Secure Shopping

Mystery Shopper Scams – The Latest in Scam Market

November 7, 2014 | By Editor 

Summary

A mystery shopper or a secret shopper is hired by a manufacturer or market research company to visit retail stores as a real customer to collect information about the sales quality. But being an investigative shopper could cost you your name and money say experts.

Latest Shopper Scams

Mystery Shopper Scams Arizona 

A once seemingly harmless employment, mystery shopper is now a potential target for hackers. Recently, Arizona consumers were warned about a scam that involved fake ads for employment as a mystery shopper.

This is how the scam works. People looking out for employment respond to an advertisement  for  a secret shopper. When they contact the firm about the job, they are told they can earn cash by buying items at different outlets or dining at different restaurants.

Once the task is complete, the firm sends an employment packet that includes business evaluation forms, training assignments, and a check ranging between $1,000 and $4,000.

The training assignment if for cashing the check, posing as a customer, and wiring the cash to a  Canada address. The scam here is that the check is phony.

The check bounces after the mystery shopper wires the money, leaving him or her responsible for the phony check. People applying for mystery shopper jobs are informed by the firm that they have only two days to complete the task or they will lose the job.

People need to understand that a legitimate firm will require you to send money to a person you have met or will never send you a cashier’s check.

To succeed in the scam, scammers use realistic looking documents, the job’s secret nature, and the two-day deadline.

The 48-hour deadline is to pressure shoppers into cashing the check and wiring the money quickly before the shopper or the bank could find it was a phony check. But by the way, it would have too late.

Well, not all mystery shopping jobs are scams. There are some legitimate ones too.  Here are some pointers to help you spot the fake from real.

  • Advertising jobs for mystery shoppers in the newspaper, via unsolicited mail, or on the radio. Legitimate companies will never advertise for mystery shopper jobs in this manner.
  • Charging a fee for applying or for accessing mystery shopping opportunities. You should not pay just for applying or obtaining job information.
  • ‘100 percent guarantee’ job as a investigative shopper.
  • The company is located outside your country. If the firm does not have an office nearby you can visit in person , be extremely cautious.
  • Do not depend on the money from any source you do not know. There is no valid reason for someone who gives you money to ask for it to be wired back or to a third person.
  • The check being accepted by mystery shopping firm’s financial institution does not guarantee the check’s authenticity. So, do not rely on that fact.
  • It usually takes a week or longer for banks to determine the check’s authenticity, especially if it is from an financial institution located outside your country.
  • Mystery shoppers are liable for the deposited phony check, even it is a cashier’s check.
  • So when a check bounces, the amount credited with the phony check will be deducted by the bank from the shoppe’s account. The bank will not be responsible for the loss.

Case Study

A resident of Houston, Texas, Susan Currenn, a woman looking out for a job on the Web, came across an ad for mystery shoppers.

The deal seemed to appeal her, and since no prior experience was required, Currenn signed up for the job and within few days received a packet with checks, shopping assignments, and instructions.

Currenn was instructed to deposit two checks into the “so-called employer’s” account and send the person money by wire transfer. Later, she was sent a list with name on it and was told to send money order to them.

Unaware the money orders were fake, Currenn did as instructed. Once she did, she inadvertently became a part of a phony reshipping project. Postal inspectors started tracking the envelopes Currenn had sent and realized they were sent abroad. The inspectors took her emails and files she kept about the job, in an attempt to nab the scammer.

It is not just Susan Currenn, there are many unsuspecting individuals seeking employment and finding themselves fall victims to some sort of a scam. Postal inspectors are warning job seekers to closely scrutinize jobs offered online.

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