AvoidingMystery Shopping Scams
BBB receives numerous complaints about fraudulent joboffers for positions as ‘Mystery Shoppers’. After responding to online ads oremail solicitations, consumers report receiving a letter containinginstructions and a cashier’s check. The instructions usually direct therecipient to deposit the cashier’s check, spend a specified amount as a‘mystery shopper’, and send the rest back to a named individual via WesternUnion or MoneyGram to complete his or her ‘training in financial transactions’.In most cases, consumers report being instructed to spend a couple of hundreddollars, while the balance of the check is to be wired to an individual, oftenlocated outside of the U.S.
BBB warnsconsumers about mystery shopping scam that is using the name of reputable companiesin an attempt to defraud the public. Local businesses names are being used toconvince folks that an offer to be a mystery shopper – accompanied by a phonycheck – is legitimate.
Using the nameof a legitimate company is a common ploy of scammers. In this case, the company,whose identity has been misappropriated as a division of a legitimate name, makesthe mystery shopping offer even more believable.
“Whether it is in the form of a job,loan, grant, sweepstakes or lottery these scams work the same way – the crookssend the victim a check, which is counterfeit or invalid, asks the victim todeposit the check and then asks them to forward a portion of it to some personor company”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB ServingCentral East Texas. “The victim does not realize that the check is not gooduntil long after the victim has sent the payment to the crooks.”
Although the funds from a depositedcheck may be available for use within 1-5 business days of deposit, in somecases, it can take several weeks for the bank to determine that the check iscounterfeit or otherwise invalid. Instructions to draw money on checks shortlyafter they have been deposited may be the work of unscrupulous companiesattempting to take advantage of this technicality.
The BBB offers following tips whenconsidering a mystery shopping opportunity:
- Always check with BBB before doing business with any company. To check on businesses anywhere in the United States, please visit www.bbb.org.
- Exercise extreme caution when considering job offers which involve the transmission of money, especially to foreign countries. In addition to potentially significant financial loss, acting on these offers also puts you in danger of unwittingly violating local, state and even federal laws. Only forward money via wire when you know and have had personal contact with the individual.
· Rememberthat if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
· Visitthe Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MAPCA) website at www.mysteryshopping.org/shoppers for a list of reputable mysteryshopping companies and opportunities. Contact the companies, not the MSPA,directly, for more information on how to become a shopper.
If you believe you have been the victim of a mystery shopping scam,please call the BBB Hotline:(903)581-8373or email us at email@example.com.