It’s not a big surprise for mystery shoppers to hear that scam artists are constantly trying to interfere with our daily work and rob us of our time and money through their plots and scams. The fact is that because mystery shoppers work remotely, we are indeed very prone to becoming targets for various online scams. Yet if you keep your eyes open and know what to look for, you can prevent yourself from falling victim to a scam artist and losing your valuable time and money in the process.
Unsolicited Contact. Many scam artists send out bogus work offers to mystery shoppers, and these work offers often are from people who we don’t know. They may not bother to introduce themselves, or they may say they got your name from someone who do know who works in the industry. If you have been contacted by such an individual, you can look into the office, but generally it’s a good idea to contact that person who apparently referred you to them to ensure that the work offer is on the up and up.
Fishy Work Offers. One of the biggest tell-tale signs of a scam in progress is a fishy work offer. Most assignments will ask you to make a small purchase, and often at least a portion of that expense is reimbursed by the provider. However, if someone asks you to make a large purchase, to cash checks, or to put your own finances on the line in a significant way, you should turn around and run. These offers, more often than not, are indeed scams.
From Those You Know. Scam artists are becoming more and more savvy each day, and they have been known to assume the identity of real providers. Sometimes they will copy the providers company name, and sometimes they will even use an email address and employee name that is very similar to someone who works at a company you regularly work for. Because these scams can be difficult to spot, you do want to keep your eyes open at all times. If you think you have been contacted by a scam artist who is assuming the identity of someone else in the industry, go through your own routes to locate that person’s or company’s phone number (and never use a phone number provided in the bogus email), and then verify that the work offer is legit on your own.
More often than not, most of the work offers you receive will be legitimate work offers from legitimate providers, but many a mystery shopper has been duped simply because they had a blind eye to the possibility that they could become the target of a scam. If you believe you have been targeted, you should notify the SEC and your local attorney general’s office, and you should also hop onto the online mystery shopping forums to let your fellow mystery shoppers know about the scam, too. The only way to stop these scam artists is to shut their plots down before they really get going!