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Secret Shopper or Mystery Shopper Scams

How the scam works

Many news reports are referring to this as the “newest” scam variation, but we have been seeing reports of these scams on our message board since 2005. The job description can be Secret Shopper, Mystery Shopper or Customer Service Evaluator, but it is all the same scam.

The scammer will either place an ad in a legitimate classified listing, online or in print, or they will collect their victim’s names and email addresses off of resumes posted online. Some of them are even making “copy cat” websites of legitimate Secret Shopper companies to use in their scam to help convince the victim that this is all legitimate. For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

The victim will be told that they have been hired as a Secret Shopper and will be sent a cashier’s check or money order to cash and use on their assignments. One of the assignments is to review the service at a Western Union or Money Gram location. They are given a name and address to wire money to, from the check that was sent to them, and told to fill out an evaluation form on the service received and email or fax that back to the company they are working for.

Everything seems fine, and some victims may even complete a few “assignments” before the check is discovered to be counterfeit. On average, it takes about 10 business days for the bank to realize that the check is counterfeit, but we have seen some cases where it has taken over 6 months. Once the bank dose find that the check is counterfeit, they will contact you demanding the return of the money and deduct the full amount of the check from your bank account. This sometimes leaves the victims with negative bank accounts.

For more information on the check clearing process and the banking terms, please read
http://scamvictimsunited.blogspot.com/2009/08/banking-terms-not-as-clear-as-they.html



How to Protect Yourself

For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

We have spoken with representatives at both Western Union and Money Gram. Money Gram does NOT use Secret Shoppers as a normal business practice. Western Union does use Secret Shoppers, but the shoppers are NEVER paid by cashier’s check or money order. If you have been contacted to shop Western Union or Money Gram, and it involves you receiving a cashier’s check or money order, IT IS A SCAM.

Often, the email address used by the representative of the company “hiring” you will be coming from a generic email address, and not one associated with that company. For further assurance, search out that company on your own and contact them for verification.


Resources for Victims

Victims for these scams can report it to all of the same places as a Counterfeit Cashier’s Check Scam, including

National Consumers League/Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness: www.fakechecks.org

Internet Crime Complaint Center: http://www.ic3.gov/

Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service: http://www.uspsoig.gov/

Local Police
Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov

Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov

 


Visit Scam Victims United's YouTube Page, which includes videos about Secret Shopper Scams and their victims.


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