Recently Dave Brister was convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and check fraud in a number of scams including the infamous Mystery Shopper scam about which I have often written here on Scamicide. Brister or one of his co-conspirators initiated the scam with an advertisement placed on Craigslist in which Brister posed as a company seeking to hire mystery shoppers. Real mystery shoppers are people who are hired by companies to shop at their retail stores and then report about the experience to the company for quality control purposes. It sounds like easy work and it is which is the primary attraction of both legitimate secret shopping jobs and phony ones. So many people want to do secret shopping, the companies that do this legitimately have no need to advertise to hire people to become secret shoppers. Once the victim has taken the bait and has agreed to be a mystery shopper for the scammer, the victim is sent a check that may appear to be a certified check which the victim is instructed to deposit into his or her bank account and use the money to make the assigned purchases. The check is for more than the amount that the mystery shopper spends with the mystery shopper told that he or she keeps the some of the check as payment for his or her services. The victim is then told that the remaining funds are to be wired back to the mystery shopper company. It is only after the money is wired from the victim’s account that he or she learns that the check from the scammer bounces. It was counterfeit, however the funds wired from the victim’s account are gone forever without recourse.
One reason why this scam works so well is that there really are mystery shopping jobs although the actual number is quite few and they do not go looking for you. If you want to find out if a mystery shopping company is legitimate, you can contact the Mystery Shopping Providers Association which is a trade organization of legitimate mystery shopping companies. Their website is www.mysteryshop.org. Other indications 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 you 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 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 because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop.