Mystery Shopper Scam Now Comes Bundled With Check Fraud Scam!

Fraudulent check scams (which we wrote about yesterday) have taken a new, exciting twist: integrated into so-called “mystery shopper” scams. The classified ads you see for secret or mystery shoppers used to be small time cons, designed to bilk you out of $100 or so to provide information that’s readily available for free. But add a little check fraud and you could be taken for thousands of dollars.

MSNBC tells the story of one man who was “hired” as a mystery shopper, then sent a check for $2,500 and told that his assignment—for which he’d be paid $250—was to test the services of MoneyGram, a wire transfer service available at Wal-Mart. He deposited the enclosed check, then wired $2,250 to the home office in Canada. And then, of course, the check bounced.

Real mystery shopping gigs exist, but they usually pay around $10-20 per assignment, says the article. As a rule, you should ignore classified ads for such jobs, and instead look to established websites like Mystery Shopping Providers Association or Volition.

“Secret-shopping scam: two for the price of one” [MSNBC]

Mystery Shopping Providers Association
(Photo: Getty)


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  1. Brad2723 says:


  2. pyloff says:

    I wondered what their angle was when noticing those mystery shopper adds.

    Reminds me of the old infomercial in which they have a secret way to make tons of money, all you do is pay $100 and they send you the info… Turns out all you have to do is place an add and sell the same info to more people.

  3. RandomHookup says:

    @pyloff: What they usually do is sell you a listing of places you can sign up for mystery shopper services. Pretty effective before the interwebs, but less so now that you can find them on your own.

  4. Squeezer99 says:

    my exgf mystery shopped for a while. its not worth the time and effort for the pay. she’d have to do things like go to mcdonalds and they’d want her to time everything…how long she was at the drive through before the speaker came on and asked for her order, how long she waited at the window for her change, etc. she had to have a stop watch and time everything. then she sent in a form and they’d reimburse her for the meal and an additional $10. that barely paid for the gas. she then tried petsmart but they only refunded <$15 for the cost of the item you bought there.

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    If they had mystery shoppers for illicit drugs, I’d feel much less anxious on weekends. Business opportunity, Nigerian people!

  6. RandomHookup says:

    @Squeezer99: Mystery shopping is the domain of the stay-at-home mom and retirees. The rates are pretty crappy because enough people want to do it (and some have gotten pretty good at doing multiple shops in one trip). I do some (mostly fast food) and have made $20 just to go eat a burger. It’s not much different to me than going to get a free meal. You won’t get rich doing them, that’s for sure.

  7. harshmellow says:

    @pyloff: That is what’s called a pyramid scheme.

  8. fluiddruid says:

    Mystery shopping is legitimate but you shouldn’t pay to sign up – those are just “information services”, selling you what you can learn for free. There are lots of sites to check – try for the professional organization, they have an online forum and search tool to find mystery shopping jobs.

    Yes, it’s actually real work (independent contracting) but hey, it increases my income several thousand dollars a year!

  9. Trick says:

    I did the mystery shopping thing and it didn’t pay enough for my time. Then service I used wants us to test out local Chevrons. They pay $12.00 a pop and you can do about 30 a month if available…

    However, you have to read like a 8 page document on what to do then take a test of 20 questions. Get one wrong and you have to do it all over again!

    From there, you usually have to buy at least $5.00 in case and something from the store. You still only get $12.00…

    I guess some people make money from it but it wasn’t worth my time in the end. I usually spent about a hour total and that is far, far less than what I usually make. Even if it is done on my lunch hour or some other free time I have.