Beware of this “mystery shopping” scam

In these difficult times, you’ll see articles in various publications containing suggestions on how to boost your income. Some of the more popular suggestions are also supposed to make you the easiest money – “working from home” and “mystery shopping”.

While the promise of “easy money” should already alert you to the fact that these could be dodgy, the National Consumer Agency has already warned about the many “work from home” scams that will prey on desperate people – you can read more on that here.

Last week I noticed an article in The Argus in Louth, Man smelled a rat in advert. As it turns out, it’s a former National Consumer Agency staff member who exposes a “mystery shopping” scam he discovered when he noticed a suspicious looking advert in a newspaper.

Man smelled a rat in advert
By Margaret RODDY
Wednesday February 10 2010
QUICK thinking Michael McEneaney immediately ‘smelled a rat’ when he saw a job advertised as a ‘mystery shopper’.
Michael, from Dromena Road, Castlebellingham, who had taken early retirement from his job with the National Consumer Agency, answered the advertisement.
The job sounded ideal as he was told that it was ‘100% guarantee and risk free you don’t need to pay any fee to start’.
After exchanging a number of emails, Michael was told that he was approved and his first assignment was to call into any Western Union Service Store near him.
He was sent a cheque for £1,950, told to deduct £300 as his commission and given instructions to go to his nearest Western Union store and transfer the balance to a named person in London.
His years of experience with the National Consumer Agency meant that he immediately smelled a rat.
‘I wasn’t happy that all the numbers which came up on my phone were private, and although the man was supposed to be in Waterford when I phoned him he said he was in Africa at a conference.
‘I tried looking for the company’s name in the telephone directory and on google and could find nothing. The address didn’t even come up on my Sat Nav system,’ he says. He passed on details of the company to his former colleagues and they couldn’t find any record of it.
He said that he decided to ‘play along’ for a while, sending back emails to the contact, saying that he had received the cheque and lodged it in his account but it would take four days to clear.
‘The thing is, you were under pressure to complete the assignment, so if you had the funds yourself, you would go ahead and transfer the money, and by the time you had done this, you would discover the cheque was a dud,’ he warns. ‘You would then be at a loss of 1,500 which you had been told to send off.’
His message to others is simple: ‘Don’t get caught.’

This kind of scam is repeated in several different ways.

  • If you’re trying to sell a car, someone may very quickly offer to buy it from you, but they’ll send you a draft for more than you asked for and they’ll ask you to send a refund by cheque.
  • Alternatively, if you’re running a hotel or B&B, you might receive a large booking for which you’ll receive a deposit in the form of a draft, but again, in an amount greater than you need. Again, they’ll ask you for a refund by cheque.

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One Response to Beware of this “mystery shopping” scam

  1. brian staunton February 21, 2010 at 09:39 #

    watch the real hustle uncovered on BBC 3/4 thursday evenings ? uncovered similar scam mystery shoppers recruited given £20 to make purchase initially when they come back interviewed and told they got the only job. Sent of again to buy more expensive item and told they will be reimbursed when they come back. When they arrive back cheque written for value of item + £100 for mystery shop and told will be in contact again in afew days. Hustlers have room full of interviewes do the same coming back 1 by 1 when they all have bought expensive items hustlers clear off with goods only for `mystery shoppers’ to find cheque duds.
    Great programme realy opens your eyes.

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