PROTECT YOURSELF FROM MYSTERY SHOPPING SCAMS
There is a fraudulent confidence trick (a form of advance fee fraud) perpetrated on people in several countries who wish to be mystery shoppers.
Generally, these scams send the individual person a money order, often in the form of Western Union, or a paper check. The instructions state for that individual to cash the payment, make a specific purchase for less than the total amount of the payment received, and to deposit a large portion of the payment back into the senders account through Western Union or MoneyGram; the money is to be wired immediately as response time is being evaluated. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS!
The payment is fraudulent, and is returned unpaid by the victim’s bank, after the money has been wired.
One scam involved fraudulent websites using a misspelled web address similar to a legitimate company’s site, this fraudulent website advertised online and in newspapers under a legitimate company’s name, seeking mystery shoppers to receive these fraudulent prepayments. These scams have made it difficult for legitimate companies, such as ACE Mystery Shopping, to place advertisments to recruit new shoppers. Always remember, if it’s too good to be true….it probably is! ACE Mystery Shopping NEVER prepays large amounts of money, asking for shoppers to return a portion of that payment.
It should be remembered that these may not be the only type of mystery shopping scams taking place which involves money being paid, as it has been widely reported in the US & UK that shoppers should “Watch out for some online mystery shopping scams which will cost you money for either training or for signing up without the promise of any work.
How to find a legitimate company:
Mystery Shopper Provider’s Association (MSPA) is the Mystery Shopping industries form of Better Business Bureau. Most legitimate Mystery Shopping Providers will be found on their website and do not charge for individuals to become a shopper. Valid mystery shopping companies do not normally send shoppers payment prior to work being completed, and their advertisements/websites usually include their contact information and phone number.
Some fraudulent checks can be identified by your bank but this is not always the case. On February 3, 2009, The Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a warning on this scam.
Occasionally, legitimate companies do prepay for premium shops if there is a large transaction to be made and the shopper is a trusted Independent Contractor with that company. If that was the case, the shopper would have already established a trusting relationship with that company and would know they were not a scam.
Most companies use payment companies, similar to our payment company PayQuicker, where the shopper would be able to verify the payment transfer had been completed and received by that shopper PRIOR to conducting the shop.
Prepayments should not be more than the cost of the purchase required, eliminating the need to send money back to the mystery shopping company.
In any case, it is unlikely that any bona-fide provider would allocate a high-value assignment to a new shopper or proactively recruit new ones for that purpose, preferring instead to work with a pool of existing pre-vetted experienced shoppers.