Scams keep getting slicker and you have to admire the invention of some criminals, who seem to be able to come up with almost infinite variations on a theme. The sad part is that they prey upon people who can often ill afford it to make their money.
The mystery shopper scam is one that hits those looking to earn some extra money. It’s a variant on several scams that have worked on eBay, just applied with care and in a different setting.
How It WorksOut of the blue you receive a letter from a company (Paid Surveys is a name they’ve used, although there are probably several others) saying you’ve been selected as a “mystery shopper.” The company itself claims to be employed by stores to help improve customer service.
In return for doing this you’ll receive £350 – for a single assignment – which involves nothing more than shopping at a number of selected retailers and assessing their customer service.
Just so you believe they’re reputable, they even include a cheque for the amount, drawn on what seems like a perfectly legitimate account with one of the high street banks. If you decide to go ahead, you’re told to cash the cheque and immediately perform the first task, which involves testing a money transfer agency. You have to send £1500 to a person in Canada, a supposed relative of yours (of course, they promise it will be returned to you).
However, once the money’s been received at the other end, you’ll never see it again. You’ll also discover that the company cheque you deposited is counterfeit, and you might well be responsible for any fees involved with the cheque, as well as everything you’ve spent – including that £1500.
How to Recognise the ScamThere are several things that should raise warning flags for you about all this, long before you even consider becoming a mystery shopper.
First, ask yourself why you’ve been selected. Have you applied for the position? How many other people have received similar letters?
The sum they’re offering to pay should also make you wonder. It’s remarkably high for working as a mystery shopper, which normally pays a little over the minimum wage. Ask yourself why they’re willing to pay so much for an ordinary job (the answer, of course, is to tempt people).
Why have they included a cheque? That’s just tempting people to cash it without doing any work. But since it’s not real, that doesn’t matter anyway.
Of course, the thing that should make it obvious as a scam is that you’re asked to wire money overseas. No reputable company would ask you to use your own money in such a way, let along a large sum.
If you receive a mailing like this, the best thing to do is simply put it in the bin. Don’t even consider it for a moment – you’ll save yourself a lot of problems later.