The Mystery Shopper Scam

There’s a new scam in town.

A town near you.

Companies are looking for mystery, or secret, shoppers.

Often this scam will begin with the victim looking for some kind of paid and convenient work.

Responding to an advertisement for a mystery shopper, the company will tell them that they can make a good amount of money with ease by shopping at different stores or testing different service based outlets.

mystery-shopper-scam

MONEY IN ADVANCE

To facilitate this, the company sends out a cheque in advance, often for several thousand dollars.

They will tell the victim that they need to cash the cheque and use some of the funds to purchase goods or use some service or other.

The remaining balance from the cheque, which will be most of it, is then to be wired back to the company, less the victim’s generous ‘payment’ and expenses.

They will probably be told they can keep any goods that they purchased as a bonus.

THE SCAM

Of course nothing is ever that simple or lucrative.

The deal sounds too good to be true because it is.

The cheque that the victim has cashed will be fake.

The mystery shopper company will have told the victim that they only have 24-48 hours in which to complete their assignment.

Some time after they have wired what remains from the amount they were given they will find that the cheque has been dishonoured.

This leaves the victim liable for the amount of the fake cheque, out of pocket for any goods or services they purchased and an accomplice to money laundering too no doubt.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Whilst there are indeed several reputable companies that do offer genuine mystery shopper type work, there are an ever increasing number that will try to rip you off.

Here are some signs that a mystery shopper job is a scam –

  • Advertising in small publications, shop windows, etc. – reputable companies typically don’t advertise at all.
  • Have no contact information other than a mobile phone.
  • Charge a fee in order for you to work with them.
  • Guarantee work for anyone who applies.
  • Ask you to wire them money – there is no legitimate reason why any company would need you to do this.
About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.

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