Here's a recipe for disaster: Easy money. Secret Shopper. Summer job. Work from home. Stir them all together and you'll end up ripped off.
Who hasn't received a Secret Shopper email? If you haven't read through one of them, they're pitching the idea of a job that pays you money just to go shopping and share your experiences.
While there might really be a job sort of like that, the ones that come by email or through overly rosy ads are fraught with peril. There are some clear-cut giveaways.
MoneyGram, which along with rival Western Union, is a frequent conduit for these scams is warning consumers to watch out for the Secret Shopper come-on.
“With the promise of fast money, it’s no mystery why a consumer might be lured into a fraudulent mystery shopper scheme, but that easy money could turn into a difficult financial lesson,” warns Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security and investigations for MoneyGram.
These scams typically play out like this: After responding to the ad or email, you'll be sent a check to cash. You are to use some of the proceeds to shop, keep some for yourself as payment and then wire the rest back to the service that hired you.
Here's the problem: They sent you a phony check, something you might not find out until a week or more after you've cashed it. Meanwhile, you've sent some and then sent them real money. Your real money. Money you're not going to get back.
Garner offers the following tips to help tell the difference between a real job and a scam:
Look for hints that the employer might not be legitimate, including not displaying a physical address or phone number.
Research the company and see what others have said and whether complaints have been filed.
Be very suspicious of any opportunity to make easy money.
Don't pay anyone money to receive money.
Don't wire money (you're sending cash) to anyone you don't know.
For more tips, check out MoneyGram’s anti fraud site.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com