"Mystery Shopper" Scam Possible: Beware!
Here is how one version works, and it's costly....
Not every "Mystery Shopper" program is bogus. (See link below.)
When the email, the Priority Mail, the Cashier's Check, and the "Evaluation Instructions" arrive for a "Mystery Shopper" program, you are either on your "road to riches" or the "road to the poorhouse." The chances are better than even that, without a good degree of proper caution, it's likely the poorhouse door is swinging open.
I have watched this process unfold and here's the latest on why you need to be careful.
The emails are straightforward enough: "We would like you to become a mystery shopper for our recognized firm." Check the firm name and it is very likely the name of a legitimate firm. At this point you could contact the named firm using the contact information on that firm's website and determine the validity of the offer.
If you did express interest by replying to the email (hopefully being sure not to give your Social Security number, bank account number, or any other information you should be protecting,) you could soon be receiving a Priority Mail envelope or other communication with, not only a request that you do your first mystery shopping, but with an enclosed Cashier's Check to cover the requested shopping survey, restaurant dining survey, or survey of a local money-transfer service, etc.
The instructions you are given require that you deposit the Cashier's Check to an account you control, do the evaluation, and (typically) keep a payment for yourself as payment for your services and then transfer or refund the balance at the same time that you submit your report.
Here is one such scam: the Cashier's Check is for $2,750.00, drawn on a legitimate bank and an existing account which you can verify. You check, and find that funds are currently available to cover the amount of the check.
Beware: in cases where this is a scam, the Cashier's Check is a counterfeit showing the actually stolen account number for an actual account the scammer has no connection with. If the bank honors the check, you and the actual account holder will be on the losing end of the deposit and withdrawal involved. Worse still, when you obtain cash from your own account, or spend and refund the likely balance, or process the money transfer (while evaluating that local money transfer service!) your own good money has gone to some very bad criminals.
Here's one example of how the scammers get your money: you did the "Evaluation" as instructed, and sent the money transfer to the name and address you were provided in, say Atlanta, Georgia,. You deducted the amount of the promised payment for completing the required on-site evaluation which you submitted by mail (because the promised Evaluaton Form had never arrived by email, as had been promised.)
[Had you checked the name and address you were to send it to, you would have found out that they can't be found in the Atlanta phone system for anyone of that name at that address; the address itself is not a legitimate address according to your Postal Service, nor according to the Tax Assessors for either Dekalb, Gwinnett, or Fulton Georgia counties.]
If you intended to be a conscientious "new hire," you completed the cashing/evaluating/remitting/reporting within 2-3 days after receiving your instructions and check., Only then did you find out that your bank had not been able to clear the counterfeit check, and your money which you had "remitted" was gone to "parties unknown."
Why "unknown"? A typical money transfer uses a code to identify the intended recipient, and any person receiving the transfer need only walk into a branch of that money transfer business anywhere in the world, provide that code, and walk away with your transferred money!
Enough criminals have made enough money from running this type of scam, that there are almost as many variants of the scam as there are criminals running one.
In short, be alert, be cautious, and above all do your homework before instead of being a "Mystery Shopper," you become a 'Mystery Spender!"
Check the link provided below, if you have a question about the legitimacy of such "employment" offers that should remind you of that old cliche which says, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!"
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United States Consumer Protection Agency
- Mystery Shopper Scams
Click on the blue link above to find out: What is legitimate "secret shopping", what is not, and how to tell the one from the other. Also, how to proceed toward a job as a legitimate "secret shopper."