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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Mystery shopper scam

With today's sluggish economy, you may be looking for a way to make an extra buck.

As Good Morning America reported this morning, one way to do that is to become a mystery shopper.

Retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of services in their stores.

Mystery shoppers are hired to go check out the stores anonymously. Those shopper are then given a small reimbursement.

But beware, not all mystery shopper jobs are legit.

WWAY anchor Marcy Cuevas got a letter in the mail, asking her to become a mystery shopper. Along with it, came an authentic looking check for almost $4,000. Cape Fear Bank manager Jeff Britt confirmed our suspicions that the offer is a scam.

Britt said, "The letter is asking you to deposit a counterfeit item into your account - you don't know it's counterfeit then it's asking you to wire funds typically overseas or to contact someone who's going to instruct you to wire funds."

Britt says mystery shopper scams are common, and its easy to fall for them.

Here's how this one would work. A mystery shopper is to check on whether money wiring services like Western Union or Money Gram check for identification. The shopper is asked to deposit this check into their bank account, then wire $3,400 of it to a given location.

"You've now deposited a counterfeit item into your account, you hand over cash to a criminal, the check is returned as fraudulent and now you're stuck with trying to get $3,980 back into your account," said Britt.

WWAY called the number on the letter, to find out if it was a scam.

Lynn Williams of Solution Market Research said, "I can totally reassure you that this is legit for sure."

WWAY then told the woman we were researching a story.

We were then told we would be transferred to a manager and were hung up on.

WWAY tried calling back several times with no success.

Jeff Britt says a legitimate market research company will never ask you for a fee up front, and will only pay mystery shoppers $10 to $25.

"It will never be in large amounts and they will never ask you to wire funds," said Britt.

No matter how convincing the scam may be, if you get a check in the mail and it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Just to be sure, Jeff Britt called the bank the alleged check was drafted from, and confirmed it was fake.

Just today, North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper released news of an agreement with MoneyGram, to help crack down on these types of scams.

More information on the agreement with MoneyGram
Telemarketing fraud rings will have a harder time taking consumers’ money thanks to changes that wire service MoneyGram will make, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today. “Telemarketing scammers are experts at tricking people into wiring them money,” said Cooper. “This agreement will help stop scammers from using wire transfers to rip off consumers.”

Under the agreement with North Carolina, 43 other states and the District of Columbia, MoneyGram Payment Systems, Inc. will take significant steps to cut down on the use of its services by fraudulent telemarketers.

MoneyGram will, among other things, put prominent warnings to consumers on the front of forms used to wire money and fund a $1.1 million national consumer awareness program.

Cooper’s office also host scam jams across the state to educate consumers about the latest frauds and scams. For more information, visit

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