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Mystery shop ’til you drop? Not so fast

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Who wouldn’t love getting paid to shop and dine at cool places and then review them? Whether you’re a student looking for a summer job or someone wanting to start a side or full-time business, mystery shopping sounds like an exciting option. But while some mystery shopping opportunities are legitimate, many are scams that rob you, not pay you.

Here are a few ways to spot and avoid mystery shopping scams:

  • Search the company with the words “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Remember: Honest companies pay you to work for them, not charge you. If the company asks you to pay upfront to get the opportunity, walk away. No real job opportunity, including mystery shopping, involves paying for the job.
  • Don’t pay companies for “certifications,” directories or job “guarantees,” all of which are usually worthless. Companies asking you to pay for such things are likely scammers.
  • If you’re asked to deposit checks into your bank account and send money back to pay for courses, fees or anything else, stop. This is a fake check scam. When the check bounces, you’ll be out of the money you sent and may have to pay more to the bank.
  • Never wire money or buy gift cards for a mystery shopping assignment or any job opportunity. Those are sure signs of a scam.

If you’re looking for legitimate mystery shopping jobs, check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association for a database of authentic companies. But if you spot any scams, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and your state attorney general’s office.

Tagged with: jobs, mystery shopping, scam
Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Comments

Thank you, so many, many crazy things going on ,trust no one .

I receive a check with a letter saying for to take $500 for myself then go to Walmart buy $100 of what ever I like to which I write a review on. Hey good but this when realize it was a scam. They say go two different Walmart at each one buy two $500 gift cards Then they give phone to text the card information too. I glad I realize it was scam. I know older people would may think this is ok Beleive me check things out I call the place to check the check out it was not real.

Happening to me right now! Got the USPS envelope yesterday, took it to a smart friend to help me decide if it was legit! We decided we would take it to their bank and cash it, it doesnt say we have to deposit it... And we have Comerica subsidiaries here. I literally was getting my self ready just to go do some "Mystery Shopping!" I cant lie, I am really bum now! But really happy I just happend to look here before I left! I just want to know.. How come someone hasnt taken this envelope to an authority and they play it out and BUST these jerks? If someone knows any thing please reply!

Just happened to me about 2 weeks ago. $2400 check. I worked in restaurants my whole life so I was quite familiar with mystery shoppers so I thought it was legit. Deposit check and when it clears go to one Walmart and buy 2 $500 gift cards, go to another Walmart and do the same. Whatever I buy is mine on top of an extra $500.

My bank put the check on hold (understandably) and then about 10 days later they let me know the check was either altered, fictitious, or both. Whew! Sure am glad they didn't cash it right away or I'd be more in debt than I already am.

I got one of these last week.

I was sent fake checks and took them to the local post office. No one sends around 2,000 for a mystery shopper.

I admit I fell for this not long after I was laid off. I wished I'd done my homework before falling for it. I also wished my bank had notified me an hour sooner then they did. It ended up costing me $1247. I did get about $600 back from a class action lawsuit against MoneyGram.. Now I'm skeptical about anything and everything.

I was scammed in June of this year & now, not only do I owe my bank (since 1966) $2,300, (they already got $400.00) which was my balance & money to live on for the rest of the month, power, phone, etc. but my account was shut down & I am getting calls 4 times a day. I am 74 years old & thought I was getting a part time job.

The US Administration on Aging has a call center and online directory to help older adults find help in their community. There are benefits that help pay for utilties, medication, home repair and other needs. Call 1-800-677-1116 or go to www.ElderCare.ACL.Gov.

My sister got scammed a few weeks ago - caller said they were calling for a priest she knows (she's very religious and trusting) - and she was supposed to buy iTunes gift cards. Ended up losing $1,500.00 - Police said they haven't had any luck trying to trace who redeems these cards with Apple.

I received a letter with the Publishers Clearing House logo. With it was a check. It told me to call a number so I can verify who I wa so I can claim a prize. They said the check was to cover expenses related to the prize. I called the company on who the check was drawn and they told me it was a scam. They had checks stolen and copies. They wanted me to deposit the check, which of course was fake. Do not fall for this scam. If the prize was real Publishers Clearing House woud send their own check that could be verified

Honestly I've been scam many times instead of chasing them i just choose to let go and just think that they need that money more than i do, "saying to myself to learn it as a lesson, know the signs, educate myself to prevent it from happening again" next thing you know they scam you with a different way(thru rent homes), Again me choosing to let it go again even thou i don't because filing a complaint agains this kind of scam cost $400 fee in the court. This last one is the most painful that i can't even imagine how could my government let this kind of scam happen to their own citizens i don't know if some of them are part of it or they just choose not to do anything about it, it hurts me so bad because of using them pretending to be working for them know their victims all information convincing you that they are legit proving they got records, involving all government agencies making you take all of your money in the bank maximize all your credits (not telling you to send it to them) but convincing you to put it in a card as a evidence for the government to prove that its your own money and not part of the accusation thats under your information. Once the government releases signs of a scam in public scammers thinks of a new way, SCAMMERS THINK THEY ARE UNTOUCHABLE, BECAUSE THEY CAN FOOL OUR GOVERNMENT AND OUR GOVERNMENT CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THEM. while victims being scolded by government agencies about not being careful instead of finding those people and find out whose behind this. Most of the government agencies says the scammer is outside the country there's no way u could track that down! But if u dig into it yah they might but they have people inside our own country.

I still have the check my scammers sent me hanging on my refrigerator to remind me not to think the best of companies, but to distrust them at first. My scammers actually gave themselves a name similar to a real company, so when I Googled them, they seemed legit. Then I got the instructions to buy gift cards at different Walmarts and I immediately knew it was a scam. I should have Googled the name PLUS the word "scam" to see what came up. I immediately reported this to the federal government, but I forgot about the state. Next time I'll follow up with them as well.

I seem to have no problems with scams, but with the companies I have no choice but to deal with. Even though I know they are scamming, they have a way of raising your blood pressure!!! I also do not become curious & wonder why I called my self. I'm laughing so hard, I just split my sides open & I hate sewing!!

ME TOO: Have been a professional mystery shopper for over 15 years and they tried to catch me. Signed up, but when I saw that I had to make my own form, etc. to even do the shop - thought something was up. What a scam! And, I guess the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, IT IS!" Thanking God this morning from holding me back from following through. Blessings to all.

I've recieved 3 checks and 2 money orders for 9000 dollars for mystery shopping.I was told at my bank they were all most likely fraud attempts,so I didn't deposit any of them.i kept them all and contacted the attourny general asking who I could turn them over to with the names and numbers of the people who contacted me but haven't recieved a response yet.They all wanted me to purchase gift cards and send them pictures of the codes.I have even recieved follow up messages asking me to verify I recieved them and asking me to complete the assignments.If I hadn't checked with the FTC website and talked to my banker I might have deposited them but one actually sent me two with the same assignment to buy gift cards before I had even opened the first one.If you deposit the checks or money orders and send them the codes they will have spent them before the bank ever notify you they are fake.Don't fall for this scam,I've recieved 2 from the same person and 2 others from 2 other persons . These people must be sending out thousands of these a day.

I got involved but nothing bad has happened yet....?? So, if you deposit their ck and it goes thru and you w/d the funds to get the gift cards and send them the gift card info.......how are they scamming me? If I cashed their ck and it went thru - I just made $500 and sent them 3000 in gift cards info. How can they get access to my bank account for just depositing a ck? Are you saying that this ck is going to bounce and I'm going to be out 3000??

Yes, the check is probably no good and it will bounce. You have to repay the value of the check. The scammer gets the value of the gift cards.

Did it end up being okay or was it fraudulent?

Do you happen to have any information( texts, email's) for comparison? I have received exactly the same. I'd like to bust them!! Thanks

Monitor your accounts religiously! I have been "hacked"twice and cannot emphasize how important it is to be diligent about checking statements.

I just got one of these in the mail - looked odd so I started checking around.

I followed the link that they gave to be a mystery shopper but all it does is offer companies to sign up to hire them.

SCAM HomeZone Service&Consult - send you a check you cash right away and go buy gift cards and send them the codes etc.

Karen - this is a scam
Greetings, Your assignment check of $1860.00 has been posted posted through USPS Priority Mail and should be delivered not later than Thursday, 25th of July. Attached is your assignment guideline and feedback form. Your commission for this assignment is also stated in the assignment document.
Kindly confirm receiving this email.
Thank you,
Karen
HomeZone Service&Consult

My door bell rings just 5 minutes ago I open to a envelope open it inside a check for 2893.73 with instructions to donate $25 via Cashier's Check to American Kidney Funds, $2.500 n eBay cards my wage is $350 company TOP VIEW MARKET SURVEY SKYLINE NATIONAL BANK. I know it's a scam

I'm just really upset with how everything's going I just recently started buying things online and I've already had to call for fraud three times and only one time was true but still find a good look for somebody who just started just makes me sad

Has anyone heard of mystery shop scam that asks to evaluate the trade in process of selling used phone at gamestop? They say they will send the used phone for the trade. then I received 2 packages containing 8 Brand new Iphone X plus valued about 10,000 and to do this at 2 gamestop locations then submit store credit gift caeds and any left over phones back within 24 hrs? Don't seem right! But neither does shipping me $10,000 in phones at risk of quite a loss aren't they? Or aren't they? Plz advise I am to perform job tomorrow, and dont know what to do?

I received two emails regarding a “mystery shopping position” from two separate people through my student email. They both came from emails that appeared to be from my college; ex: JaneDoe@ mycollege. edu. So, naturally, I assumed it was a legitimate offer. I clicked the link provided, filled out the information, etc. etc. A few weeks later, I was sent an email and a text message stating that I had been approved/accepted and would be receiving my first “survey packet” in the mail. Nothing seemed too fishy about it at this point, so I didn’t think anything else of it. Well, today I received the “survey packet” and there was a check for $2,2500.00. At first, I was just confused. I thought the surveying assignment(s) would just be me visiting local stores and sending in my experiences, with possibility of reimbursement depending on the situation. So, I read the SINGLE sheet of paper sent with the check that had “instructions” on it: it stated to text +1 (323) 206-8287 and confirm I got the check + instructions. The following step was to deposit the check and text said number & let them know when the check had been deposited. I texted the number and let them know I received the packet, in return I got a text basically saying the same as the paper. The next steps were to go to Best Buy & purchase $1,900.00 in Best Buy gift cards (& the rest was for me to keep.) Once this part was done, it says to text (323)-840-1332 and let them know the purchases have been made and the survey had been completed. Then it asks you to scratch the gift cards, revealing the codes & take pictures of the cards & receipts and send it to reports @ surveyreport. After reading the instructions, I felt as though I needed to do some digging & came across hundreds of red flags and situations similar to mine.

I got an e-mail form a John Wilson asking if I'd like to mystery shop. Thought it was a good idea so I signed up. I received an additional e-mail telling me that I would receive two packages in a couple of days. I replied that I was out of town and would return in a couple of days and inquired when the shop need to be completed. When I got home the packages were there. After I opened them, I knew immediately that I was being scammed. Both checks were for about $2600 and were to be deposited in my bank and I was to keep $300 from each one and buy Reloadit gift cards. The checks were Chase Bank checks drawn on "Santa Ana's Credit Union" account. I responded to the e-mail that I knew they were fraudulent, I was turning the information over to the authorities, and not to contact me again. I haven't heard another word!

Received 2 large checks asking me to deposit them into my account and purchase gift card and money orders and evaluate Walmart. It's a scam. Luckily, I didn't fall for it.

Is't True....this is a scam. I just received a package and of course there was a cashiers check in the amount of $2510.00 enclosed. Instructions are to deposit then as the second assignment buy cashiers checks to send out to other mystery shoppers.
Don't trust anything that sounds too good to be true.

What if you cash the check at a check cashing service? What happens when they discover the check is fake?

The check cashing service goes after you for the amount they were defrauded.

I fell for this scam earlier this year.
I was asked to be a mystery shopper, and they gave my a checking account at Wells Fargo, The use for this account was to purchase the items at on two different credit cards in my name by paying my credit card for the amount of the purchase and the $100 that was added to my account was to be used for me to ship the items that I purchased.
I looked up the company and they seem legit. I had emails and phone numbers and signed papers of employment with them.

So I paid my credit cards in the amounts that it cost me for the items and purchased these items which was one at $4,700 and the other was $2,500 .
My credit card states it reforged payments and I purchased and shipped the items out to find out that the day after I shipped out the items Wells Fargo Bank closed the account I was issued and the money that paid my credit cards for the purchased items were returned.
Since I purchased the items the credit card company stated it was my fault and I am responsible for paying these items that I charged to my account.
I been trying to contact this company that scammed me but you know the phone is disconnected and emails are returned stating no such recipients!
Since that time , I been in paying for the shipping cost, financing charges, and these two items that are over $7,500 ... if anyone has a way I can recoup my lost I’m willing to listen to suggestions.

I’m a victim of secret shopper I was sent a check in priority mail they sent me a text how did they get my contacts number I don’t know.im not doing anything with that check. I’m not depositing that check I don’t have and account any more and if I did I’m not going to jail for these people.

Got this Secret Shopper “opportunity” from my college career website. It directed me to CareerBuilder. In which I happily applied to be a secret shopper. How hard could it be? I soon got a text message that my first assignment was on its way. Upon opening the envelope from some guy from Texas there was a check for almost $3000! With directions to buy two gift cards for $1300 from the local Apple store. And then text the provided cell number for further directions. Hmmm.... if I am a secret shopper why do I have to buy gift cards?! Needless to say I voided the check and sent it back. And I will be notifying my college of the scam.

Hi - I received one of these checks my e-mail and deposited it. When I talk to my bank, they say that it is completely cleared and the check is legit and now I have $2000 in my account that neither belongs to me nor I want anything to do with it. The name of the surveyor company is GLOVIS SUNRISE SURVEY SERVICES. I have no idea what to do with this money - it is definitely a scam but what if the checks actually got cleared. Can someone let me know the best way to go forward with this??

received a check in the mail from a person claiming to be Deborah Yates. She sent me a check from Stripes in Waco Texas. I called the bank the cashier check was made out from everything was correct except for the check number.
Yates told me is ok you just keep 350 buy gift cards from Walmart and I will give you an address were to mail them. I said why can't I mail them back to the address on the envelope, the person sent me back text after text. I then told them I called the bank I knew it was a scam all communication stopped immediately.

I think I have been scammed. I feel so stupid. What do I do now?

I received an email and a letter in the mail today from a company congratulating me for being their newest mystery shopper, ironically in the same day. They sent me an "official check" with a letter that instructed me to buy four $500 gift cards from Best Buy, then to scratch off the silver strip from the back of the cards, and to email it to one, specific email address on the letter. The first thing I noticed was the return to sender address was from Placerville, CA, but it was mailed from San Jose, CA (2 hours apart). The next thing I noticed was a typo in the letter that said, "Be sure you have the TIGHT (instead of "right") gift cards, which is unprofessional. Also, the name at the bottom of the letter was from someone with the last name of "Desir" (like "the sir"), and the email I received was from the same gentleman with a different last name and job title. Do not fall for this, folks! There are too many red flags! If you send them the photos of the codes beneath the silver strips of the gift card, they can still use that online to purchase things without having the gift cards themselves. Another thing to note is that they said, "You will be using the purchased cards to shop at the same store during your next task." If they have spent the money on the cards, you won't be able to use them anyway. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS. I reported these people to the FTC and my AG.

After getting several text messages, I received a check in the mail today for a whopping $2,450.52. Thank goodness I'm smart enough to know this is a SCAM. Beware of anything like this. Don't fall for it. I'm going to call the sheriff's office and report this so others will know not to fall for this SCAM.

I just received a $2500.00 check to purchase gift cards at walmart,walgreens,CVs and other stores. Who do I report this to and what do I do with the check I called the telephone number on the information and it is not in order.

I received several text messages and just received a check for $998 from Shoppers Place asking me to deposit the check and go buy E-Bay gift cards and send them images but to keep the cards for future assignments and to get a $5 cashier check made out to the Red Cross to cover their “SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY “ . I replied to every text that I know full well they are a scam and the check will
not be real or it will be stolen but they sent it anyway... what are these people thinking anyway????

I received a secret shopper asignment with a certified check for $3540.00. Was told to cash it and the go buy 3 x$1000.00 money orders but leave them completely blank. Then send them by FedEx to my contact overnight and if I did this in side of several days I would get a bonus of 300.00 well I did not send any money to the scammers.

On 12/26/19 I got a Priority Mail envelope with a " Cashier's Check" for $2880.50. It also had a white piece of paper with printed instructions from top to bottom. The writing was crooked on the paper. That was fishy already. The paper had instructions for being a Mystery Shopper, with an Agent ID and everything....how official....LOL. It said that I needed to deposit the check into my bank immediately and then email them so that they can "Authorize release of the funds." OK, Lets stop right there a minute. I've been in Banking since 1997. A Cashier's Check is a Bank check for certified funds. In order to get a Cashier's check, there must be funds in the account or a Cashier's Check will not be released by a Bank. In addition, there are no "Authorization to Release Funds" for a Cashier's Check once deposited into someone's account. And thirdly, on that topic, Banks will NOT post date a Cashier's check. My letter came in 12/26/19. The Priority Letter was mailed on 12/21/19 (as shown on the slip) and the date of the Cashier's check was 12/26/19, the date I got it in the mail....from TX, to MO. So if all 3 of those things are not red flags for you, the rest of it should be.

The letter instructed that if you did all of this, which I'll spell out, within 2 business days, you'll get an extra $200 bonus. Yes, because it will take no more than that for your Bank to figure out that check is fraud. $350 was to be for my commission, $30 for my gas or transportation and I needed to, and this was very important, get a Cashier's Check for $20 to the American heart Association and when you email them, they will give you an address to mail that check to. (Because don't google an address for them!) Then I was to go to 2 different Wal-Marts and buy $40 worth of personal items, which I get to keep and then $1200 in Gift cards via 3 - $400 cards. If questioned, I'm to tell them they are for loved ones, because I'm a secret shopper and I must be discrete! Then I'm to go to a Different Wal-Mart and do the same thing. Buy $40 in personal items, which I get to keep and 3 - $400 Gift Cards to total another $1200. I'm to scratch off all of the codes on the back of every card, take pictures and text to a number.

Which when all of this is done with, you will be out $2880.50 for the fraud Cashiers Check you tried to deposit. DO NOT DO IT!

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