Whether you’re a college student, stay-at-home parent or retiree, mystery shopping is a fun and legitimate way to make some extra cash — sometimes a lot of extra cash.
But secret shoppers beware: mystery shopper scams are a thing. So, if you’re considering one of these gigs, you need to stay alert for shady shopping jobs.
Mystery shopper con artists will always lurk around the internet so it’s important to know how they operate.
The Most Common Mystery Shopper Scams
Like most cons, mystery shopper scams come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common ones you might encounter when looking for a secret shopper job.
The “Oops We Overpaid You” Scam
One of the most common mystery shopping scams involves getting a victim to give up their name and mailing address, ostensibly so the fake company can advance the shopper some money for a gig.
When the victim receives a check in an amount larger than they were expecting, Fake Company tells them to deposit it in their personal bank account and wire back the overage amount. (Hint: if a company asks you to wire money, it’s probably a scam !)
You guessed it. The check bounces and the victim is out whatever money they wired to Fake Company, never to be seen again.
The US Postal Service warns against a similar scam involving unsolicited mailings from scammers inviting people to become mystery shoppers.
Be sure to check out the copy of an actual fake check and letter to see how convincing these con artists can be.
The “Buy Us a Gift Card” Scam
A not-so-fun twist on the fake check scam is the gift card scam. Scammers impersonate real companies and get mystery shoppers to send prepaid gift cards — only to steal them without ever reimbursing the victims.
Here’s an example of how it works. Fake Company sends you a check for $500. They instruct you to buy a $500 value Target gift card with the money they sent. Then, they ask you to send pictures of the gift card…