Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Mystery Shopper Scams

Mystery Shopper Job Scam Counterfeit Check Fraud

01/08 - (Arizona) - Call 12 for Action is looking into a sophisticated mystery shopping scam with a very strange twist. Even savvy consumers could miss this phony scheme.

Legitimate mystery shopping companies hire regular consumers to help evaluate products and services-- it's a fun and interesting job. But many offers for this type of work are bogus.

Legitimate mystery shopping jobs generally entail you visiting a store pretending to be a customer. You secretly evaluate the quality of the service given by the workers. Those findings are presented to company management and they make appropriate changes if necessary.

In a typical mystery shopping scam, after the job's done, the con man sends the shopper a commission check. The crook then claims there was a mistake-- the amount sent was too much.

The shopper is instructed to deduct the correct commission and send the overpayment back to company headquarters through a money wiring service. The check ultimately bounces and the customer's liable for all the funds. What makes this new scam a little tricky to figure out?

We've told you many times that no legitimate company will deal with you through money wires. The money is nearly impossible to retrieve once you send it. Services like Western Union should only be used between family, friends, or others with whom you have a personal relationship.

Here is the strange twist. In this new scam-- wiring money IS the job! The company is hiring you to cash checks they send you at your bank and wire the money to them (minus your commission of course) through leading money wiring services to evaluate their services.

The check later bounces and you're left owing your bank a lot of money. The other problem for consumers with this new scam is it uses the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies.

Since many of these companies are not household names, it can be hard to figure out that a bogus company is using their good name.

Remember, under no circumstances should you ever send money through a wiring service unless you are sending it to a friend or family member.


Counterfeit Checks in Mystery Shopper Jobs Scam

02/08 - (PA) - I love my job, but every now and then, I’m tempted by an opportunity to do something different. Apparently, I can be hired as a “mystery shopper” and earn $500 per week.

I like to shop and the word “mystery” has a certain allure to it. I’ve always admired Nancy Drew — think of the adventures I could have in a department store! Plus, $500 a week is good money.

The way the mystery shopper program works, I’m told, is the shoppers are paid to make purchases at stores and then evaluate the service they receive.

I could do that! I usually have plenty to say about the customer service — or lack of — that I receive in stores.

It would be easy money.

And that, according to state Attorney General Tom Corbett, should be my first red flag.

Corbett issued a statement Monday warning consumers about a counterfeit check scam that disguises itself as a mystery shopper program.

Corbett said the scam is being conducted through the mail. It typically includes an official-looking notice informing consumers that they have been selected to participate in a “secret shopper” or “mystery shopper” program, where consumers are paid to make purchases at stores and then evaluate the service they received.

The notice promises that consumers can earn several hundred dollars for each shopping assignment they complete, and the scam mailings imply that the secret shopper program is affiliated with retail outlets such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears, Home Depot, JC Penney and other major chains.

“This scam draws consumers in with an offer of ‘easy money,’ getting paid to shop,” Corbett said,

Consumers are told that they must keep the nature of their work completely confidential, in order to avoid alerting businesses that they are being evaluated and to preserve the “integrity” of the mystery shopper program.

Apparently, there are a lot of people out there like me, who are tempted by the excitement of a covert operation.

The shopper scams advertise potential earnings of $500 to $800 per week, but in reality, consumers are paid with counterfeit checks, and are asked to electronically transfer money to scam artists, often operating outside the country.

Corbett said the mystery shopping scam typically asks consumers to evaluate a money transfer using a MoneyGram or Western Union wire transfer as part of their first “training assignment.”

Here’s how it works:

A check is normally included with the mystery shopper mailing, which consumers are instructed to deposit in their bank account to cover the cost of their first shopping assignment.

Corbett said the typical scam instructs consumers to wire-transfer $3,000 to $4,000, often to an address in Canada. Consumers are told that they are sending the money to a training supervisor or account manager, who will evaluate the consumer’s potential as a full-time mystery shopper.

After completing the electronic transfer, consumers are asked to immediately send a copy of the MoneyGram or Western Union receipt to a fax number provided in the initial mailing.

Corbett said that the scam artists are attempting to take advantage of a time-delay between when you deposit their check and when your bank discovers that the check is actually counterfeit.

In some cases, Corbett said, this could take several days, allowing unsuspecting consumers to transfer money long before they discover that the original check was counterfeit.

Corbett said that modern computer and printer technology allows scam artists to generate extremely realistic checks, forms and letters.

The problem for the gullible “mystery shoppers” is that they are responsible for repaying missing money to the bank.

Corbett urged consumers to question the appearance of any documents and the promise of easy money.

“Alarm bells should go off in your head any time someone sends you a check, along with a request that you deposit the check in your bank and wire-transfer a certain amount of that money to another person,” Corbett said. “Whether it’s a mystery shopper offer, payment for an online auction, a classified ad or some other transaction, scam artists are hoping that you send them money quickly, without thinking about the offer, and fall for a deal that’s too good to be true.”

Corbett urged consumers with questions or concerns related to counterfeit check scams to contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection toll-free hotline at 1-800-441-2555, or to file an online complaint using the Attorney General’s Web site:

And if you’ve already fallen victim to a scam, don’t be afraid to admit it and contact authorities. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s easy to be taken in by a scam. And reporting it may just prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

(The Sentinel Online)

Secret Shopper Check Fraud Scam

11/08 - (Florida) Myrtle Beach police are investigating a report of fraud after a 43-year-old man reported he received a counterfeit check for a mystery shopper position.

The man told police he filled out an application online to be a mystery shopper and was approved for the position, a police report showed. The man said he received a check for $3,259 that he was to cash and go to a business listed in an email and send the remaining balance of $2,950 to a person in Dubai through Western Union.

The man said he deposited the check on Oct. 31 and the bank showed the funds were available, so he made six transactions totaling $174.67, the report showed. The man later learned the funds were not there and he was charged $384.67 by his bank for the transactions.

The man gave police copies of emails, the check written to him and other documents, the report showed.

(The Sun News)

Counterfeit Check Scam Lures Mystery Shoppers to Walmart and Western Union

01/08 - Cape Coral- Ericka Cortina says the mystery shopper offer she received in the mail last week sounded too good to be true.

"I was optimistic at first," said Cortina, "They told me I could make $400 to $1,000 a week just for shopping."

The company, claiming to be the Consumer Research Group, sent her a $4,000 check and a survey of different stores and services she was to shop incognito.

All she had to do was deposit the check and spend some of that cashed money at Burger King and Wal-Mart.

And then, test the services of Money Gram and Western Union by wiring thousands from that four thousand dollar check to another mystery shopper.

Cortina says that raised red flags, so she called the phone number left on her letter. "They had an answer for everything. I asked why am I wiring such a large sum of money and they told me that this way it would go through all the checks," said Cortina.

She says they made her feel like it was for her own protection, that the large amounts would require her using an ID.

The company even referred her to it's web-site when she questioned whether the deal was legit.

Call For Action called the same number and got someone on the phone. However, once we started asking questions, the person hung up and did not answer the calls the next time we called.

It turns out the check the company sent her was a phony and had she cashed the check, she would end up having to pay all of the money back to the bank.

"It just looks so real, it's really scary," explained Cortina, looking over the check.

Cortina says she feels blessed for having the instinct to research the company and the check. She later reported it to the Florida Attorney Generals office where she was referred to "Phone Busters" in Canada, another consumer protection agency.

The company in question sent the letter to Cortina from Canada, using a yellow stamp that matched the red flag on several other letters just like it sent throughout the USA and Canada.

WINK News spoke with Phone Busters about the offer and it confirmed the "Consumer Research Group" deal is a scam.

Cortina says wants other people to know about the tempting deal the scam artists are trying to put before you just to rip you off, "Hopefully nobody else has this happen to them and hopefully nobody goes along with the scam."

Phone Busters tells WINK News at least five people have fallen victim to the Consumer Research Group scam, one person in Florida.

(WINK News)

To learn more about taking action before a scam artist tries to fool you, you can go to these web-sites:

Fake Check Info

PhoneBusters Fraud Site

Florida Consumer Protection

Mystery Shopper Scams

Job Offer Scams

Nigerian Counterfeit Check Scams

Nigerian Money Scam

Nigerian Bank Scam

Nigerian Check Scams

Secret Shopper Scam