March 31, 2016
Media Contact: Jerad Albracht, Senior Communications
Specialist, (608) 224-5007 or Bill Cosh, Communications Director, (608) 224-5020
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MADISON – For people who love to shop or travel, nothing beats the prospect of
free products, meals and overnight stays in exchange for completing a survey
about a store, restaurant or hotel’s services. While such a job does exist, the
vast majority of advertisements about these “mystery shopper” jobs are scams
(and could leave you in dire straits).
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
(DATCP) has seen an increase in complaints about mystery shopper scams over the
past month. Consumers are advised to be skeptical of advertisements and
unsolicited emails promising work as a secret shopper.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection has recently received a handful of
inquiries and five written complaints about fraudulent mystery shopper operations,
with one of the complainants losing nearly $1,000 in the scam.
All five complainants received a similar email solicitation. Two of the five
received realistic-looking checks and were asked to deposit them into their
bank accounts and wire a portion to another party. This is a common scam: the
checks are fake and the consumer will be on the hook for any withdrawn and
transferred funds when the bank discovers the forgery.
If you receive a similar solicitation for a secret shopper job, remember
It is not necessary to pay money to get into the
mystery shopper business.
The “shopping certifications” offered in these ads and
unsolicited emails are almost always worthless.
Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of
mystery shopper jobs are typically out of luck. Either the business does
not return phone calls or answers and tries another pitch.
These solicitations are often fronts for fake check
scams, with the mystery shopper’s first “assignment” being the evaluation
of a money transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. Reject any
request from a stranger to cash a check on their behalf and transfer a
portion of that money to someone/someplace.
Some retailers do offer their more loyal customers an opportunity to conduct
a “mystery visit” and to provide feedback in exchange for discounts or valuable
coupons at their stores. Others hire marketing research companies to evaluate
the quality of service in their stores, but the professionals in the field
consider mystery shoppers a part-time activity, at best. And, they add,
opportunities generally are posted online by established market research or
merchandising companies. Again, be suspicious of pitches that appear in
newspapers’ “help wanted” sections, in online classified ads or in unsolicited
For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer
Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov,
send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.
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