I have been warning you about mystery shopper scams for years, however these scams continue to trap unwary victims so it is important to remind everyone about this very popular scam. Recently, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear issued a warning about this scam following a number of Kentuckians becoming victims of the scam including one who lost more than $2,000 to the scam. While this scam is always with us, it becomes even more common during the holiday season.
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 a text message to become a mystery shopper, you are sent a bank check. 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. The problem is that the check or money order is counterfeit, but the money you send by wire from your bank account is real and is lost forever.
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 Don’t rely on provisional credit which is given after a few days, but which can be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.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.