Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Beware of Scams!

Scammers take legitimate names of mystery shopping provider companies and use them for fraudulent purposes.  Scammers also take their fraudulent check cashing schemes and label them "secret shopping" when it’s nothing but a check scam. Unfortunately, the mystery shopping industry and mystery shopping provider companies get a bad rap with novice inquirers seeking information.  

I have personally be the victim of an attempt to scam.  I was sent a check from an unknown source with a letter and instructed to cash it and forward the money via western union to another unknown source.

Many scammers will purchase names, addresses and email addresses to make contact with people and introduce fraudulent business opportunities.  The business opportunities that are presented ARE LEGITIMATE OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE MONEY; such as Secret Shopping. 

The scammer uses their own tactic to deceive the recipient into swindling money from them IN THE NAME of the opportunity rather than offer the legitimacy of the opportunity.

For instance Secret Shopping has been around for nearly a century and commenced it’s humble begins in financial institution in the United States to ensure the integrity of their employees.  Because of the nature and pure ambiguity of secret shopping and the fact that it is not a marketed business opportunity; finding out that  one can receiving valuable products and or services for free and get paid to do so tends to brings about skepticism.  Along with skepticism; the research involved in finding legitimate companies that hire contractors become a task.  Those seeking information become willing to pay to get the information and novice seekers pay for unnecessary or fraudulent information.

When it comes to gathering information about secret shopping the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association) has made the search a little more convenient.  The MSPA has lists of associated companies who do not charge individuals to sign up to become secret shoppers.  The MSPA also offers a certification program for shoppers to assist the companies contracting shoppers in hiring competent shoppers.

If you or someone you know is skeptical about a company; research them through the MSPA.  The MSPA is a legitimate source for information for secret shoppers.  Even if the company is not associated with the MSPA the MSPA may be able to verify the legitimacy of the company.

Contact the company and ask to converse with a representative either by email or phone regarding their procedures and policies for contracting and paying shoppers.  Mystery shopping companies provide shoppers with applications, Independent contracting agreements, I-9 Forms and at times Non-Disclosure agreements. 

Be very leery of a unfamiliar company that sends you an email requesting your personal information, has no web site or phone number for person-to-person contact.  Never attempt cashing a check for work you have not performed or agree to wire money to an unfamiliar company.

If you have been the victim of fraudulent activity make sure you have kept all documentation and dates of conversations and transactions, name(s), email address(es), contact information if any, receipts and or credit card/bank statements if you have paid any monies out.  Report your incident to your local police and the companies listed below.  These companies were created to handle such internet fraud:


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