815 . And No it was Not deposited in The bank.

I received check and deposit in bank I am suppose look at Ebay gift cards but those take pic and send it with numbers scratched off how much trouble will I get in it was cashier check from joseph I assumed it was real

Just received a check FedEx from Prosperity Bank for $2,420 telling me to go purchase 5 gift cards at Walmart. Scratch the back to reveal codes and email them. They want me to do this within 2 days to receive a bonus of $150. This is a scam, and Please be aware!

Well today was my lucky day, I got that priority envelope with a $2950.00 check in it. What a scam, sent email and called the number no response. Boy I sure was hopeful but not that gullible. Don’t fall for the scams out there

HELP!! I really feel stupid as I fell for this scam. I still have the gift cards I purchased. I'm to be told by the coordinator on Monday what to do with them. What should I do?

I was sent a check from a bank in California for $3,486.21. Said I was to be a mystery shopper. I am to purchase 6 walmar t gift cards from 2 seperate stores. Said to scratch off the silver bar on back and send them the number. I could then keep the $486.21 as my paycheck. They also said they will send me a W2 at the end of the year and pay all taxes. I have deposited the check in my bank but have not done anything with the money. I am going to my bank Monday morning and talk with the manager. Letter did not have an address. It was just typed out stating what I was to do next. They said they have already sent me a new case to start on for USPS. I don't feel good about any of this after reading this page.

I just received a mystery shopper package from Mark Fisher (209)442-3205 with a cashiers check for2,475 from Randolph-Brooks FCU and was told to deposit it into my account and wait until it clear and buy gift cards and a 25 dollar m.o for red Cross and keep 450 for myself. I knew it was a scam so watch out for this one.

I almost fell for the same scam with Mark Fisher. Good thing is I tried to open a new account with it and my credit union called the other credit union and the check was counterfeit. I was lucky. I really needed the money. Instructions said to deposit the check, keep 300, buy 500 dollars of eBay and 600 dollars of Google play cards, scratch the numbers and send pictures. The credit union kept the check and letter. This guy's days as a scammer are numbered. I

I also meant to add that I was contacted through a site called WIX so beware of that site.

I feel like the biggest fool! I applied for the job of a mystery shopper, mostly because I am on disability and going to school and the add came through my college email, so I thought it was legit! I was sent an email that I was accepted for the job and would receive instructions shortly. Got 3 money orders in the mail yesterday with instructions to deposit the checks and then text this number when I did the deposit. Then if I went to the apple store and purchase two gift cards for $1,300 each, the remaining money would be my pay, there would be a $50 bonus if I did it within two days of deposit. I did the deposit and texted them back, but looked at the instructions for after the purchase, I was to text a picture of both the receipt and the cards...with the numbers on the back scratched off! This is what caught my attention, for I knew if they had the numbers they could use the cards. it all clicked! I texted the number and they reassured me that I was just nervous because this was my "first assignment" I asked for a website, which they gave me. However, I found that I could not contact them through this website. I did further research and found that there is a mystery shopper company called Pinnacle, but it was not Pinnacle Customer metrics. But there were two called Pinnacle Finacial Strategies, and Sinclair Customer Metrics. These scum bags just took the names of these two legit and combined them and set up a website.
I called my bank this morning to inform them, I will have to pay a small fee, but at least I'm not out $2,600 bucks. Beware from what I have researched you don't have to pay, and you won't be emailed or paid in this manner, that most pay via Paypal.
So glad I did research before going out and doing a false job!

I just got my 2nd 'scam'. I just got a text msg from the sender who has threatened me with contacting the FBI because I haven't used the money as he requested. I have not even tried to cash the check! In the first scam, my bank took one look at the check and immediately identified it as a scam and confiscated it to report it! I was so glad they noticed it as a scam. I later found out the scam online and several other people got the same check, sometimes the same amount, from the same banking facility named on the check. It was worth no more than the flimsy paper it was printed on! Stay on your toes!

Beware of Altered (Fake) Cashier checks from Anderson Hunt

I was working retail manager at Albertville Outlet Mall and we had secret shoppers. I was given an opportunity to do a secret shop only to be scammed to send money through WESTERN UNION...by the time the western union employee felt it was a scam the money was already picked up. I received a letter from Western Union about the scam that I was a victim. I filled out the form and I acknowledged the amount of money that I was scammed. I was told that I would be receiving my money back. To date I am still without word or money. Please help me/

I received check from Harold Goldberg 530-454-5043, Trend Source , San Deido Ca. email Forum Research $1995.00 and asked to purchase$1700.00 Google Playcards and scratch off labels and email the photo the checkwas from HenricoCredit Union

Did it work for you Hosh? I receios cheque and was asked the same thing

I got a check today for 2500.00 from a KSS International group..I looked them up and it says they are legit but I know better for I have to go to Wal-Mart and buy 3 apple gift cards for 500.00 a piece and I am to text or email them after doing so! Not worth the headache so I just ignored it!

I recieved a check to for2,280 from kss supposedly and now emails and text inquiring if i made deposit.. i was told this is a scam is there any steps i need to do.. too good to be true i shouldve known

I also received this. They keep calling and texting me

I received a text... Hello,This is Ronald Harley from A-Closer-Look Retail Survey Program. This is a confirmation that we have received your information in our database. Your First assignment will be delivered to you next week. Kindly confirm you have received this text message. Thank you.

Apparently he’s still at it. I didn’t respond and blocked the number

I received a check from Abby Phillip secret shopping center. I shredded the check because I knew it was too good to be true since they asked me to deposit the check.

I got the following SCAM Email:
Hello,

Greetings to you and i hope this finds you well,

This is Dean Vanowen from the Secret Customer Shopper Job. I'd like to inform you that your Assignment Package will be delivered to your mail address Today(06/12/2019) or Thursday (06/13/2019) by the post office.Delivery are always within Monday to Friday and Saturday (excluding Public Holidays)

i will advice you check you mail box so as to confirm you receive the assignment package. Instructions on what to do and your salary are also included in the package. You can text me or call on (812) 648-0662 or reply to this email If you need the tracking number to your Assignment package Kindly keep me posted once you have received and also be ready to complete your task.
I can also guide you through the process if needed Kind Regards
Task Manager: Dean Vanowen Mobile:(812) 648-0662 Email :deanvanowen960@ Survey Shopper® Copyright © 2019 --
Kind Regards

Task Manager: Dean Vanowen
Mobile:(812) 648-0662
Email :deanvanowen960
Survey Shopper® Copyright © 2019
I also got the following SCAM text from 610-301-1840, also from Dean Vanowen. You already know it is phony as the two mobile numbers are different:
Good morning, I'd like to inform you that your Customer shopper Assignment Package has been made out to you and the delivery will be made to your mail address either today (06.12.2019), Thursday(06.13.2019) or Friday(06.14.2019) by the post office. Please kindly be on the look out while you get back to me ASAP ... Dean Vanowen

Seems to be outside the US. They know enough to order dates by m/d/y, but they use periods for separators, which isn't at all common here.

yep... he's still at it... I'm currently waiting for my package so I can put it on a large poster-board and use it in my next company training seminar about scams... I'm an IT Director where I work... so this is always something we train about!

I received a ck today (06-17-2019) for $995 with the first assignment to purchase Amazon or EBAY gift cards at various retailers in my area. The pay was $165 for me to keep for my time. Once I make the purchases I am suppose to report my experience at each retailer with the purchases. What caught my attention was that they wanted you to only give 2 days max for the ck to clear in order to withdraw the funds and along with pictures of the gift cards with the pin codes. Had SCAM written all over it.

I received this exact same heck, $995 with first assignment to purchase Ebay and Amazon Cards. Gave you 24-48 hours to deposit and complete the tasks. Asked for you to take pictures of the cards and send them to the phone number with the pin scratched off the back. The mans name on the check is Blake Taylor. I received an email from him and replied asking him information about the company, Vested Business Brokers.... I looked them up and ended up finding this site, and I am sooo glad I did. I am taking the check and letter to my bank and let them report it or do whatever they do...

Just received the exact same letter with same "Head of Recruitment" name, "Blake Taylor". Also, the number listed states respond by SMS only....yeah... ok then. Evil, vile and disgusting forms of human life. Going to report to my bank as well. Hopefully they can stop these guys.

Like all of you I have also received one of these letters and checks in the mail. I received a $995.00 check from Blake Taylor. I read the letter and then did my research on the company and found that the company was a selling business company. I will now make a phone call to the bank posted on the check and inform them of the fraud that someone is using.

They got me. On the hook for 2400$ now. Beware, I should've known it was to good to be true.

Unbelievably, I received a U.S. postal money order - not a check, and come to find out it was counterfeit! Luckily I didn't have much money in my checking account. The bank only gave me $200 of the $1200 the m.o. was for until it cleared. (I was instructed to do the same with the rest of the $ much the same as if these scammers had sent a check) so even a postal money - holograph and all - can be fake. Obviously I was lucky the bank only closed my account and didn't press charges against me for depositing it.
One more thing that happened to me. I am selling a $3000 Lennox fireplace and had a man give me a check written from his business at a large, well-known insurance company. I tried to cash it and the bank said the insurance company didn't release payment for the check "yet". It too was fraudulent. Thank goodness I didn't deposit it or give that man the fireplace.

I received a Cashier's Check for 980. Told to deposit and wait for fund availability which happened before it was returned as no funds existed for that money
Forum Research, Inc. Courtney Bradwell. Her phone is 346-242-8829. Don't fall for it like I did. I actually applied for a mystery shopper. Now I know better but my bank charged me for the money uncollected. I should get the check from the bank with a slip telling me how much they are charging me. Go figure

I just got scammed this place said they were Market research sent me a check for2475.00 and they told me to cash it then go to 2 different Wal-Marts and buy two 500.00 gift cards at both Wal-Mart's then check both stores for customer service for there knowledge and to check the bathrooms and the store for how clean it is .And once I got the gift cards scratch the back of them and take a picture of both sides of them .Well I fell for it and I went to cash it at Amscot and they told me the check was fake ! And I was supposed to keep the other 475.45 .I can't believe I fell for it ! I feel stupid ! This is there email so you don't get scammed !! Info @ marketsresearch. net phone number 1-432-226-0700

I received a check from KSS International to be a Secret Shopper for $2350.80. The check looked authentic. Upon investigation I noted that the check came from GPM Southeast in North Carolina. The bank PNC Bank NA 060 New Jersey, NJ with routing number 000098642. The letter was from a John Horton. I learned that KSS doesn't employ a John Horton, not do they send a check out prior to an assignment. I also learned that the routing number is not tied to the PNC bank 060. Granted I was excited at first sine I had applied for a position at KSS but then realized that being paid $550.00 to be a secret shopper was to good to be true, hence my investigation. I am glad I did because the ramifications of depositing a fraudulent check comes with ramifications that you don't want to deal with. Please, please do your due diligence and be aware, be careful.

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