“Secret shoppers” or “Mystery shoppers”

That old scam is making the rounds around here, and — as usual — people are still falling for it.


There is a legitimate job known as a “mystery shoppers” used by retailers throughout the United States. These are company employees unknown to the store workers who come into the store incognito, make purchases and then send a report to the Head Office on the cleanliness of the store, competency of the employees, courtesy shown and other things.

Basically company stooges and snitches.

The scam plays off on this.

In contrast to most of his ilk, the Secret Shopper Scammer doesn’t usually use auto-dialers, mass e-mails or bulk faxes. What he does do … is take out advertisements in the “Help Wanted” section of the local paper — or has someone nail adverts to the local telephone poles — “Part-Time Job!”

So, the poor pigeon calls the number in the newspaper and the friendly person on the other end asks them if the pigeon would do the company the greatest of favours and just check on the customer relationship aspect of the local business.

They’ve heard nothing but good things about the store! But, you know corporate VP’s and all that .. and, oh, silly me — we’ll compensate you for your time!

So, the pigeon figures, “What the hell”; answers some questions and pretty soon the first compensation cheque arrives in the mail — maybe a thousand, three thousand, whatever. Let us say it’s for 500 USD.

As per instructions from the scammer, the pigeon either deposits this cheque into his bank account or cashes it, then hies himself to the local corporate store.

Once there, the pigeon takes diligent notes regarding cleanliness, friendliness, everything the scammer asked for — ah, but the store offers Western Union service. Obviously, this must be checked also.

However, the scammer is courteous! It would be too much to ask for the pigeon to cough up his own money to check the Western Union system — therefore, about half of the initial cheque is forwarded to Corporate — the best way to check to see if the system works. So, the victim deposits $250 US in the Western Union system — to be withdrawn anywhere in the world, by anyone with a proper code.

The rest of the cheque received by the victim is, of course, his salary.

The victim goes home, files a report with “Corporate HQ” — along with the Money Retrieval Code (it is their money, right?) and is happy as a clam at high tide with his part-time job.

Unfortunately, the cheque is bogus — or, worst case scenario — forged.

When the cheque bounces — and it will — the bank will try again. Then they’ll come to get their money back.

Guess who the bank — or the defrauded citizen — is going to get their money out of?

The scammer? Whom the pigeon only knows as a friendly voice a the end of a phone line — which coincidentally is actually a VOIP number — no, the scammer is well into the wind by now, and probably overseas.

Nope. The pigeon now owes the bank the $500 dollars. Or thousand, three thousand, however much. And, if the cheque was a forged one, he also faces criminal charges.


Don’t fall for this one, folks.

For information on this, and other scams, visit Fakechecks.org.


Oh, that's nice, that is.
I'm glad someone else is paying for these ...

12 thoughts on ““Secret shoppers” or “Mystery shoppers””

  1. Lots of those “secret shopper” ads at Craigslist. I always figured they were some kind of scam, but I didn’t know the details.

  2. I almost fell for this 15 years ago but luckily I never followed through because the paperwork they sent me had tons of misspellings and grammatical errors.

    These people advertise in the thrifry nickel as well.

  3. Thanks to working in a prison.I have become more aware of scams.As the offenfers are always running some type of a scam.

  4. Excellent post, Mr. ‘Dawg.

    One thing that makes the scam so easy to pull off is the fact that checks do not truly clear the bank in just a few days. The bank merely makes our funds available to us that early as a courtesy. The checks we deposit are still processing, and can bounce even a few weeks after we’ve deposited them. Despite all of the nifty, high-tech, fun technology we have.

    Scammers know this, and use it to their advantage, of course. By the time a stolen/fake check *does* bounce, the scammer’s probably already spent whatever money his victim wired to him after cashing the check.

  5. I have actually been a legit mystery shopper. There isn’t much money in it and it can be hard work, but all in all, I could recommend the company I worked for, should anyone really want to know.

    I liked the assignments where I did business verifications (I literally went to the business place to see if they existed–most did, a couple did not).

  6. Unfortunately, LawDog, the FakeChecks site isn’t entirely accurate.

    Under their “Work from home scam Fraud Test” the answer to the first two questions is, YES.

    I’m sorry, but reading my resume on my web site, and looking at my gallery does not mean the people “know me”. And I’ve worked for several clients where there has been no in-person interview (because they were halfway across the country) or no interview at all. Heck, I’ve worked for people across town that I’ve never met in person.

  7. My girlfriend got one of these in the mail, for something like $3,400. Almost looked legit, but was too good to be true…looked it up on google, and lo and behold, it was a scam.

  8. Does Western Union even get used for anything other than scams anymore?

  9. You’d be surprised at how good some of these scammer’s “checks” are. I saw some that were supposedly travelers checks from American Express. Full color, watermark present, the correct paper, all in all, in comparison to a real one(except for amount, AE doesn’t do $500) absolutely identical even under magnification. Spooky good.

  10. I’ve been a legit mystery shopper for a couple of the local Dairy Queens. The owner was a friend of the family.

    I got to watch all their training videos and then spend an afternoon (6 locations) eating ice cream and greasy fries for 5.15 an hour.

    An amusing, if short, high school gig.

  11. This doesn’t even touch the confusion generated by ACTUAL secret shoppers. I’ve worked in multiple places that were supposed to be “shopped” this way at least once a month. It was the firm belief of the managers that the “secret shoppers” often faked their “Shopping”. I have seen stores written up for “incidents” that CANNOT have taken place because they involved objects that simply did not exist in those stores (example: a secet shopper complaining about a clerk refusing to help them with finding the price of a bracelet, in a shop that did not then -and never had – carried anything resembling jewelry.)

    Yet the higher-ups LIVE for this stuff.

    It’s ALL a scam.

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