The scam starts with an ad seeking a "mystery" or "secret" shopper. Interested parties contact the company about the position, and are sent an employment packet containing business evaluation forms, a training assignment, and a cashier's check, often ranging between $2,000 and $4,000. The training assignment is to cash the check, pose as a customer at a restaurant or store, and wire the money to an address in Canada.
But that check? It's fake. It bounces after the person wires the money, leaving the person liable for the fake check.
"Consumers need to know that a legitimate company will never send you a cashier's check out of the blue or require you to send money to someone you have never met," Chief Joe Miller said in an email.
Some secret shopper jobs are legitimate, but those looking should avoid companies that:
Advertise jobs for shoppers on the radio, in a newspaper's classified or "help wanted" section or through unsolicited email. Legitimate secret shopper companies generally do not advertise for jobs in this manner.
"Guarantee" a job as a mystery, secret, or investigative shopper.
Charge a fee just for applying or charge a fee for access to secret shopping job opportunities. You should not pay any fee to apply or to obtain job information.
Appear to be located in places outside the country, such as Canada. If the company does not have an established office nearby that you can visit in person, be very cautious.
If things seem amiss, contact the Better Business Bureau at 312-832-0500 .