Mystery Shopper Scams

There are plenty of legitimate mystery shopping opportunities out there, but legitimate companies won’t ask you to pay an application fee, nor will they ask you to deposit a check and wire money to someone else.

The Bait:

You’re hired to be a mystery shopper, and for your first assignment you’re asked to evaluate the customer service of a money transfer company, like Western Union or Money Gram. You get a check to deposit in your bank account and instructions to withdraw the amount in cash and wire it – often to Canada or another country – using the service. You’re told to fill out a report about your experience and send it back, and you’ll get to keep a portion of the money as payment.

The Catch:

When the check turns out to be a fake, you’ll owe the bank the money you withdrew. By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but it can take weeks to uncover a fake check. It may seem that the check has cleared and that the money is in your account, but sooner or later the bank will be contacting you to get their money back.

Some dishonest marketers may ask you to pay a fee to get information about a mystery shopper certification program, a directory of mystery shopping opportunities, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job. But there’s no need to pay to get into the mystery shopper business.

What You Can Do:

Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back. The check will bounce, and you will owe your bank the money you withdrew.

Don’t pay upfront fees to be a mystery shopper. Instead, search the internet for companies that are accepting mystery shopper applications. Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee.

Report Online Scams

If you believe you’ve responded to an online scam, file a complaint with:

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