Secret Shopper / Mystery Shopper Scams: A Job That Only Pays The Scammer!

Secret Shopper / Mystery Shopper Scams: A Job That Only Pays The Scammer!
Consumer Fraud Reporting

Have you heard that you can get paid to shop, as a mystery shopper or secret shopper? If you have received unsolicited emails or seen newspaper ads that claim you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at pricey stores, or checking into luxurious hotels, beware! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nationís consumer protection agency, is warning consumers about scams in this area.
What is Secret or Mystery Shopping?

It is true that some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores and these companies often use "mystery shoppers" to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service.

However, many of the professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best. But scammers are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they have lucrative mystery shopper jobs to offer with reputable companies. These ads usually promote a website where consumers can ìregisterî to become mystery shoppers. You become the mystery shopper after you pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.

The truth is there is no real "shopping certification" and the list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free. Legitimate mystery shopper jobs are posted on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs are almost always out of luck. Either the business doesnít return the phone calls, or if it does, itís to try another scam.

How to Find Real Mystery Shopping

Becoming a legitimate mystery shopper for a legitimate company doesnít cost anything. Hereís how to do it:
* Search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications. Most of the search engine results will be scams - so you will need to evaluate carefully. Here's one that seems legitimate: Legitimate companies donít charge an application fee. Many accept applications online.
* Do some homework about mystery shopping. Check libraries or bookstores for tips on how to find companies hiring mystery shoppers, as well as how to do the job effectively.
* Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general.

How to Identify Mystery Shopper Scams

In the meantime, the FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
* Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaperís ëhelp wantedí section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, itís much more likely that theyíre pitching unnecessary ó and possibly bogus ó mystery shopping ìservices.î
* Sell ìcertification.î Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.
* Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper. It is usually sporadic work.
* Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
* Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.

What to do, if you think you have been scammed

If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with
* the BetterBusinessBureau (click on "file a complaint".)
* your State Attorney General, or
* your state consumer protection agency,
* the FTC - click on file a complaint

Examples of the Mystery Shopper scam emails
* Shoppers Guide Ltd
* Comparison Shopping Solutions
* Shadow Shopper
* Shopping PayPal, Inc., 289-888-2208

Here are some brief examples and reports:

1. March 18, 2008:
I received a letter from a group called "Citi Research center" , Phone # 403-401-4256 , address 940 6 ave, sw calgary alberta canada t2t 3ti. It enclosed a Check for 4367.00 for a "secret shopping Job". I was suspicious, So i did a reverse phone # search and it came up to a cell phone. I did a reverse address loop up on, it advised no such address exists. I called the number and it went automatically to voicemail.So I called the bank listed on the check, and spoke with a woman who advised this was a scam, and she advised to fax the info over.

Copyright CFR 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
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