Here is the email the mystery shopper received:
Subj: Vacant Post for Mystery Shoppers
Mystery Shopping Providers Association is giving you a chance to get paid for shopping and dinning out. Mystery shoppers are Needed Throughout America . You’ll be paid to shop and dine out-plus,you can also get free meals,Free merchandise, Free services, Free Entertainment, Free travel and lots more, Great Pay, Fun Work, Flexible Schedules,No experience required.If you can shop-you are qualified! But you must be 18yrs and above.
This is a new Year, you can start earning free cash as our Shopper. We can assure you that is going to be fun and you will love it
kindly send us a reply to inquiry about the Job offer to the email below
We care and We share. We will be expecting to read from you
[Alleged Name of Slimy Scammer]
© MSPA, 2009
There are a few clues that this is a scam.
First, the MSPA does not hire shoppers. They are an association of mystery shopping companies. Their members hire secret shoppers, but MSPA does not.
Most legitimate mystery shopping companies do not use free email services such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo. Emails will come from addresses at their domains. Be suspicious of emails from free services. Most email scams use these free services, not email from the domain they claim is theirs. In this case, the mystery shopping scam is supposed to be from the MSPA, but the scammer is using Gmail and Hotmail.
The email is very badly written. The grammar, capitalization and punctuation are…awful. Another sign of a scam.
The secret shopper scam relies on at least some of the recipients believing it is legitimate, and responding. To that end, the email scam uses gimmicks to make the offer appear to be from a legitimate mystery shopping company. For example:
They claim to represent the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a respected organization in the secret shopping industry. Other scams have used the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies. Do not take this at face value. Remember that if a scammer will steal thousands of dollars from you, they will lie about who they are.
The email closes with, “We care and We share.” What a lovely sentiment! This email scam must be from very nice people. I certainly feel I can trust them now. (Not!!) This is followed by the name of a person to make it appear real.
The email scammer even put a copyright notice at the bottom of the email, saying that the email copyright is held by MSPA.
Healthy skepticism is a good thing. Do not take emails at face value, and do not believe everything you read.
If you receive an email claiming to be from a legitimate mystery shopping company that raises any of the red flags listed here, look up the company online and find their real contact information. Contact them to verify that the request is from them before providing any information.
And do not assume that every mystery shopping company with a web site is legitimate. It is easy and cheap to put up a web site, and there is nothing to stop a scammer from setting up a nice looking site to fool you. See my earlier article for tips on spotting a mystery shopper scam site.