How to Spot Mystery Shopping Scams
Who doesn’t like being paid extra money?
Unfortunately, people looking for a job as a mystery shopper might get more than they bargained for and end up being scammed. Although it might sound worthwhile to get paid to go to a great, local restaurant or visit a store, losing cash should not be part of the equation!
While legitimate mystery shopping opportunities DO exist, consumers and job seekers need to use caution. The internet is filled with fraudulent mystery shopping scams. Let us teach you what to look for to protect yourself and wallet from mystery shopping scams!
What are Mystery Shopping Scams?
Mystery shopping is when retailers or businesses hire companies or individuals to attend events, visit restaurants, or buy something from a store; then report about their experience or findings. Companies use that information to improve services and train their staff. Mystery shopping scams are when scammers pretend to be those legitimate third party companies who are hiring mystery shoppers but only seek to steal or con innocent consumers!
Types of Mystery Shopping Scams
These are some of the most common types of mystery shopping scams:
For this type of scam, a scammer or group of scammers will pretend to be a real company and send you a check. Unfortunately, the check they send is counterfeit. Many people fall for this scam, as it seems as if the mystery shopping company is ready and willing to pay them, and the check appears real.
What happens next is heartbreaking:
The company will say that you should keep the money you earned and wire any overage back to them. However, since the check is not real, your bank will later deduct the amount you wire from your account and even charge a fee if your account is now under or checks bounce.
The scammers goal?
Get money wired to them and leave your bank account in shambles!
Pay You Later (After You Pay Us)!
This type of scam occurs when you pay a registration fee to a company or individual to receive a list of mystery shopper opportunities sent to you by email, mail, or download. The company isn’t worried about you making real cash as a mystery shopper; they want to get your money and go on their way, with your money!
Smishing, Phishing, and Vishing
While many people are aware of the term “phishing”, “vishing”, and “smishing” are also essential to learn. Phishing is when a scammer sends you a fake email or link and directs you to a fake page or site. Beware of “hyperlinks” inserted into the email.
These are phony web URL’s linked in the email. Once you go to the fake site or URL and enter your personal information, hoping to get mystery shopper opportunities, it is compromised. While the logo and information on the page could look official or be copied from real websites, companies only want your name, address, driver’s license number, password, credit card number, bank information, account details, and PINs.
If you do give a phishing site this information, your identity can be stolen and fraudulent payments made through your accounts! Malware may also be installed on your computer or device.
“Vishing” is when scammers call you by phone and try and get your private information. “Smishing” is done through fraudulent text messages – some of these may reroute you to phishing sites.
How to Spot Mystery Shopping Scams
Look for Legitimate Companies
Check the Better Business Bureau and ask people you know if they’ve heard of the company. Research the website and read online reviews (beware that some scam companies fake theirs).
Never Pay Money Upfront for a List of Opportunities
You can find real mystery shopping jobs, and they will not cost you money in advance.
Beware of over-payment scams or ANY mystery shopping job which asks you to wire them money or buy them gift cards.
If you want a list of legitimate mystery shopping jobs, look at Mystery Shoppers Provider Association (MSPA). Report any online scams or financial loss to the FTC.
If you’re still not sure if you’re talking to a legitimate company, search by name, email, phone number, photograph, and username at Social Catfish. We search all of the major search engines and social platforms. You can even search the logo for a company, to see if it is real or fake and run by a scammers phishing website.
At Social Catfish, we try and help our customers by revealing one catfish, scammer, or spammer at a time! Ready to see who is messaging (or scamming!) you? Try a smart algorithm-based search today: