I have written many times over the last seven years about the mystery shopper scam because it continues to ensnare unwary victims.   I was recently alerted to a new version of this scam by a Scamicide reader who fortunately recognized that this was a scam and did not become a victim of the scam.

The manner in which the scam generally works is that when you answer an advertisement, or respond to a letter, email or a text message to become a mystery shopper. 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, text messages or letters which is how most mystery shopping scams originate.  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 that yo are sent is counterfeit and if you wire money to the scammer from your account, you end up sending your own money.

In the new version of this scam as reported to me, the Scamicide reader was doing a job search on LinkedIn and other similar websites where the Scamicide reader found the advertisements for the mystery shopping job.  When she answered the ad, she was contacted and sent a counterfeit check.

Here also is a link to a news story from ABC’s Western Mass News in which I was interviewed about this type of scam.  https://www.westernmassnews.com/news/pittsfield-woman-warning-others-of-mystery-shopper-scheme/article_af658312-45ca-11e9-855b-777f943a69e1.html

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 Don’t rely on provisional credit which is given after a few days, but which will be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest.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.

If you receive a mystery shopper scam solicitation or check through the mail you can report it to the United States Postal Service at
http://about.usps.com/publications/pub300a/pub300a_tech_024.htm

You also can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which investigates these scams at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

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