The Action News 5 Investigators continue to be amazed at how many people fall for the secret shopper scam. It's like any other "Nigerian Letter" scam, with all the tell-tale signs, yet people still fall for it.
It has different company names, logos and sales pitches, but they all include these three elements:
* IT'S UNSOLICITED. It just shows up in your mailbox. That's red flag #1. You didn't ask for it. It just showed up in your mailbox. That is a scam, each and every time - repeat - each and every time.
* IT INCLUDES A CHECK. The letter has a check, usually almost $5,000, that you're supposed to deposit into your checking account. It is COUNTERFEIT.
* IT REQUIRES A WIRE TRANSFER. The instructions say keep a portion of the money, spend another portion at the businesses you're supposed to be "testing," and wire the remaining balance back to the company. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?
"Mystery shopping" is a legitimate line of business. In fact, one of the industry's recognized mystery-shopper organizations is based right here in Memphis: http://www.acemysteryshoppers.com/. Owner Dave Sanford hires and places mystery shoppers for 17 retail chains to help them gauge the quality of their customer service.
"You shouldn't expect to pay in order to be a mystery shopper," says Sanford. He says it's typically a good idea to get certified as a mystery shopper through the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association (http://www.mysteryshop.org/). He also says most mystery shoppers are hired directly by the retailers or restaurants or registered with agencies like his.
"You will have to register with multiple companies in order to generate any significant amount of income," he says.
Sanford also recommends these web resources for both retailers and prospective mystery shoppers:
http://shadowshopper.com/ (membership site with fee)
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