Watch Out For Secret Shopper Scams
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Apr 21, 2008
Just because some of us can spot a scam a mile away doesn’t mean everyone can. I’m usually pretty good, as in the case I’m about to tell you about, but I know I’ve been at least confused a couple of times by something. However, I’ll then do some research on it to figure out just what’s going on. For others,… well, if they know me, you know who they come to. 🙂
Such is the case of the letter that came to a friend of my wife’s. She had applied to some people to become a secret shopper. For those who don’t know, some companies hire people to go shop in their stores, then report back to the company how they were treated, what the store looked like, or any other comments that are requested. This is an industry that’s estimated to generate nearly $600 million in revenue a year in the United States; ouch.
Anyway, the woman was suspicious for one reason, luckily; they sent her a check to start off with, for $3,850.00. I’m not exactly sure how much real secret shoppers get up front, or even if they get paid up front, but that certainly is an odd amount. So she showed it to my wife, who brought it home to me.
The first thing that struck me is that the business name and the corporation name weren’t the same. Also, the corporation address was listed as being in New York City, but I didn’t immediately recognize the area code, which, upon research, I learned was in Canada. Nope, that didn’t jibe.
Now it was time to look up the companies listed. The first one I looked up was Monster Market Place. And there is a company with that name, but it’s an online company that’s actually a shopping directory. Nothing about secret shoppers there, but a host of news stories come up talking about the topic of scams and what they term “monster market place”.
So, the scam had been outed, but I needed to make sure. So I looked up the second name, Lamarche Associates, and there is a company with that name; an independent insurance company with offices in 4 states, but none of those offices in NYC.
Oh yeah, I didn’t tell you about the letter. This was the “deal”. They wanted the shopper to go into a specific store to test out how well they handled the process of wiring money through Western Union. The amount they were supposed to wire was only $250, yet they were getting a check for the amount I mentioned above; very much overkill. And come on, a wiring money test? Who’d fall for that, right?
Well, it seems a lot of people all across the country are falling for that. One of the news stories highlighted a guy who got a check for $2,500, kept $250 and wired the rest of it to the number he was given; yup, bogus. And, unfortunately, you have to pay back the bank; this guy was already out of work, so he took a major hit.
Don’t fall for obvious scams, folks. As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are a couple of websites you can go to in order to learn about legitimate secret shopping gigs. One is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, and another is Volition. Secret, or mystery shopping, doesn’t pay well, but some people think it’s fun.