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LinkedIn mystery shopping scams and how to report them

Mystery shopping is an exciting, unique way to make money. Unfortunately, the industry commonly falls prey to online scams in which third parties try to take advantage of responsible shoppers and companies to steal their earnings. It's highly important that shoppers stay abreast of recent scams and know what to do if they feel they are the victim of one.

LinkedIn reports new scam
?Kiplinger Magazine reported that one of the latest developments in the scam department is emerging through LinkedIn, a popular professional networking site. Rich Bradley, who is president of the MSPA of North America, stated that scam artists are posing as legitimate MSPA members and sending messages to people through their LinkedIn profiles. This is troubling and may affect more users than most scams because LinkedIn and MSPA members are typically trusted sources of employment.

As a rule, MSPA members do not pay shoppers prior to completing an assignment, nor are they allowed to ask secret shoppers for money in advance of completing a shop. In the two types of scams appearing through LinkedIn, people were asked to either send funds to the mystery shopping company or cash a check to complete a shop and send remaining funds back to the sender. These checks turn out to be fraudulent and banks will charge account holders the amount owed.

It's imperative that consumers and shoppers alike understand that retailers, mystery shopping companies and financial institutions involved are not to blame for the chaos.
Lt. Phillip Young told the Franklin News Post that "these stores have no affiliation with the scam artist who is placing the ad or sending the letters."

This was in response to resent reports from residents of Franklin County, Virginia who had received letters offering "employment packets" to people willing to mystery shop local businesses. Sometimes, scam artists even post advertisements in local papers, asking people to get in contact with them for a lucrative mystery shopping opportunity. In the worst case scenarios, victims lose thousands of dollars and may even fall prey to identity theft.

Reporting a scam
If you suspect you've been contacted by an unreliable party attempting to lure you into a mystery shopping scam, it's a good idea to report it to authorities so others won't fall for it either.

If a message comes through a social networking site like LinkedIn, report it to that site's customer service center. It should be informed of any illegal or troubling activity taking place within the network.

Then, contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a report there. The FTC uses complaints to help law enforcement identify those that abuse others and try to put an end to fraudulent activity as best they can. The FTC only asks for as much personal information as you feel you want to give them. While the FTC doesn't remedy everyone's complaints individually, they use the information provided to better track scams and track down responsible parties. 

Contacting your state's Attorney General to report a scam is also a possibility.

When in doubt over whether or not to take on a mystery shopping job, trust your gut. If it seems too good to be true, as in it pays much higher than any job you've seen before and seems to be a huge reward for the task, consider passing on the offer. In addition, remember that you should never pay a company to perform a gig. If you pay anything at all, it's during the shop and your receipts are submitted for reimbursement based on the guidelines set forth by your company or the client.