1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Mystery Shopper Scam

Being a Secret Shopper Could Cost you Money

By

Woman shopping in retail clothing store
Victoria Snowber/Photodisc/Getty Images

Arizona consumers are being warned about a scam involving phony advertisements for employment as a secret shopper, mystery shopper, or investigative shopper. Whether or not you live in Arizona, these tips could save you money and heartache later on.

The scam might work this way: People respond to an ad looking for a mystery shopper or a secret shopper. When they contact the company about the position, they are told they can earn money by purchasing items at different stores or dining at different restaurants. The company then sends an employment packet. The packet includes business evaluation forms, a training assignment, and a cashier's check, often ranging between $2,000 and $4,000. The training assignment is to cash the check, pose as a customer, and wire the money to an address in Canada. The scam is that the check is fake. The check bounces after the person wires the money, leaving the person liable for the fake check. People who apply for the secret shopper or mystery shopper jobs are told by the company that they have only 48 hours to complete the assignment or they will lose the job.

Arizona's Attorney General says, "Consumers need to know that a legitimate company will never send you a cashier's check out of the blue or require you to send money to someone you have never met. The scam artists use realistic looking documents, the 'secret' nature of the job, and the 48-hour deadline to pressure consumers into cashing the check and wiring the money quickly before the bank or the consumer can determine it was a fake check. By then, it's too late."

There are some legitimate mystery shopping jobs. How do you tell if the one you are looking at is real or a scam? The Attorney General's Office advises that you should be skeptical of any secret shopper, mystery shopper, or investigative shopper companies that:

  • Advertise jobs for shoppers on the radio, in a newspaper's classified or "help wanted" section or through unsolicited email. Legitimate secret shopper companies generally do not advertise for jobs in this manner.
  • "Guarantee" a job as a mystery, secret, or investigative shopper.
  • Charge a fee just for applying or charge a fee for access to secret shopping job opportunities. You should not pay any fee to apply or to obtain job information.
  • Appear to be located in places outside the country, such as Canada. If the company does not have an established office nearby that you can visit in person, be very cautious.
  • It is always a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau and investigate any business offering this sort of employment.
Fake cashiers check scams come in many forms.
  • Do not depend on the funds from a cashier's check from a source you do not know.
  • There is usually no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask for money to be wired back or wired to a third party. Don't do it.
  • Do not rely on the fact that the check was accepted for deposit by their financial institution as evidence of the check's authenticity. It can take up to a week or much longer for a financial institution to determine whether a check is good, especially if the check is from an institution located outside the United States.
  • Consumers are responsible for the deposited fake check, even if it was a cashier's check. When the check bounces, the bank deducts from the consumer's account the amount that was credited with the fake check -- often with charges added. The bank will not take the loss.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud in Arizona, please contact the Attorney General's Office in Phoenix at 602-542-5763, or visit them online.

The information in this article was obtained from the Office of the Arizona Attorney General.

Beware! You may see advertisements for Mystery Shoppers on this page, because that's the topic of the article. Just because you see an ad here, that doesn't make it a legitimate company. Do you research and proceed carefully.

 

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.