Mystery Shopping Scams
Mystery shopping, also sometimes known as secret shopping, is a legitimate job where companies hire businesses to check the service provided at their restaurants, stores and hotels. These mystery shopping businesses hire independent contractors to pose as potential clients and report on their experiences based on a set of guidelines pre-determined by upper management of the companies being shopped.
Unfortunately, scammers have realized that this is appealing to many people including those looking for a second source of income, stay-at-home parents or those wishing to supplement their retirement income. The scammers post fake job opportunities online, randomly phone homes offering great sounding secret shopping job opportunities and send out believable emails. Some of these scammers will even mail checks randomly to individuals for supposed shops they have done.
The Mailed Check
A scammer will mail a series of forged checks to different individuals under the name of a reputable mystery shopping company. Once you try to deposit the check, the criminal uses your bank information to gain access to your accounts or personal information.
Mystery shopping companies never send checks to potential shoppers. Even legitimate checks for work done are never as high as the forged checks. The criminals will often use the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies, but provide the incorrect contact information on the check. The numbers and address on the check will send you to the scammers' headquarters. If you want to find out if the check is real, look up the company and use that contact information to find out if the check is real.
Paying for Job Opportunities
Legitimate mystery shopping companies do not charge you to apply for the position or be put in their database of potential shoppers. If you receive an email or phone call offering you a job opportunity but insisting that you need to pay for a membership, be aware that this is a scam. Legitimate mystery shopping companies have you apply online and provide limited personal information. When a job opportunity comes up, you'll receive a generic email informing you about the position. You then apply for that position. Once accepted, you are sent the guidelines, complete the shop, submit the report and get paid.
Some scammers send out unsolicited and unaddressed emails to the unsuspecting claiming to provide a large fee to check out the service of wire transferring at a local bank or credit union. You're required to wire a certain amount of money to test the service received and in return you'll be mailed a large check of several hundreds of dollars. The scammers take your money and you receive no check. Be aware that mystery shopping companies do not pay hundreds of dollars per shop so an unusually high payment, on its own, is a warning sign of a scammer.