Contact 2: Secret Shopper Scams

Posted on: 10:19 pm, March 28, 2012, by

(KTVI)– If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And that’s just what two consumers realized after receiving invitations to become secret shoppers.  Who wouldn’t want to get paid to shop?   But keep in mind you really have to think carefully before you rush into the world of the secret shopper.  Everybody needs a little extra cash right?   Well we found 2 people who thought getting paid to shop might be fun.

Kevin Harrison is an engineering executive.   Carmen White works full time as a legal writer.  Both considered the idea after getting emails.  White responded immediately.   ‘I applied for a mystery shopper on line, thinking I was going to have a legitimate part time job being a mystery shopper for restaurants or dept stores. ‘

Harrison got his assignment right away.   ‘I was supposed to determine Western Union, how they worked, what their processes are.  How well is the security they got.’

About 24 hours later, they each got a check. They were to keep some money for shopping and wire the rest to a designated party.   White’s check was for $1,850.00,sent via Fed Ex.  Harrison’s check came via UPS in the amount of $1,899.00.  And it looked real according to Harrison.   ‘I knew it was legit looking,   but there were no instructions no paperwork.’

White  didn’t open her envelope but she called the contact person listed in the email.    ‘The guy answered the phone and he was just real short with me.  He wanted to get off the phone really fast, and didn`t` give me much information.’

Kevin realized his check was bogus when he called the company listed on the check.  It was a legitimate investment business.  The CEO’s assistant explained the problem.   ‘She told me thank you for not cashing it.  Thank you for inquiring.  This is a scam.  Someone swiped our account information.  And please don`t cash it, please destroy it.’

Both realized they could have gotten scammed.   Harrison is sure he`d be held responsible.  ‘Had it been cashed  when it all came out  in the wash, I could have been responsible for that money.’

White warns others.   ‘Don`t do it if they have to get money from you first.  You have to deposit money into your account to get your money.   Why can`t they just send a check to you ?’

Shopping can be fun.  But getting scammed hurts.

We have more tips from the Better Business Bureau below

If you have a consumer issue call the Contact 2 volunteersMon through Thurs. between 11am and 1pm.  The number is 1 800 782-2222.
There are legitimate businesses that conduct market research using secret shoppers.  Mystery Shopping Providers Association could be a good place to start.

LINKS:
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU
http://stlouis.bbb.org/

MYSTERY SHOPPING PROVIDERS ASSOCIATION
http://www.mysteryshop.org/

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
http://www.ftc.gov/

This information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information.
FTC Consumer Alert
The Secrets of Mystery Shopping Revealed
Do you love to shop? If so, you may be tempted by unsolicited emails or 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. But, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation`s consumer protection agency, marketers who promise lucrative jobs as mystery shoppers often do not deliver bona fide opportunities.
What is Mystery Shopping?
Some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores; these companies 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.
Many professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best. And, they add, opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies. Nevertheless, fraudulent mystery shopping promoters are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they`re a gateway to lucrative mystery shopper jobs with reputable companies. These solicitations usually promote a website where consumers can ‘register’ to become mystery shoppers — after they 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 that it is unnecessary to pay money to anyone to get into the mystery shopper business. The shopping certification offered in advertising or unsolicited email is almost always worthless. A list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free; and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs usually are out of luck. Either the business doesn`t return the phone calls, or if it does, it`s to try another pitch.
The Facts of Mystery Shopping
Becoming a legitimate mystery shopper for a legitimate company doesn`t cost anything. Here`s how to do it:
Search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications. Legitimate companies don`t 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 http://www.mysteryshop.org 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.
In the meantime, the FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper`s `help wanted` section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it`s much more likely that they`re pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping ‘services.’
Sell ‘certification.’ Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.
Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.

If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with your local consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau, your State Attorney General, or the FTC (ftc.gov).

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit http://www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.