Day 1: Dear Diary – I am so excited! I’ve been looking for work since I was laid off and now posting my resume all over the Internet has paid off! I received a job offer, to be a mystery shopper, just out of the blue in my email inbox. I replied that I was interested and I can’t wait to hear back.
Day 4: I received the response in my email today. I gave them my address and they said they would send me the assignment and the $$ in the mail. There were some typos in the email but I guess with the volume of work they do, they must have just been in a hurry.
Day 7: The assignment came today! This is so cool. There was a money order for $750 in the envelope with the instructions. All I have to do is go to the bank, cash the money order, and go shopping at <Name deleted to protect the innocent>. They said to buy $500 worth of stuff, use $50 to pay the postage for shipping it back to them, and keep the rest for me! $200 bucks. I can’t believe I get paid this much for something I love to do. I have to admit this sounds too good to be true, but I guess I’ll find out when I go to cash the money order.
Day 8: What an awesome day. My bank cashed the money order!!!! I went shopping, packaged up the stuff, dropped it all in the mailbox and now I get to go play with my shopping money.
Day 9: I received another assignment today. All I can say is keep ‘em coming.
Day 15: I can’t believe this is happening. My bank took the credit out of my account for the first money order! They said it was a forgery. I’m so freaking out. What if the others are no good too? I’ve put in like $4,000. The bank says that I’M RESPONSIBLE. What am I going to do?
Though this is a fictional account written to prove a point, there are many stories just like this all over the country.
Consumers often have a tough time spotting these types of scams for one simple reason: “Mystery Shopping” IS a legitimate industry. Retailers have been using this practice to evaluate their employee’s, products and services for years. There are legitimate services and opportunities. How can consumers tell the difference? Keep the following facts in mind before embarking on a mystery shopping career:
- You will not make large sums of money. Most opportunities won’t pay more than $20 per shop.
- YOU should pick the company, don’t let them pick you. They will not contact you directly, unless you have gone to a legitimate retailer. If you just posted your resume online and you receive mystery shopping offers – beware!
- Legitimate employers will NOT ask you for money up front.
- Legitimate offers will NOT ask you to cash checks/money orders for more than the goods or services and allow you to pocket the rest as your fee.
So while this may seem like the dream job you have always wanted, you must remember that if something seems too good to be true it probably is. Mystery shopping is just one of many work scams being passed around online, so be sure you protect yourself and don’t become a victim of online scammers.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.