Many companies hire consumers to patronize stores and restaurants, reporting and describing their experience as a customer in those businesses. These "undercover consumers" are known as mystery shoppers or secret shoppers. It can be a legitimate "work from home" opportunity.
There are also many scams that try to take advantage of customers looking to work from home. In most scams, a consumer receives an unsolicited piece of mail, e-mail or phone call offering them a job as a secret shopper. The scammers may try to steal the consumer's identity, use the overpayment scam or simply try to take money from customers while delivering nothing in return.
To avoid scams:
- Avoid companies that contact you unsolicited. Instead, seek out a reputable company.
- Check a company's reputation using the Attorney General's Know MO feature or your local Better Business Bureau.
- Remember the adage "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Scams will often promise outrageously high hourly fees, when in reality, most secret shoppers are paid by the assignment.
- Never pay in advance to be a secret shopper. Scams may ask you to pay an application fee, administrative fee or some other cost.
Sample secret shopper scam
This sample secret shopper scam attempts to entice an unwary victim into "secretly shopping" at Moneygram. Enclosed with the letter is a bogus check for $7200 and instructions to wire $5950 to the scammer. Including costs the victim will wind up at least $6200 in the hole after the bogus check bounces.