One activity some people like to engage in for some side cash is to work as a “secret shopper,” where companies pay people to shop at their stores and make objective evaluations. However, there were a lot of secret shopper scams revealed over the years and they are still going around.
Secret shopper scams go back years
Naturally, a lot of people try to find easy stuff to do for extra cash, as a second job that doesn’t require a lot of effort is ideal. One activity is to get employed as a “secret shopper” or “mystery shopper,” where a company pays people to shop somewhere and provide information about their shopping experience. It helps companies get objective information about what it’s like to shop in their stores.
However, fraud artists also know that it can be easy to trick people by offering them secret shopper jobs and a plethora of secret shopper scams have popped up over the years. For instance, in 2008, an article on ABC News warned of a secret shopper scam being run by a company in Canada called Master Research. Plenty of bogus secret shopper scams have been observed since.
Still at it
A number of secret shopper scams have been noticed recently. A warning for secret shopper scams was recently issued by authorities in Spring Grove, Ill., according to the Northwest Herald, a news site for northwest Illinois. Several people in that area were sent checks by the secret shopping company and told to cash it and wire a portion to another party. In such cases, the check is a fake and the party who cashes it is often on the hook for the full amount of the check.
Similar scams in the past 60 days have been noticed in Shoreline, Ore., according to KPIC TV, St. Lawrence county in New York, according to WWNTV, and in Las Vegas, Nev., according to KTNV. In all cases, people signed up for a secret shopper position, only to be told to cash a check, keep a portion and wire the rest to some other party. Sometimes, it’s claimed to be part of “mystery shopping” Western Union or some other wire transfer service. Crooks sometimes put a real bank or credit union’s name on the forged check.
Stick to conventional channels
Craigslist postings and emails are often mentioned as a common way for people to get enticed into secret shopping scams. So are, according to the Federal Trade Commission, ads in the classifieds in many newspapers.
The FTC recommends that consumers check out legitimate secret shopping companies through Mysteryshop.org, the website for the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. The MSPA does have a certification program available for a fee, but not going through it doesn’t guarantee a person can’t become a secret shopper.
The FTC also recommends avoiding any site that compels a person to pay any fees whatsoever to become a mystery shopper. The MSPA’s program is entirely voluntary, so any site that forces a person to pay for a certification could be a scam. Any secret shopping involving cashing a check or money transfers is likely a scam. Neither should one pay for any database or list of companies proving secret shopping jobs. The MSPA does it for free.