Watch Out for These Signs of a Mystery Shopper Scam

Legitimate mystery-shopping jobs abound — but so do scams. Here's what you should know to stay safe.

Watch Out for These Signs of a Mystery Shopper Scam Photo by Nicoleta Ionescu /

Mystery shopping can be a great way to earn some extra money — as well as a premise for scams.

This has been the case in the past, and it remains true today. Lawyer and Bentley University senior lecturer Steve Weisman warns of email scams targeting potential mystery shoppers in his latest USA Today .

As he explains:

“One reason this type of scam works so well is that there are real mystery shopper jobs.”

Weisman, an expert on scams and identity theft, writes the blog Scamicide and such as “.”

He reports in his column that he recently received a scam email from someone purporting to seek mystery shoppers.

Weisman says the scammers behind this type of ruse send a check to victims who take the bait. The victims are supposed to use part of the check to make assigned purchases and wire back the remaining funds. Victims later learn that the check was counterfeit and has bounced.

Another type of mystery shopping scam involves thieves soliciting payments for what they claim is information about how to become a mystery shopper, or a certification or registration program.

It’s important to remember that “so many people are interested in this work that the real mystery shopper companies have no need to advertise to hire people,” Weisman says.

Like other scams, mystery shopping scams can often be detected by the presence of glaring grammatical errors and missing words, as was the case with the email Weisman recently received.

Requests for you to send money via wire transfers should also make you skeptical, Weisman says. Unlike with credit card payments, fraudulent wire transfer payments are irretrievable the moment you send them.

To learn more about mystery shopping, including how to avoid associated scams, check out “Weird Ways to Make Money: Mystery Shopping.”

Do you have any experience with mystery shopping or related scams? Share your thoughts below .

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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