Getting paid to go shopping sounds like living in a dream world.
Becoming a secret shopper is a sought-after part-time job. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to go shopping? But it has opened the door to scammers who saw an opportunity to take advantage of consumers who want to make extra money.
How The Scam Works
Scammers promote fake secret shopper jobs on job boards, newspaper ads and social media. Some reach out directly to consumers using text messages, emails and letters. They often copy the logos of well-known and respected companies to gain trust and credibility with consumers.
They’re hoping you will apply for the job on a fake website they’ve created that mimics the look of a legitimate website. First, you have to pay an admin or processing fee.
You’ll then receive a check with instructions to deposit it in your bank account. You’re instructed to use a portion of the amount to evaluate a business, and the remaining balance is yours to keep.
The type of business you’re asked to evaluate is usually a money transfer service or gift card provider. After you’ve completed the task, you must provide feedback on the service you received.
Once you wire the money or send pictures of the gift cards with their PIN codes, the scammer disappears and the check bounces.
Secret shopper job scams is a type of fake check scam.
All fake check scams have one thing in common: the person sending you the check wants you to cash it and send them a portion of the money. By the time the check bounces, they are long gone.
5 Signs of a Secret Shopper Job Scam
- You have to pay the company an upfront fee.
If you have to pay an upfront application, registration or certification fee to become a secret shopper, it’s a scam. Legitimate companies don’t charge people in advance. If you owe them money, they will deduct it from your paycheck.
- The company sends you a check but you must send a portion of it back.
No legitimate company will ask you to cash a check and send a portion of it back to them, especially not by wire transfer or in gift cards.
Legitimate companies won’t pay you in advance for work you have not completed.
- You have to wire money or buy gift cards.
Wiring money to someone you don’t know through MoneyGram or Western Union or paying someone in gift cards is like sending cash. It’s likely that you’re dealing with a scammer and it’s unlikely you’ll ever get your money back.
- They promise you will make a lot of money.
Don’t apply for secret shopper jobs that guarantee you will make a lot of money or allow you to quit your job. Only scammers will make claims like that. Secret shopper jobs are part-time jobs. It’s unlikely you’ll earn enough from them to replace your full-time job.
- Unsolicited email or text messages.
Companies that offer legitimate secret shopper jobs won’t spam anyone with email or text messages asking them to become a secret shopper.
Note: If you receive such an email, don’t reply. Avoid clicking on any links or opening any attachments.
Finding Legitimate Secret Shopper Jobs
The Mystery Shopping Professionals Association (MSPA) is a trade association for the customer experience industry. MSPA doesn’t hire secret shoppers, but they do have a list of service providers that you can register with to find available secret shopping jobs.
If you are a victim of a secret shopper job scam or come across one, report it to these organizations:
- The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center – ic3.gov/Home/FileComplaint
- Federal Trade Commission – ReportFraud.ftc.gov
- BBB Scam Tracker – bbb.org/scamtracker
The Better Business Bureau has resources to help consumers and businesses. You can report a scam (whether you’ve lost money or not), file a complaint against a business, and leave a review of a business you’ve used.
Visit our blog for more tips and scam alerts.