Mystery Shopping Scams

Mystery Shopping Scams

Unravel the mystery of mystery shopping scams! Stay informed about fake job offers and deceptive online shopping schemes. Safeguard yourself from fraudulent mystery shopping companies with valuable insights and tips.

Many retailers engage marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores. These companies utilize mystery shoppers to discreetly gather details. Assigned to make a specific purchase in a store or restaurant, the mystery shopper later reports on their experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed and may keep the purchased products. While some consider mystery shopping a part-time endeavor, opportunities are often posted online by advertising research or merchandising companies. Stay cautious and discerning to avoid falling prey to potential scams in the realm of mystery shopping.

The truth is, paying money to enter the mystery shopper business is unnecessary. Official-sounding certifications advertised through spam emails are almost always worthless. Lists of legitimate companies hiring mystery shoppers are available for free, and genuine job opportunities can be found online without charge. Those seeking refunds from promoters of mystery shopping jobs often find themselves out of luck. In many cases, these businesses either don't respond to phone calls or, if they do, it's an attempt to pitch another scheme. Stay wary of such practices to safeguard yourself from potential scams in the mystery shopping domain.

We've curated a list of reputable online agencies dedicated to combating scams, providing you with valuable insights into current and past mystery shopping alerts and various scam types. Stay informed and protected by referring to these reliable resources to navigate the mystery shopping landscape securely.

Facts of Mystery Shopping

  • Joining a legitimate mystery shopping program with a reputable company doesn't require any payment.
  • Conduct thorough research on mystery shopping. Explore libraries, bookstores, or online resources for guidance on finding legitimate companies hiring mystery shoppers and performing the job effectively.
  • Look for reviews and feedback online about companies accepting mystery shopper applications.
  • Never pay a fee to become a mystery shopper. Legitimate companies pay individuals for their work; they don't charge fees for employment.

You can visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at to access a database of mystery shopper courses and learn how to apply for them. While the MSPA offers certification programs for a fee, it's important to note that you don't need "certification" to access or apply for courses in its database. Be cautious of advertisements for mystery shoppers in a newspaper's 'help wanted' section or via email. While these companies may appear to be hiring mystery shoppers, they are more likely promoting unnecessary and potentially fake mystery shopping "services".

Feel Free to use our Spam Checker Tool

Our Spam Checker Tool is designed for your convenience. Simply enter the email address or contact number that you suspect to be a scam, and our tool will cross-reference it with our spam database to determine whether the information is legitimate or bogus.

Additionally, you have the option to report scams to the United States government. You can file a complaint about scams or other crimes through the provided channels.

How the mystery shopper scam works:

The modus operandi of this scam closely resembles the "work-from-home scam." The fraudulent organization posts a seemingly legitimate advertisement in reputable classified listings, either in print or online, for the position of a mystery shopper, secret shopper, or customer service evaluator. In some instances, scammers shortlist resume profiles from well-known job portals and send targeted emails with detailed job descriptions.

Once the victims are informed that they have been selected and hired as secret shoppers, the scammers claim that they will receive money orders to be used in their assigned projects. The victims' primary responsibility is to assess the service at a designated MoneyGram location. The scammers, employing a cunning approach, instruct the victims to wire money from the received money orders and return a completed evaluation sheet to the company.

Unfortunately, unsuspecting victims, believing they will receive the money orders within 10 business days, rush to complete the assignments ahead of schedule. They end up wiring money from their own accounts, and many victims find themselves with negative bank balances by the end of the assignment.

Cautions about Mysetery Shopper Scams:

Scam artists are exploiting the names of reputable business companies in an attempt to deceive unsuspecting consumers into cashing fake checks. Numerous consumers have reported receiving checks accompanied by a letter bearing the logos of well-known companies such as the Service Excellence Group, Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), Better Business Bureau (BBB), and National Speaker Association (NSA). Upon verification with the legitimate companies, it has been confirmed that scammers are illicitly using these names to defraud victims of their money.

  • As stated on the website, "There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check, cashier's check, or money order and ask you to wire money in return."
  • Exercise caution if a job posting claims to send you large sums of money for a mystery shopping assignment. The average compensation for a standard mystery shopping assignment is $15.
  • Reputable mystery shopping firms will collect your contact information through a company reporting platform. Do not fill out any forms sent to you via email.

Ways to proect yourself from secret shopper or mystery shopper scams:

  • It is always a good practice to verify the email address and the details of the company before accepting the job offer.
  • It is crucial to note that MoneyGram does not use secret shopper services. Any company that offers you a job to mystery shop at MoneyGram is a scam.
  • While Western Union uses secret shopper services, secret shoppers are never paid by cashier's checks or money orders. Companies that offer payment by the mentioned means should be verified before accepting the job offer.
  • Verify the legitimate list of secret/mystery shopper companies before accepting proposals from any companies. [Mystery Shopping Providers Association](

Some of the important resources that might help victims being scammed in the name of mystery shopper or secret shoppers:

Victims who have fallen prey to such fraudulent companies can report the email address and the company's name to the following resources to seek restitution. Victims of these scams can report them to the same places where Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scams are reported, including:

If you have fallen victim to a secret or mystery shopper scam, or if you have been contacted by scammers, it is advisable to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC also offers information about mystery shopping and the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at this link: When you report an experience about one scammer, the FTC ensures that users are made aware of these scammers and other victims are protected from falling prey to such scams.

Prevention is always better than cure. It is always good to be aware of different types of scams and the methodologies used by scammers to cheat victims. The below-mentioned screenshot is an extract from, providing information to users about the secret shopper scam. Mentioned are the ways to protect yourself from the mystery shopper scam and ways to report these scammers.

Real time Examples of mystery shopper scam:

Example 1:

The below-mentioned screenshot describes the story of a husband and a wife who received an unexpected check of almost $2000 from Walmart. They were asked to deposit the check for some mystery shopper assignment. It turned out to be a scam, which they realized later. Following this incident, Walmart issued a serious warning about mystery shopper scams operating in its name, sending fake checks to scam victims.

Example 2:

Below is another story of a victim describing the experience of a mystery shopper scam. The victim received a letter from the 'Experian Consumer Research Group" along with a legitimate-looking check of $4200. Upon verifying the details of this company, they discovered that many other users had received similar letters and checks, and it was documented as pure fraud. Mystery shopper fraud was committed by scammers sending users similar letters, ads, and checks.

Example 3:

We would like to inform you that we have received a Bank Draft cheque from a Reverend Father, which was unexpected given that we were supposed to send you a cheque through our Western Union money transfer service. In light of this situation, we kindly request you to fill out the attached form and promptly return it to us.

Example of what a mystery shopper scam letter would look like:

The image below serves as an example of a scam letter for a secret/mystery shopper assignment. We have also highlighted key points that victims should consider to identify potential scams and avoid falling prey to fraudulent schemes.