5 On Your Side

Some mystery shopper jobs are scams

Posted August 31, 2010

— Advertisements for mystery shopper jobs make promises like “make $40 an hour” and “get paid to shop and eat.” While these jobs might sound great, many are scams.

“There's no reason to pay anybody any money to mystery shop,” said Elaine Buxton, head of Confero, which employs real “secret shoppers.”

“We do thousands of mystery shops each year all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico,” Buxton said.

From restaurants to retailers to banks, Confero’s mystery shoppers help businesses find out how they're doing.

Buxton said she is concerned about recent scams that are targeting people desperate to find a job.

Amy Baker told WRAL News that she was bilked out of $1,800 in such a scam.

In the scam, a company offers to pay for a person’s shopping and dining options. People get an official-looking check in the mail. They are asked to deposit it, then wire most of it back, supposedly to test the wire service. When the bank realizes the check is fake, it's too late.

Mystery shopper Many mystery shopping programs are scams

Because the check is fake, the person ends up wiring his or her own money back to the company.

WRAL viewer Michael Martin said he received an official-looking letter along with a check for nearly $3,000 to be a mystery shopper. It listed possible shops for companies such as KFC, McDonald's, Sears and Home Depot.

“You really should be suspicious of something for nothing and wiring money to anybody,” Buxton said.

To make the checks seem real, many of the scammers use the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies, including Confero, Buxton said.

“They go to that company's website and they find a logo, they stick it on top of a letter, create a fake letter and then they print these fake checks,” she said.

Just getting an unsolicited check should be a red flag.

“We would never ask you for money. We would never mail you a letter from Canada with a check in it,” Buxton said.

Buxton added not to believe the promises that lots of money can be made by being a mystery shopper.

Typically, if a person mystery shops at a restaurant, the meal is the compensation. The pay for other shops depends on the amount of time involved.

“I think the average compensation for a mystery shop is about $15,” Buxton said. “So, I don't see this as being something that someone could make a lot of money doing.”


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  • IzzMad2016 Sep 2, 2010

    3 emails last night with the promise of millions if I would be stupid enough to give them the info they ask for. That's 6 emails in 3 days. One of last nights emails actually scolded me for not responding to their first email.

  • JustAName Sep 2, 2010

    Maybe what the news people should do is, I don't know, hunt down the scam artists so we can line them up and shoot them.

  • IzzMad2016 Sep 1, 2010

    2 more emails last night from 2 other "barristers" in 2 other countries (one of them blatantly tells me they are in Nigeria -- scam capital of the universe) trying to give me millions once they get my personal information. They wouldn't keep doing it if it wasn't profitable for them......there's a sucker born every minute who will blindly take them up on their offer.

  • Pseudonym Sep 1, 2010


    If I got an unsolicited check, I would take it into the smallest room in the house and leave it behind me.

  • pulstar40 Sep 1, 2010

    Sometimes though they actually run ads looking for mystery shoppers --- so someone applies and then the scam begins. They send the test check, etc. etc. It's not always that a check just appears out of the blue.

  • Ksw1 Aug 31, 2010

    What was it Mr. PT Barnum said....?

  • no contest Aug 31, 2010

    If anyone falls for this scam, or even thinks for a minute that just maybe it could be real, they need to go back in time and have their parents bring them up better.

    Does anyone use their head these day?!

  • IzzMad2016 Aug 31, 2010

    Why I got an email just last night from a Mr. Faruq who is a bank executive holding 38 million in my name. All I have to do to claim this unexpected bounty is reply to his email with every personal detail imaginable except for maybe my shoe size. I cannot tell you how excited I am about getting these millions just for being me.

    Gosh I hope I didn't delete his email by mistake, 'cause I want the money........fortunately my mother didn't raise any dummies and I filed Mr. Faruq's email in the same bag I emptied the cat litter into.

  • johnstonredneck Aug 31, 2010

    If someone sent me a check, you better believe I would do one thing with it until AFTER it has cleared the bank!

  • simplemind2 Aug 31, 2010

    When will people ever learn? Why would anyone send you a check out of the blue? Because you are so special? Not!