Scammers succeed by getting their victims to trust them. This is true for secret shopper scams, lottery scams, pigeon drops, home repair scams or any other type of scam.
Getting potential victims to trust them is easier than you might think. For one thing, honest people may not understand how scams work, and may be less likely to spot the signs of a scam. And most people expect others to act as they do. Because most people are basically honest, they expect that others they encounter will also be honest. Scammers use that against their victims.
Let’s look at some typical scammer tricks and how they are used in secret shopper scams.
They use the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies. Many of the emails and checks in secret shopper scams carry the names of genuine companies. However, the mailings do not come from those companies. The recipients often research the company name, find it is a legitimate secret shopping company, and assume that they have received a real mystery shopper job.
They claim to work with large, respected companies. The “assignments” from the scammers are typically to mystery shop WalMart, McDonalds, Sears and other established and trusted retailers.
They use authority symbols. The emails from scammers use copyright notices, trademark symbols and even logos of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association or the Better Business Bureau. Those symbols convey authority and inspire trust.
They offer rewards that are out of line with the effort expected. When someone offers to pay you hundreds of dollars for working a couple of hours, that is a tip-off that you may be dealing with a scam. Especially when you had no in-person interview, no special skills are required, and the opportunity arrived seemingly from nowhere. They promise high pay to get potential victims to ignore the red flags they see going up. (Of course, there isn’t any pay because the check they send is forged.)
While I don’t want to recommend that you become cynical and never trust anyone, it pays not to take everything at face value. If you get an offer (not just a mystery shopper job, but any offer) that looks too good to be true, then you should check it out. But check it out correctly.
Go online and do a search for the name of the company. If nothing comes up, that is not a good sign. If you find a company website, compare the contact information on the website to the email or letter you received.
If you are not sure if the offer came from the real company or a scammer, call the real company by using the contact information you found online.
Do not search only for information about the company name you were given. Do an online search for relevant phrases to see if others have reported scams. For example, in a search for “mystery shopper check,” nine of the top ten results in Google are about secret shopper scams.
Talk to a trusted friend or relative. Many scam victims did not talk about their big “opportunity” with anyone prior to getting involved. Someone else may see the telltale warning signs that you missed because you wanted the offer to be real.
Most of all, listen to that little voice inside you. It is smarter than you may think. Intuition picks up on many things our conscious minds miss or choose to ignore. If something doesn’t look or feel right, do not proceed until you have thoroughly checked things out. And if the person who contacted you is pushing you to act right now or miss the opportunity, well, that is just one more sign that it is a scam.