On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, the FBI published an Internet crime alert for secret shopper employment scams. Scams involving employment offers take advantage of folks who sign up to work for a secret shopper, receive a bogus check and are asked to pay back a portion of the money in the check as a part of the assignment. By the time the check does not clear, the victim’s money is gone.
Sergeant Norm Leong, with the Sacramento Police Department, says that on average they receive one report of secret shopper scam per week, and it’s difficult to pursue because the suspects are international.
During these challenging economic times, many are looking for ways to make a little extra family income. And for many moms, a secret shopper assignment would be ideal.
There is an international association of secret shoppers called Mystery Shopper Providers Association (MPSA), which is listed on the Better Business Bureau website. But it still seems that without a personal, local reference people signing up with an outfit they don’t know could be risking something; if not money, then it will be time, energy and possibly personal information.
So how does one identify a valid mystery shopper employer?
Bob Welton, Member Services Executive with the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, encourages people who are interested in finding legitimate secret shopper assignments to connect with the local businesses directly. “Over the past couple of months, I have experienced a lot of pop ups offering ridiculous amounts of money for things like mystery shoppers,” said Welton, “The best way to find a reputable employer for this retail service is to go to a place where you normally shop and find out if they use secret shoppers and get the name of that firm.”
Below are the cyber tips to avoid the scam:
- First, no legitimate mystery/secret shopper program will send payment in advance and ask the employee to send a portion of it back.
- Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
- Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if the match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
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