CALL 6: BBB warns of secret shopper scam

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a secret shopper scam that is making the rounds.

Typically, you receive an email from a company that offers you extra income for going into stores and reporting back on your experiences as a means to “monitor customer service.”

Tim Maniscalo, President of BBB Serving Central Indiana, said the scammers then give you a check and ask you to wire some money back to them.

The BBB received a complaint from a consumer who received a check with instructions to deposit the check in her personal account, then proceed to Walmart and send money to a person through a Walmart financial service.

“You’re sending them real money because it came out of your checking account, so, that’s how the scam works,” said Maniscalo.

Maniscalo said he’s not aware of any legitimate companies that will ask you to wire them money.

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“It’s very easy to get someone’s email and these people are so sophisticated now,” said Maniscalo. “It costs them almost nothing to send you an email and give you a fake check. So, they don’t need many people to bite on this for it to be profitable for them, so they are going to send it to thousands of people and if only one or two bite they are going to make some profit.”

To steer clear of get-rich-quick offers, the BBB advises mystery shopper applicants to:

  • Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily. Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income.
  • Avoid falling for claims that "guarantee" a position, without training.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited e-mails offering "work-from-home."
  • Never pay money up-front. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training or recruiting.
  • Obtain the name of the company and check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general.
  • Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at www.mysteryshop.org for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with an MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general.
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