West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers to be cautious when responding to offers to become secret or mystery shoppers.
Mystery shopping is actually a legitimate endeavor. A company will offer a person the opportunity to shop at one’s favorite stores and get paid for it. However, scammers have learned to take advantage of people’s desire to be part of such a venture.
“Mystery shopping can be a valid way to make some extra money,” Morrisey said. “But consumers need to have their wits about them or they can get ripped off.”
Real secret shopper opportunities can be found through the mystery shopping trade group, Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Scammers, however, will set up fake websites, post newspaper ads, and use emails to convince consumers that the money is free and easy.
Typically, the fake mystery shopping company will send a person a check to deposit and then ask one to “shop” for gift cards and send the company the cards or the PIN codes or ask the consumer to test a wire transfer service by sending the money to someone else. Then the check is identified as fake and the consumer is responsible for the money they spent. Or the fake mystery shopping company will want interested parties to pay a program fee to be certified or to be guaranteed an assignment.
Legitimate companies won’t require payment and won’t pay upfront for shopping.
Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a secret shopper scam should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.