Mystery Shopping Scams

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Years ago, I was a Mystery Shopper. I signed up with a company who would ask me to go shopping at a particular store or restaurant on a specific day. I had to pay attention to certain things, such as how quickly someone greeted me after walking in the door and if they asked me if I wanted to add something to my purchase. I would buy something in a certain price range, say under $20 and after I filled out a questionnaire, I would be reimbursed and get a small stipend for my time. It usually took about a month to receive the check via the mail and be reimbursed by the company.

I found out that criminals were using this as a scam when my oldest son asked me about “Mystery Shopping” one day. A little probing revealed that he noticed an ad for Mystery Shoppers on Craigslist. He sent an inquiry and got a response explaining that his shopping would begin at Western Union. Luckily, he knew to watch out for Western Union when interacting on Craigslist.

You see, funds transferred via Western Union are not protected like say a purchase with a Visa credit card. Once you wire funds, there is no getting those funds back. If you have spent any time at all on Craigslist, you probably have seen the warnings to watch out for ads mentioning Western Union and should flag those posts when you find them.

Criminals often offer to pay $50 per hour to be a Mystery Shopper and instruct the victim to call a number if interested. When the victim calls the number, they request personal financial information, such as credit cards or banking information. As usual, you should never give out credit card, banking or other financial information to strangers that you find on the Internet.

Stay safe out there!


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