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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 and your state attorney general’s office.

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


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 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.

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.

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,
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.

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

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