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 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!

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

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 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.

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