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Beware Of This Popular
Mystery Shopper Scam

There is a popular mystery shopper scam that has been going around for many years that you need to be aware of.

It involves a person operating as a mystery shopping company that wants to pay you money to visit a check cashing location. The scam operators will send you a check that looks real.  The name on the check will come from a real mystery shopping company.  The check will appear to come from a real bank.  The amount on the check can be anywhere from $1000 to $5000 or more. 

This person wants you to visit a check cashing store and purchase a money order to send to an unknown third party.  Or, they want you to wire money to this third party.  Or, they will instruct you to purchase a number of gift cards and send a photo of the cards that includes all the numbers necessary to withdraw money.  

This mysterious third party tells you to keep a couple hundred dollars for yourself.

As you may have guessed, the check that was sent to you is a FAKE. You probably won't have a problem cashing it, but it won't be long before it will bounce back to you. When that happens, your troubles begin. Many victims lose thousands of dollars on this mystery shopper scam.

Listen to this podcast with Mystery Don and Jason Meza with the San Antonio Better Business Bureau about scams in the mystery shopping business.

Mystery shopping companies want to see your report and approve it before they will pay you anything. Even if you have a mystery shop at a restaurant, you will not be given money beforehand to perform the shop. You may see mystery shopping ads boast that you can eat FREE at a restaurant. That's not necessarily true. You have to pay for your meal and get reimbursed for the allowance you’re given. If your assignment says a dinner for two people for $35, then you must only have two people go to the restaurant and you'll be reimbursed up to $35. If your bill was $50, you'll only receive $35. If your bill was $33.14, you would receive a check from the mystery shop company for $33.14.

Take a look at this SCAM email I received in October 2009.

Remember this when it comes to mystery shopping.

Mystery shopping companies will not send you any money until an assignment has been completed and properly submitted.

The bottom line is, if you receive a check in the mail from a mystery shopping company for services you have not performed, it's probably a mystery shopper scam.  The check is not real.  Ask questions and call authorities right away. They're hard to catch, but a few of these scam artists have been caught and prosecuted.

Mystery Shopper Scam Alert:  You don't have to pay any money to become a mystery shopper!

Another mystery shopper scam that you will see is people charging you money to become a mystery shopper. Stay away from those people as well. Even if the application requires $2 or $3 to be added to their database.  A legitimate mystery shopping company will not charge you any money for that. 

Mystery Shopper Scam

Mystery shopping scams frustrate mystery shopping companies.

One thing to look for when you visit a mystery shop company website is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) logo. Not every mystery shopping company earns the MSPA honor.

Learn more about MSPA by clicking here.

The only thing you pay when you are assigned a shop is for the merchandise you buy. Most mystery shopping companies will require you to make a small purchase to get a receipt to prove you were at the right store at the right time on the right date. If you don't submit a receipt, you will not get paid for your work.

Mystery Shopper Scam

The amount for reimbursement will vary greatly. A restaurant assignment can reimburse you anywhere from $20 to $200 for a dinner for two. A retail store will be considerably less. I've been reimbursed as low as $1 on assignments. Of course, you will receive payment for the retail shop, which could be $10 or more. The assignment usually tells you to purchase a small item, like a soft drink or candy bar. You get reimbursed only if your report is accepted. 

Many companies give you an option of not purchasing an item and taking a photo of the exterior of the business from a cell phone.  The photo has to be encrypted with the date, time, and location.    

Click here to see a message about work-at-home scams, which includes mystery shopping.

I wrote a book about my experiences in the mystery shopping business.  This industry is always looking for new faces to visit different places.  The book (and eBook) is titled "Take That Job and Mystery Shop It!"

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