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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Three On Your Side Investigates: Secret Shopper Scams

We have a Three On Your Side warning about possible employment fraud. This time we'll focus on the secrets of earning a living as a "mystery shopper." Easy work, short hours, money made by visiting stores and evaluating their employees by making purchases. This time, there's a new come- on to an old scam.

Judy Boykin says her daughter "brought me the check and said look what was sent to me in the mail." The young woman received an unsolicited offer to be secret shopper. According to Boykin, " You go in this case to Sears and Walmart to buy things and critique the customers service and inform these people who they act in the stores." A bogus cashiers check for $3,577 dollars appeared in the mail, it was supposedly described as job starter money. Tonya thought she had scored a great job. A secret shopper. But little did she know she was about to be ripped off for about 3-thousand dollars.

The official looking letter advises the check be cashed. Then most of it was to be wired to a stranger in Texas. The Money Gram receivers name is Torres Rachel, I didn't see that," said Boykin. She also said one of the phone numbers listed on the paperwork indicated the group was in Canada. They wanted her daughter, Rachel to pay $350 to be trained. The Federal Trade Commission warns legitimate secret shopper companies don't charge a fee. Boykin said her daughter was convinced the company was legit. It's possible if Mrs. Boykins daughter fell for this and the check didn't clear, then the young job seeker could be held responsible for the total amount. But thanks to Mom's intervention, the phone offer wasn't accepted. Avoiding a risky proposition that could have left the victim's shopping cart and bank account empty.

We called the companies 800 number. No one ever answered. There are bona fide mystery shopper jobs available. The Federal Trade Commission says becoming a legitimate mystery shopper for a legit company doesn't cost anything. The FTC advised you to search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications. Do some homework about mystery shopping. Check libraries or bookstores for tips on how to find companies hiring mystery shoppers as well as how to do the job effectively.

Visit the mystery shopping providers association (MSPA) web site at for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general. In the meantime, the FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who: advertise for secret shopping in a newspaper' "help wanted" section or by email.

If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with your local Consumer Protection Agency, the Better Business Bureau, your State Attorney General, or the FTC at . To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, you can also call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357; tty: 1-866-653-4261.

Article source Three On Your Side Investigates: Secret Shopper Scams

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