As with many industries, mystery shopping is one where you need to beware of potential scams. The main thing to remember is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
For your convenience, we have outlined some of the most frequently reported scams below.
Bounced Cheque Scam
A fake employer will send you a cheque, usually for far more than you are expecting. You are asked to cash this cheque into your bank account, at which point it will appear after the usual amount of time that the cheque has cleared and the funds are available.
Having remembered that you have been sent more money than necessary, the fake employer will ask you to pay back the difference. What then happens is that the money you pay back is legitimate and really does clear, but the cheque you originally paid in will bounce leaving you out of pocket.
TIP: Be extremely skeptical if you are paid more than you think you are owed, and make it clear to any employer that you will never send them money.
Club Membership Scam
Some companies and websites lead you to believe that you can become part of an exclusive club by simply paying a small fee. It is usually claimed that this membership will not only allow you to access extensive lists of mystery shopping companies, but also to apply for jobs only available to members.
The reality is that we have never personally seen an example of this being worthwhile, so you will be out of pocket. The amount may only be small, but the people running these enterprises are profiting from your misfortune. All the information you need to know about mystery shopping is completely free and can be found on websites like ours.
TIP: You should never pay to find work, it should always be you that gets paid.
Downloadable Guide Scam
This works in a similar way to the club membership scam above, however instead of gaining access to a members’ area you are either emailed or presented with a link to download a guide. Whilst the guide may occasionally contain some useful information, it is completely unnecessary to pay or provide your personal details to an unknown third party.
TIP: Again, never pay to find out information and protect your personal data from unwanted attention.
Fake Software Scam
This kind of scam involves you either knowingly or unknowingly installing software onto your computer which does not actually do what you thought it would. The software could be offered as an e-book or guide, or alternatively you may be mislead into thinking it’s a photo of something.
During your time on a computer, you may have heard of terms such as viruses, trojans, adware and spyware. Whilst these are all quite different, they are involve malicious and unwanted attacks on your computer. With so many things taking place on an average computer (including banking and shopping) it’s simply not worth compromising your security and giving a scammer access to your details.
TIP: Be cautious of email attachments and never download anything to your computer from an unknown source.
Money Transfer Scam
These scams are perhaps the oldest and most common, but also the most well known too. They are simple in that a scammer will request you send money to them by a generally non-refundable money transfer service (examples include Western Union).
The money transfer service in itself is not a scam and many people will use them each day legitimately without any problem. However the issue is that once you have paid your money to the mystery person, often located abroad, you will not receive anything and will lose out.
TIP: We’re sure you have realised by now from the other examples that you should never pay to find work.
Product Refund Scam
This scam is more common in person rather than on the internet, meaning you should be even more cautious as it can potentially be easy for a scammer to create a false sense of security and lure you in. It’s not exclusive to in person though, so can still take place online.
You will be given an ‘assignment’ which involves mystery shopping at either a physical store or online store. The task involves you not only providing feedback on the staff amongst other things, but also purchasing an item of usually relatively expensive value.
Before visiting the store, you are informed that you will be reimbursed for the cost of the item plus a fee for your time. Once you return to the scammer with your feedback and purchased product, you are paid by cheque for the cost of the item and a fee as promised. At this once, you may be thinking all is well, although the issue arises when the cheque doesn’t clear and you are out of pocket.
TIP: Some genuine assignments may require a test purchase, although they should never be for expensive items.