I have been warning you about mystery shopper scams for years, however what makes today’s mystery shopper scam so timely is that originates with a text message. More and more scams are now being sent to targeted victims through their cell phones rather than just by email which reflects the increased use of all of us of our smart phones.
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.
The manner in which the scam works is that when you answer an advertisement, an email or now a text message to become a mystery shopper and 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. 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.
The new text message version of the scam, which was sent to me by a Scamicide reader who fortunately recognized the scam before she became a victim begins with a text message inquiry about whether the intended victim is available for a “personal assistant job offer” and then gives an email address for the intended victim to contact. If you contact the sender of the text message, you are prompted to provide some personal information and then told in a subsequent email that you qualified for the mystery shopper job and would be sent a package with further information.
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 Don’t rely on provisional credit which is given after a few days, but which can be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.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 because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop.
Additionally, this particular scam email was sent by the email address of a person entirely unrelated to any mystery shopping company which is generally an indication that you are getting the email sent from an unsuspecting victim of an email hacking whose email address is now being used as a part of a botnet of similarly hacked computers to send out scam emails such as this.