Beware of mystery shopper job offers: Crooks use legit company names in scams

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Its easy money for easy work. Mystery shopping is a legitimate way to earn some cash, but scammers are taking advantage of people blinded by promises of big bucks tied to familiar names.

These mystery shopper letters arrive in your mailbox and have the logos from companies you know like Walmart, Macy's, Best Buy. That's how they rope you in. Then they take your money and could leave you in trouble with the law.

When Kim Jackson opened her mail a few weeks ago, one letter stood out as a potential money maker. She got a letter seemingly from Manpower, Inc., which many people know as a temp agency. It features their logo and those of several popular retailers that are supposedly affiliates. Kim was congratulated for being chosen as a mystery shopper.

"I'm supposed to go to Walmart. It breaks down on the sheet here, that this much money I'm supposed send them in a moneygram. This much money I get paid, which was $200. And then I had $50 that I was supposed shop with," said Kim.

The letter came with a check from a Bank of America account for almost $4,000 and a phone number that Kim called for further directions.

"They assured me they were a legitimate company. They've been in business for 20 years. They've been doing this for all of their clients," she said.

Reassured, Kim went to her Bank of America branch ready to the deposit the check and get to work, but something made her ask the teller to check the account.

"She says the account numbers good, it says the money's there. And I was like ok then. So I signed the check and then when she went to the next step, it stopped her," Kim said.

The bank manager told her the check was a fake. Manpower told us the same thing, that it's "aware of a mystery shopper scam that is using Manpower's logo. The individuals running this scam are not affiliated with Manpower and are using our name, logo and reputation without our permission. The proper authorities have been engaged."

Kim hopes others will learn the same lesson she did.

"It makes you I think more aware of things that don't look right and for you to question those things," said Kim.

The Federal Trade Commission says mystery shopping jobs are usually offered by market research or merchandising companies. Normally they hire you, then reimburse you for money you've spent doing the research. The FTC recommends going to the mystery shopping providers association website for info.

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