Reader Brian got a surprise $1,530 check in the mail and an invitation to become a secret shopper. The letter told him that he had been selected to become a “mystery shopper” and report on how local stores were doing. He would buy selected items from them and report on the process, and get to keep what he bought. Sounds great, who couldn’t use some extra cash, right? It all sounds so enticing because, as Brian was able to detect, it was the bait to lure him into an advance fee fraud scam.
UPDATE: The application period is now closed. Thank you for the wonderful responses! We’re going through the applications now!
Here’s one more reason to avoid mystery shopping scams: you could be the one who ends up in jail. A woman in Minnesota answered a “mystery shopper” email (that she found in her spam folder, sigh) and signed up. It turned out to be the old check fraud scam—they sent her a $2700 check and told her to deposit it and keep $300 a payment, then use the rest to make mystery shopper purchases. She took the check to her bank, and her bank called the police.
Here’s a crafty scam. Scammers, posing as a legitimate Mystery Shopping company, send out checks asking the “shopper” to wire back a portion of the money in order to test the wire service. Of course, it turns out that the checks are fake — but it’s too late for the hapless victim. He’s already wired the money! It’s an old scam, with a new twist.
If you’ve ever been curious about becoming a “mystery shopper,” a person paid by a company to check in on a store’s performance, you should know there’s lot of fraudulent mystery shopping companies out there. Bargaineering has 12 warning signs to look out for if you think one of these jobs is a good way to pick up extra cash, like: