Does Western Union Get Mystery Shopped?

western-union-mystery-shopBy now you have probably seen the infamous check scam that tries to pass itself off as a mystery shopping opportunity. You know how it works: cash a large check, shop at WalMart or some other major retailer, keep a few hundred dollars for yourself, then wire the bulk of the check amount to someone via Western Union or another service.

The scam? The checks are bogus. Although banks are legally required to release funds within a few days, the fact that the check is a fake may not be known for weeks. The victim believes that the check is valid (or why would the bank have given them the money?), they send the money off and later learn that the check bounced and they are responsible for repaying the money from the check to the bank.

There are, however, legitimate mystery shops involving Western Union. Here is how to tell if a shop opportunity you received is legitimate or a scam.
Continue Reading

Where to Report Mystery Shopper Scams

The fake cashier’s check scam has been around for a long time (well before the Internet) and it continues to ensnare new victims every day. The scammers send one or more checks or money orders to the victim, ask them to cash them, keep some of the money, then wire the rest to someone. The latest twist is that instead of wiring the money, victims are asked to buy pre-paid MoneyPak cards and send the PINs to the scammer. That is just a minor variation on a long-running scam.

This is not just a “mystery shopper scam.” Yes, the mystery shopper scam works this way, but this scam has been run on eBay, CraigsList, and in other marketplaces, as well as in direct dealings with victims, such as this law firm.Continue Reading

The Green Dot MoneyPak Mystery Shop Scam

The scammers continue to come up with new angles for scams. One that is becoming more popular is a variation on the fake check scam. Instead of wiring the money to the scammer via MoneyGram or Western Union, the bad guys have their victims purchase Green Dot MoneyPak Cards or other pre-paid cards and send the PIN numbers to the scammers. Here is how it works:
Continue Reading

Another Mystery Shopper Scam Email

Most mystery shopper scam emails are pretty easy to spot. They are full of errors. They come from free email addresses (e.g., Hotmail, Gmail, etc.) instead of emails using the company’s domain name (e.g., They ask you to respond to the email with all of your personal information instead of filling out an application at their website.

Then along comes a scammer who is just a little more sophisticated. Someone who understands how email and websites work won’t fall for this, but lots of people don’t even look. Here is a scam email I got recently that looks sort of legit. Someone who wanted to believe that it was real and didn’t look closely could easily fall for it. This is from the email:Continue Reading

Is This a Legitimate Mystery Shopping Company?

One of the common signs of a scam email is that the scammer uses a free email service, such as Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. But maybe the scammers are getting smarter.

A shopper recently emailed about an “offer” she received via email. Based on her description, it sounded like a scam to me, but she said that the company name matched the email. They even had a website. But something had her worried. Turns out, she was right to worry.

Continue Reading

Celebrate Safer Internet Day

February 11 is Safer Internet Day, but adopting a few simple practices can make every day Safer Internet Day.

Being safer on the Internet includes avoiding scams and keeping your data safe and secure when online. This article gives you some simple ways to stay safer.Continue Reading

A New Twist On an Old Scam Costs Man $30,000

By now regular readers of this blog are familiar with the mystery shopper check scam. Although people are still getting conned by that one every day, some scammers have moved on to a new version.

A Florida man responded to an online ad from United Services and Consultants to be a “Merchandise Manager” for them. The supposed job involved buying electronics and shipping them overseas. The promised pay was $2700 every two weeks, plus commission.

The scam victim went to local Apple and AT&T stores and bought a total of 17 MacBook Airs and 7 iPads. He paid for all of this with his personal credit cards. The “company” (aka scamming sleazeballs) sent prepaid shipping labels and he shipped all of the equipment to Russia. (Yes, Russia. Any red flags here for you yet?) The company provided banking information to pay him for the electronics but guess what? There was no money. Now he owes nearly $30,000 to his credit card companies as a result of this scam.

How can you avoid this type of scam? Continue Reading

Is This Mystery Shopping Company Legitimate?

Every day I am contacted by mystery shoppers, all with the same question: “Is this company legitimate?” The name of the company changes, but the question remains the same.

The problem is that they are asking the wrong question. If the only thing you look at is whether the person who contacted you is using the name of a legitimate company, you are setting yourself up to be scammed.

The truth is that people who will steal thousands of dollars from you will also lie to you. Many scammers use the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies and even the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

Never assume that someone who approaches you unsolicited and offers money is for real. Always check them out. And check them out properly. Here are the questions you should be asking.
Continue Reading

Mystery Shopper Scams Try a New Angle

Scammers are taking advantage of technology to find new ways of scamming people. According to this story by consumer reporter Jeff Ehling at abc13/Houston, scammers are reaching out to potential victims with text messages.

Several people have reported getting text messages offering mystery shopper jobs paying $50 an hour. Tempting, but what do we know about things that sound too good to be true? That’s right: They usually are too good to be true.

People who respond to the text message by calling the phone number given are asked for personal information, including credit card and bank account numbers. (Note: real mystery shopping companies do ask for personal information, including Social Security Numbers, but they do not recruit by sending random text messages and they do not guarantee $50 an hour.)

If you receive a text message offering $50 an hour (or some other ridiculous amount of money) to mystery shop, do not respond. Just hit delete.

Scammers are always looking for new victims. Don’t let them find you.

Victim of a Scam?

Don’t get scammed again by someone offering compensation or scam victim help.

The mystery shopper scam and others like it have taken millions of dollars from people all over the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere around the world. Often, the victims of these scams are the people who can least afford to be taken for thousands of dollars. So, when someone comes along saying that they have been authorized to repay the money that was scammed from them, these victims may line up to get scammed again.

I get many emails a week that are similar to the one below. In each case, there are signs that this is yet another scam; however, someone who is desperate could overlook those signs, just as they did the first time they got caught up in one of these schemes.

Take a look at the scam email, then I will point out some of the signs that it is not a legitimate offer:
Continue Reading