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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Shopping as a full-time job might sound ideal to many, but some fake companies are now tricking people into paying for an opportunity to work as a mystery shopper.

Mystery shopping is the practice of hiring individuals to purchase a product, dine at a restaurant or stay in a hotel, and then rate their experience. The employer will then reimburse the “mystery shopper” for the money spent, as well as pay for their services.

Scams occur when people are lured in by online advertisements promising money for their time being a “mystery shopper” at designated stores and restaurants. In some instances, the victims are instructed to cash a check the phony company sends to the individual, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The victim is then instructed to wire the money from the cashed check to a person outside of the country along with a review of the product they purchased.

“You shouldn’t have to pay anything up front,” warns Jenny Scheuer of the Indiana Attorney General’s office. “Sometimes money wiring is included too and checks are counterfeited. They not only fool the consumer, but they fool the bank

tellers too.”

Phony companies continue to swindle people out of money, but there are ways to spot the scams.

“Don’t cash a check unless you know where the money’s coming from,” cautioned Scheuer. “Because then you owe the bank money and you’ve already wired the cash to somebody.” The consumer is then guilty of cashing a fraudulent check, could face jail time and owes the bank the sum of money they fraudulently cashed.

“These people are unsavory individuals; they’re not legitimate businesses,” Scheuer said. “But there are real mystery shopper jobs to be had.”

The FTC also states that legitimate mystery shopping jobs do exist. However, you do not have to pay to become a mystery shopper, and these legitimate companies do not contact people via e-mail. There is a list of real job opportunities at

The job appeals to people of all varieties, and college students looking to make some quick money are no exception.

“I think it would be really fun to just go shopping for a living or stay in nice hotels for free, but I think I would be a little skeptical if I got the offer in an e-mail,” said junior Kate Hefty.

Even if she ignored her initial skepticism, other parts of the scam would raise too much suspicion for Hefty to continue. “I would probably draw the line if they asked me to wire money somewhere. I don’t even know how to do that,” Hefty said.

For more information, or if you believe you have received an e-mail or an offer similar to this, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission at or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. You can also contact the Indiana Attorney General’s Office at or call 1-800-382-5516.

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