There’s been an increase in employment scams pertaining to mystery/secret shopper positions, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The reason the secret shopper scam is so believable is because many retail and service corporations do hire evaluators to perform secret or random checks on their competitors. Scammers know this and capitalize on the opportunity.
Victims have reported to the IC3 they were contacted via e-mail and U.S. mail to apply to be a mystery shopper. Applicants send a resume and are told that they will be subject to an extensive background check before being accepted as a mystery shopper. The employees are sent a check with instructions to shop at a specified retailer for a specific length of time and spend a specific amount on merchandise from the store. The employees receive instructions to take note of the store’s environment, color, payment procedures, gift items, and shopping/carrier bags and report back to the employer. The second evaluation is the ease and accuracy of wiring money from the retail location. The money to be wired is also included in the check sent to the employee. The remaining balance is the employee’s payment for the completion of the assignment. After merchandise is purchased and money is wired, the employees are advised by the bank the check cashed was counterfeit, and they are responsible for the money lost in addition to bank fees incurred.
In other versions of the scheme, applicants are requested to provide bank account information to have money directly deposited into their accounts. The criminal then has acquired access to these victims’ accounts and can withdraw money, which makes the applicant a victim of identity theft.