Employment ads for mystery shoppers are surfacing in many Chicago-area and northern Illinois media, claiming to be an easy way to earn money by evaluating stores, restaurants and other types of businesses. However, the vast majority are scams that cause consumers to spend their own money and get nothing in return.
“Today’s mystery shopper scams are actually variations of the common check scam that’s been around for years,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Check scams involve people receiving a check that they believe to be legitimate, depositing it in their account, and then are asked to use money from their bank account for some purpose. The check is supposed to cover the amount the consumer uses. However, the check the consumer received never clears the bank and is actually invalid. So, the consumer is out the money used.”
Bernas explains that with many people shopping at this time of the year, the common check scam has been adapted to fit the holiday season. “Mystery shoppers fit consumer’s interests right now,” he explained. “These want ads are appearing on popular search engines, job boards and in newspapers.”
Consumers are urged to exercise caution when responding to employment ads online or in popular local publications. If anyone requests you accept money and forward it to another party on their behalf stop contact with them immediately.
Consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper's "help wanted" section or by email.
Sell "certification". Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.
Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.
Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at www.mysteryshop.org 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.
If you have been victimized by the above or a similar sounding offer, let the BBB know by filling out the “Tip us off to a Scam!” submission form found on our main website, www.chicago.bbb.org.
If you are solicited by letter, phone, or email with something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For more trustworthy advice on finding a job, go to www.bbb.org.