Scam of the day – September 13, 2017 – A new twist on the mystery shopper scam

I have been warning you about mystery shopper scams for years, however these scams continue to trap unwary victims so it is important to alert you to new developments in this scam.

Mystery shoppers are people hired to shop at a particular store and report on the shopping experience for purposes of quality control.  Unlike many scams, there actually are legitimate mystery shopper companies, but they never advertise or recruit through emails.

I first learned about this particular mystery shopper scam when contacted by a Scamicide reader who thought she had been contacted by the National Shopping Service Network which is a legitimate mystery shopping company, however, the truth is that scammers are using the name of this legitimate company to fool unwary victims.

The manner in which the scam works is that when you answer an advertisement, an email or a text message to become a mystery shopper and you are sent a bank check or, in the case of the recent Scamicide reader, a US Postal Money Order, to deposit and use for your shopping.  You spend some of the money on the goods that you purchase which you are allowed to keep and also are directed to keep some of the balance of the check as payment for your services.    You are generally instructed to return the remaining funds by a wire transfer.  In a new twist encountered by the Scamicide reader, the scammers wanted funds to be sent back by way of iTunes gift cards. The problem is that the check or money order is counterfeit, but the money you send by wire or by iTunes cards is real and lost forever.

 TIPS

One reason why this scam fools so many people is that there really are mystery shopping jobs although the actual number is quite few and they do not go looking for you. An indication that you are involved with a scam is when you receive a check for more than what is owed you and you are asked to wire the difference back to the sender.  This is the basis of many scams.  Whenever you receive a check, wait for your bank to tell you that the check has fully cleared before you consider the funds as actually being in your account.  Don’t rely on provisional credit  which is given after a few days, but which can be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.  That is always a scam.  Also be wary whenever you are asked to wire funds  or send gift cards because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop.  Legitimate companies do not use gift cards as payments.

Specifically in regard to the real National Shopping Service Network, they do not communicate with people through private email addresses such as aol or gmail.  They also do not use cashier’s checks, iTunes cards or wire transfers for transactions.  These are indications of a scam.