Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offer tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.
You’ve been invited to check out a favorite retailer to secretly shop their store and evaluate the quality of service, product availability, and the best part – keep the items plus earn a paycheck. It does sound like too good to be a true opportunity, however, such a job does exist and is sanctioned by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Naturally, for every good opportunity, there is a scam behind it.
Fake ads are out there
Newspaper ads, email solicitations, and online popup ads create the impression that mystery shopping jobs are the path to personal wealth and a high-paying job with reputable companies. Fake websites are created where people can register to become a mystery shopper but first, and here’s where the scam begins, you have to pay a fee for a certification program, directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.
The other key giveaway is the direct solicitation that is received by email stating the recipient has been hired by a company as a secret shopper. The first assignment is to evaluate a wire transfer service. If they respond to it, they’ll get a check in the mail with instructions to deposit it into their account, withdraw a certain amount in cash, and wire it to a third party. It’s never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back or to another address. You’ll be responsible for the bank fees and unintended consequences afterward.
Legitimate shopping is free
Legitimate companies don’t charge people to work for them – they pay people to work for them. It’s certainly worth taking a few minutes to conduct internet research for reviews and comments about mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications online. Just be sure to go past the home page and look at the company itself on bbb.org to see what other people are saying about them.
Check it out with the source
Visit the MSPA directly to search a database of mystery shopping assignments, how to apply for them, and what the benefits are. Take note, the association does offer certifications for a fee, but they aren’t required to look or apply for assignments in its database.
See a scam, report it
Avoid doing business with mystery shopping promoters who advertise in a newspaper help-wanted section or by direct email, require payment for certification or charge additional fees or sell directories of companies that hire mystery shoppers. If you suspect a Secret or Mystery Shopper Scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, State Attorney General’s Office, or BBB’s Scam Tracker.