You’ve been invited to check out one of your favorite retailers to
secretly shop their store and evaluate the quality of service and
product availability. The best part? You get to keep the items plus earn
a paycheck as a mystery shopper.
If this sounds too good to be true, it very well could be. Many
mystery shopper opportunities are scams. Here’s how to tell a real gig
from this common con.
How mystery shopper scams work
You receive an offer via email, text, or a social media network to
become a secret shopper. In other cases, you may apply to a secret
shopper job advertised online. Either way, the company offers you the
job right away. You are so perfect for the position, they claim, you
don’t even need to interview.
In the most common version of this scam, the company mails you a
check to cover your secret shopper purchases. You are asked to buy a few
things and send back the remaining money. Unfortunately, the check is a
fake. It will bounce, and you’ll be left footing the full bill and the
bank fees associated with it
However, scammers are getting creative with secret shoppers cons. Be on the lookout for twists. For example, one victim told BBB Scam Tracker
about the following: “I saw a job posting on LinkedIn for a secret
shopper position. I applied and shortly afterwards received a check in
the mail. The check was for $2,470 and the business wanted me to go to
local stores, purchase gift cards with $2,000, and keep the rest as pay.
I was supposed to scratch off the security covers and send pictures.”
In another version of this scam, con artists offer high paying
assignments with one small catch: you need to pay a registration fee to
How to avoid secret shopper scams<br><br>
- Research the secret shopper companies before applying.
Before applying to a secret shopper job, make sure the company exists,
has working contact information, and has good reviews and feedback from
previous employees. Search online with the company name and the word
“scam” to find other reports.
- Check the Mystery Shopper Professionals Association database. Visit MSPA Americas
to search a database of MSPA members for legitimate mystery shopping
providers. However, scammers do impersonate real companies and their job
postings, so watch out for these other warning signs too.
- Be wary of companies that hire on the spot. Real
businesses will want to get to know you before they hire you. If a
company reaches out to you out of the blue with a guaranteed position in
their company, it’s probably a scam.
- Beware of jobs that involve receiving and returning money. Legitimate
companies don’t generally send money to new employees before work is
done. They certainly don’t ask you to return funds that you’ve already
- Never wire money or buy prepaid debit cards for strangers. Scammers
love to ask people to wire money or send prepaid gift cards. Once
you’ve wired money or sent the gift card information, there is no way to
get your money back. Be very careful with these forms of payment.