Mystery Shopping Scam
Steer clear of this get-rich-quick scheme
[March 21, 2013- Nashville, TN] – Are you looking for work that includes spending money, shopping, and getting paid? A mystery-shopping job just might suit your needs; however, BBB warns consumers of a fraudulent mystery shopping scam going by the name "LS Management" and claiming to be located on Ingram Blvd in LaVergne, Tennessee.
Consumers who fell for this scam told BBB they received a letter and check, in the amount of $1922.75, in the mail that indicates the consumer had been "selected to participate in a paid mystery shoppers program...." The letter goes on to state..."you must keep your identity and assignment as a mystery shopper CONFIDENTIAL...." and asks the consumer to log into the company's website to activate the enclosed check. Once logged in, the consumer is given assignments to pose as a customer for companies like MoneyGram, Walmart, Costco, or Home Depot and asked to deposit the check into their bank account.
Consumers who followed the company's instructions and cashed the checks later found out that the checks were fraudulent. One consumer indicated she wired over $800 to a recipient in Madrid, Spain as part of her mystery shopping assignment, and that her bank froze her account because the check was fraudulent.
BBB attempted to reach the business at the advertised phone number of 901.942.8310; however, a recorded message indicated the company could not take the call due to a high call volume. BBB notes that the area code for that phone number is a Memphis, TN exchange rather than a LaVergne, TN exchange. BBB also visited the company's advertised location in LaVergne, TN and found no such business. BBB advises consumers to steer clear of this get-rich-quick mystery-shopping scheme, as it will only lead to empty bank accounts and consumer responsibility of returning the fraudulent funds to the bank.
BBB offers the following general advice regarding Mystery Shopping offers:
Shop, Dine AND Get Paid?
The e-mail or letter is enticing: "You get PAID and receive FREE meals, products, and services from big name, recognized companies for your opinion because we need Professional Business Evaluators!"
It is true that Mystery Shopping, developed over half a century ago, has grown into a $1.5 billion dollar industry. But not until a Wall Street Journal reporter revealed the amazing lifestyle of freelance Mystery Shoppers to the world, did the scam artist find a way to add their own mystery to the industry.
What is a mystery shopper? Most mystery shoppers are everyday consumers that pose as real customers to evaluate how a store, bank, auto dealership or restaurant is doing in their everyday business practices. In today's highly competitive marketplace, many companies are looking for a competitive edge. The use of mystery shoppers helps evaluate how employees connect with the customer, how clean the bathrooms are or if the salesperson was courteous.
Sounds like a fun, easy job right? Unfortunately, if you respond to email links for mystery shoppers you are likely to find a web site claiming to help you get daily work all for a $25 - $35 fee. BBB has found that in most cases these websites have one thing in common...raking in your hard-earned cash while providing little useful information or resources for helping you get work as a mystery shopper.
Other mystery shopping scams send out unsolicited letters by mail that contain fraudulent checks. The most common type of scheme involves a counterfeit cashier's check, traditionally considered a trusted form of payment. Unfortunately, the advent of high quality printers and scanners is making it easier for counterfeiters to produce official-looking checks of all types and caliber, including cashier's checks.
The problem occurs when a consumer deposits the counterfeit check in a bank account and, a few days later, asks the financial institution if the money is "available." When told yes, the consumer assumes that they can safely draw upon that money. That is not the case! Until the financial institution can confirm the funds have been "finally collected", the consumer is responsible for any funds they may withdraw against that check deposit. The amount of time it can take for the bank to finally collect the money can vary, particularly with out-of-state or out-of-country checks.
In most cases, victims report that they wired money to the check issuer only to find that the deposited check was uncollectible. This has happened to consumers who responded to mystery shopping opportunities and were told to deposit a cashier's check and then wire money elsewhere, usually Canada, only to discover later that the checks were counterfeit.
BBB advises consumers to carefully research any 'mystery shopping' business. Understand whether the company is offering to employ you directly, merely provide you with information about mystery shopping, or simply there to collect fraudulent funds. If you are asked to purchase training materials or a directory of companies that offer mystery shopping opportunities exercise caution.
Look for reputable firms that:
- Qualify and train mystery shoppers to perform specific evaluations.
- Enjoy a good reputation with their clients and shoppers.
- Do not charge a fee to complete an application.
To steer clear of get-rich-quick offers, the BBB advises mystery shopper applicants to:
- Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily. Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income.
- Avoid falling for claims that "guarantee" a position, without training.
- Be cautious of unsolicited e-mails & letter offering "work-from-home."
- Never pay money up-front. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training or recruiting.
- Never cash unsolicited checks as they are most likely fraudulent.
- Obtain the name of the company and check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general.
Consumers can obtain more information regarding mystery shopping through the Mystery Shopping Providers Association by visiting www.mysteryshop.org.
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The BBB of Middle Tennessee, Inc. was founded in 1961 as a non-profit Tennessee organization serving 38 counties in Middle Tennessee and 7 counties in Southern Kentucky. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada.
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