"Mystery Shopper Scam" Is Out There And Can Lead To Debt Trouble, Overdrawn Bank Account, Even Be Cause Of Bankruptcy

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Posted on Aug 02, 2013

I had a lady from Houston come in recently that was struggling to make ends meet, and she had researched how to make extra money through mystery shopping. It is a real way to make some extra money.

You go to stores and evaluate the quality of the products or services and then report on your experience to the management or owners of the store. In return the mystery shoppers are paid something for their time and/or can keep the product or service that they received. You don't make a lot of money doing this, it is basically "pin money," but if you are broke or living on disability, it can help.

Well, this lady had found the wrong website, and she had signed up and received her first "assignment" as a mystery shopper. She received a $1600 cashier's check and was instructed that she was to mystery shop a money transfer service. She was told to deposit the cashier's check in her bank, wire $1350 cash to a third party using the money transfer service, and she could keep the $250 difference for her trouble, after giving an evaluation of how well her experience was with the money transfer service.

Well, you can guess what happened. She deposited the cashier's check in her bank, then wired the $1350. So far, so good. But then her bank told her that the $1600 cashier's check was no good. Whoops. And the bank wants her to make it good, since she endorsed the check and is responsible for it to the bank. She didn't have it. So the bank takes what money she has out of her and her husband's checking and savings accounts, closes her accounts, and reports her to Chexsystems, a credit reporting agency that deals with banks.

So now she will have trouble finding a bank that will open a checking or savings account for her and her husband. She'll have to repay the money to her bank, or possibly have to file bankruptcy to discharge the bank overdraft, since she is already in debt trouble.

Don't get taken in by this scam. If you decide that mystery shopping is for you, research companies thoroughly, and don't wire money to anyone as part of it. Companies pay you to mystery shop; you don't have to pay them.

Also, according to the Federal Trade Commission, don't do business with mystery shopping companies who:

  • Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email.
  • Require that you pay for “certification.”
  • Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
  • Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
  • Sell directories of companies that hire mystery shoppers.
  • Ask you to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to someone.



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