For example, a ConsumerAffairs.com article investigated secret shopper website offers and found far too many individuals and companies claiming to be legitimate were just the opposite. Or as Top2005Scams.com "online fraud investigator" David Grisman explained:
"As a watchdog for work-at-home scams, I have thoroughly reviewed hundreds of mystery shopping websites, talking to their owners, reviewing their member's areas, and speaking to many of their clients and workers. Based on my research, I only recommend three websites out of the hundreds I've looked at, as they are the only ones that have met my stringent standard.”
The latest such scam offer came to my e-mail inbox under the subject line “Secret Shopper.” It sounded like a great deal, until I figured out how these people intended to fleece me out of some $3,000.
Here’s their basic spiel:
“Here is a chance for you to get a free shopping and dinner out, if you will like to be a Mystery Shoppers. You are to evaluate and give comment on customers services in different stores, shops and restaurant in your area code. You will be paid to shop and dine out, you will also have access to free meals, Free Merchandise, Free services, free Travel, Free entertainment and lot more. Your Identity would be kept confidential as the job states (secret shopper) you would be paid $150 for every survey you carry out, and bonus on your transportation allowance, and funds would be given to you if you have to dine as part of the duty. Your job will be to evaluate and comment on customer service in a wide variety of shops, stores, restaurant and services in your area. No commitment is made on this job, and you would have flexible hours as it suits you.
“If you are interested, you have to fill the list below so we can look at your distance from the locations which you have to put your service into, and your address would also be needed for your payments.”
It’s then signed by a “Hiring Manager” such as Stephen Morgan or Frank James (NEVER trust an offer from someone withe the same last name as a 19th century outlaw!).
Sounds nice enough, and it sounds even better when they UPS you a check for $3,300, with instructions to deposit the money (Oh, go ahead and get your $200 share out now if you’re ready), then go on a little spending spree at Wal-Mart, dropping $50 on whatever you want (“Goods of your Choice for your own Use) and taking another $25 for your transportation costs.
Really nice guys, right? As Bill Cosby’s “Noah” would say, “Riiiiiiiiight.”
Now that you’re feeling all chummy with your newfound friends, here’s where they try to stick the knife in: Your next step is to take the remaining $3,025 from the check you deposited in your own account (the check that hasn’t had time to clear their bank, by the way), go to the nearest Western Union office and wire them the $3,025.
Of course, a few days later, your bank informs you that the $3,300 you deposited was written on an account that had already been closed (the bank had probably already red-flagged i for suspected fraudulent activity) or had insufficient funds and the account holder had vanished like a puff of dust.
Either way, you’re out about $3,300.
There are legitimate offers in the business world to be secret shoppers, i.e., a normal citizen who goes into a designated store or restaurant and purchases goods or services, then evaluates the experience for the company that hired them to do the review. The secret shopper is reimbursed for their expenses, and may even get a few dollars extra. My parents were once secret shoppers for a company grading restaurants in Northeast Texas. They had several nice meals for free and actually were even able to pay for their gasoline.
But fakes and phonies like Stephen Morgan and Frank James just give us one more reason to not trust people in this world, one more reason to ask “Whatever happened to simple honesty and decency?”
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