Beware wave of new mystery shopping scams

In the past few days, there has been a wave of new mystery shopping scams attempting to swindle people out of money.

In the past few weeks, there has been a wave of new mystery shopping scams attempting to swindle people out of money. 

Alerts issued
The Wall Street Journal reported that First Capital Realty, a Canadian company, alerted the public that scam artists have been sending false checks to people, claiming the money is an advance payment for a mystery shopping job. Those who have received checks say they were told to send money from their own account back to the agency that sent them the check in the first place to test the system. Of course, there is no agency and the check bounces as soon as the victim tries to deposit or cash it.

As any seasoned shopper knows, payment comes only after a job has been completed. However, ruses like this are solid reminders that there are forces out there looking to make money off of unsuspecting people.

WBOY News and Channel 5 News WDTV added that in Salem, Massachusetts, people have been finding messages in their email inboxes and on cell phones inquiring about participation in a mystery shopping opportunity. Most of these jobs advertise large payments for almost nothing in return. Something that sounds this enticing should be met with skeptical observation.

Money lost
Perhaps one of the more devastating cases of mystery shopping scams is that of Lydia Edwards, a 71-year-old woman who spoke with the Times Colonist about losing $4,000 to a fake secret shopper employer. In an elaborate plot, the scam artist spoke with Edwards on the phone about assignments and coerced her into purchasing VISA gift cards for him. He also used another company's information on counterfeit checks sent to Edwards, which inevitably bounced. Edwards told the paper that she thought she did her research and felt violated after the scandal.

Unfortunately, retirees and young students looking for supplementary income are prime targets for this type of behavior. Since they are either more trusting or incredibly naive, they are inclined to give mystery shopping a shot without knowing all the facts first.

Safe solution
One major way to avoid scams like these, aside from discarding them as soon as you see them, is utilizing the services of an MSPA-approved mystery shopping company. These organizations can help you find actual jobs and introduce you to real clients who need your help. Mystery shopping is not always glamorous, easy or quick, but earning money by completing a shop and writing a report sure beats having your money stolen any day.