CHICAGO, IL – Fall is one of the biggest shopping seasons; in addition to purchasing new seasonal clothes and school items, consumers also take advantage of the opportunity to be a mystery shopper. A mystery shopper acts like a normal customer in a store or company, but is secretly rating employees on customer service. However, some companies ask potential mystery shoppers to pay an application fee or ask you to deposit a check and do a wire transfer. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) states that legitimate mystery shopping opportunities will never ask consumers to do these things.
Mystery shopping scams can occur like this: You are hired as a mystery shopper, and you are asked to deposit a check in your bank account, withdraw the amount in cash, and then wire it, to Canada or another foreign country. You know it’s a scam when the check turns out to be fake and you’ll owe the bank the money back that you withdrew. It may take the bank up to a few weeks to discover the check is fake, and after that time has passed, it may be too late. Some scammers might also make you pay money upfront to be a part of a mystery shopper certificate program or to be guaranteed a mystery shopping job.
“There are legitimate mystery shopping opportunities out there, but there are also some that easily take advantage of consumers,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is important for consumers to carefully research the company before becoming a mystery shopper and to never provide any personal information that is not absolutely necessary.”
The BBB suggests that those who consider being a mystery shopper follow these tips:
- Never pay to be a mystery shopper. There are many legitimate companies that don’t make you pay.
- Never deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back. The check will bounce and you will owe the bank the money you withdrew. There will also possibly be additional fees.
- Research mystery shopper companies. There are legitimate mystery shopper opportunities out there, but do a thorough search before to make sure you aren’t entering a scam.
- Report scams online. If you believe you are a victim of a mystery shopper scam, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, The Federal Trade Commission, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or your state Attorney General.
For more tips and information about scams, visit www.bbb.org