More Mystery Shopper Misery

'Highly-paid' mystery shopper assignments where you're sent cashier's checks upfront can end up costing you a lot of money.

‘Highly-paid’ mystery shopper assignments where you’re sent cashier’s checks upfront can end up costing you a lot of money.

I talked about mystery shopper scams here about a year ago, but Mich Kabay recently drew my attention to another example of this subset of the job scam species, and I thought it was worth a reminder, especially as he went to the trouble of flagging for his students at Norwich University (the one in Vermont, not the one in the UK) the points he considered exemplified a phishing attack.

In brief, a mystery shopper scam is one that offers you serious money to go to a retail outlet and pose as a shopper in order to report on your customer experience.  We’ll get onto how the scam actually works in a moment.

mystery shopper

As I haven’t taken any of his courses, I can’t say what his observations on these points would be, but here, for what it’s worth, are mine.

  1. Mystery shopper jobs exist, but mystery shopper scams are probably far more common, and victims may lose thousands of dollars, according to the Better Business Bureau.
  2. There are no free lunches: jobs that offer lots of money for people with no skills for doing not very much are very suspicious indeed. $600 an hour? I wish I earned that much… In fact, you’d be doing well to get much more than $100 a day for a mystery shopper job.
  3. Another very common scam offering lots of money for no skills is the ‘financial manager’ type of job offer which usually turns out to be aimed at recruiting money mules.
  4. Clearly, part of the point here is to get hold of the ‘registration’ data. However, a typical scenario with this kind of scam is that the scammer sends you a cashier’s check to cover your expenses for testing a service, and requires you to wire the money to them within a short time. However, as previously discussed on this blog concerning a different scam, it can take a week or more in the US before a cashier’s check shows up as forged, and the scammer will pressure you to wire the money long before that. When the bank realizes that the check is worthless, you – the aspirant mystery shopper – will be held responsible and charged by the bank for the amount the bank has lost.

Some variations on this scam are described here and there is further information here.

David Harley
ESET Senior Research Fellow

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