Although there is nothing new about secret shopper scams or mystery shopper scams as they are sometimes called, they are scams that remain popular and  are still constantly finding new victims.   What is unusual about today’s version of the scam, which has been hitting the University of Nebraska at Omaha students and faculty is that it appears to come from a trusted staff member of the University.  The truth is that the scam email comes from the email account of a University staff member, but that is because the staff member’s email account was hacked and taken over by the scammer, which is a relatively simple thing to do.

When you answer an advertisement or an email to become a secret shopper, you are sent a bank check 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 instructed to return the remaining funds by a wire transfer and report to the company about your shopping experience.  The problem is that the check is counterfeit, but the money you send by wire from your own bank account is legitimate and that money is gone from your bank account forever.  In the case of the University of Nebraska at Omaha secret shopper scam, a number of people have fallen for the scam and each of them has lost about $1,000 as a result of the scam.

TIP

Remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  Regardless of who it may appear has sent you and email or a text message, you can never be sure as to who is really sending you the communication so you should never provide personal information or send money in regard to an email or a text message until you have confirmed that it is legitimate.

As for secret shopper scams, one reason why this scam snares 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.  If you want to find out if a mystery shopping company is legitimate, you can contact the MSPA-NA which is a trade organization of legitimate mystery shopping companies.  Their website is  http://www.mspa-na.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 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 by your bank 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 because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop.