5 Signs of a Mystery Shopping Scam

By Chris Durst

There are many legitimate mystery shopping jobs, but the scams continue to victimize the unwary.

Here are five signs that the offer you’re looking at is a scam:

1. It involves wiring funds. I list this first because it’s a huge red flag. No legitimate mystery shopping hirer is going to ask you to wire funds. Anywhere. For any reason. Period.

2. You’re offered a big fee for the assignment. A typical scam offers to pay you hundreds of dollars for a “shop.” Bogus! Legitimate mystery shopping jobs pay modest sums, $5 to $20 or so, with reimbursement for purchases.

3. You’re paid with a cashier’s check. These checks are usually the set-up in the “wire funds” scam. You deposit the check, your bank temporarily credits your account with the funds, you wire money to the scammer, then the bank tells you the check is bad. And you’re on the hook for the wired funds.

4. “Get paid to shop at Nordstrom and keep what you buy!” This is another common come-on. Who doesn’t want to shop for free at a high-end retailer, and get paid, too? Much more seductive than, say, a few free donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts. Except the donut assignment was probably legitimate, and you wouldn’t lose your checking account.

5. Typos and grammatical errors in the text. Many mystery shopping scammers are overseas, and don’t speak English as a first language. This shows up in their communications. We have one three-syllable word for what to do next: Run.

For legitimate mystery shopping jobs, see our Mystery Shopping Jobs page.