The mystery shopping scam that could cost you a fortune.

by Paul Michael on 19 June 2007 66 comments

debt

For many years now, thousands of folks have been earning a little extra cash by doing Mystery Shopping (aka Secret Shopping). You probably already know what’s involved, but here’s a quick rundown from the FTC:

Some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores; these companies use mystery shoppers to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service.

Sounds good. And it is, when it’s genuine. Mystery shoppers get to eat for free, try new products (and keep them) at another company’s expense, and basically get paid for doing do what they were going to do anyway. Sweet deal.

However, once again the con artists have found another avenue to practice their trade, and it’s costing people a small fortune.

The scam
It’s a combination of employment fraud and a wire-transfer scam. Unfortunately, it preys on people who actually need money the most. Mystery shoppers tend to be folks who need a little extra income to make ends meet, and the promise of good money for little effort is way too tempting.  What’s more, as I pointed out earlier, this is a legitimate way to make money. So spotting the real shopping assignments from the fake ones can be tough (more on that later).

You may answer an ad in the newspaper, or get a piece of mail, but the premise is the same. It involves a cashier’s check (warning sign #1) and a simple assignment. You’ll probably receive the check in a very official-looking employment packet, along with instructions on what to do with it. Usually, you’ll cash the check, say for $3000, and then wire the sum of $2600 to an address provided. You will keep the remaining $400 and submit a report on the whole process. Was it good? Did it go smoothly? How was the customer service?

Other versions of the scam ask you to cash the check, use the Western Union service at a local store, such as a WalMart, and then send some of that money to a given address. Again, you keep the difference for yourself.

The “shopper” is also put under extreme pressure to do the whole assignment in 2 days or less, for obvious reasons. And you can guess what happens. The cashier’s check bounces and the mystery shopper is left out of pocket. Sometimes, it can be five-figure damage. You may think "Ha, I'd never fall for that!" Good for you. But hundreds of other people have said the same thing and have also been scammed. These guys look and sound like the real deal, complete with corporate stationery and professional websites.

So, how do you tell the real assignments from the fake?
The FTC has some good advice, listed below, on spotting the real firms from the scam artists. Read it carefully.

First, how to spot real companies:

Search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications. Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee. Many accept applications online.

Do some homework about mystery shopping. Check libraries or bookstores for tips on how to find companies hiring mystery shoppers, as well as how to do the job effectively.

Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at www.mysteryshop.org for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general.

And be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:

Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it’s much more likely that they’re pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping “services.”

Sell “certification.” Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.

Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.

Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.

Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.

I think the best advice I can offer is NEVER accept a cashier’s check from someone you don’t know and trust, and never wire money to strangers. Legitimate mystery shopping companies will never ask you to disburse money from your own checking account, so that should be a warning sign for you.

And of course, the golden rule always applies. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Keep your wits about you folks.

Some helpful links:

From the FTC

From Snopes.com

From my local news station

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Guest's picture
bill

Good heads up. The old adage is true for mystery shopping, if you have to pay to shop or for information, it is a scam.

The information is free, and they pay you to shop/or reimburse you for your meal. All the information is free, and Volition.com has a good directory of mystery shopping companies.

The only thing that you have to do is spend a lot of work on the front end to fill out applications.

My family and I have been shopping for about 10 years. You don't get rich doing it, it is almost like a hobby. And who wouldn't want to get paid to eat, or go to Disney (yes for one year we shopped Disney while living in Orlando and got free Admission!)

Jessica Okon's picture

I'm signed up with one of the legit companies, unfortunately the few opportunites that have come my way were not lucrative enough for me to drive across town.
I received an offer of an assignment today to go to a major retailer of home furnishings--the prize was to be $10 for my time & $7 reimbursement for product. I deduced the drive alone would cost me at least $6 in gas. $17 an hour is not shabby by any means, but not for this situation.

I have a friend who's retired parents make a living mystery shopping for banks, but they're hardcore, their work involves lots of travel and overnight stays.

I have also been on the other end of things & have been "shopped' while working for a department store. The stores do take the results of these very seriously. Of course, we were given a head's up so most people were on their Ps & Qs (whatever that means.)

Good story paul!

Guest's picture

Hi Paul,
escelent post,
I work as Marketing Manager for one well known Mystery Shopping company http://www.gapbuster.com, we have Shell, McDonalds, Starbucks and more big brands on our program.
Dairy I received numerous histories about scams in our industry,
It's bad for us, its's bad for the consumers.
My TIPs are:
- 1) All the reliable companies DO NOT charge to subscriptions
- 2) All the reliable companies DO NOT promise get rich schems
- 3) All the reliable companies are registered on the MSPA - Mystery Shopping Association website (http://www.mysteryshop.org)that by the way, offers a job board with heaps of available assignemtns
- 4) And as you said, just pay attention to the requirements, if they require you more details than need, aks them why.

Good Luck
Lucio Dias Ribeiro

Guest's picture

I meant
Excellent...

Guest's picture
Hosmall

Hi Lucio,

I do a lot of mystery shopping for various companies. When I find a new company I generally try only one shop first and work it through til the end just to see if it is real. I have eliminated a lot of fly by night scam companies. The last experience was with Maritz. They pay $5.00 for the shop, $5.00 toward a fuel purchase and $1.00 toward a purchase inside. Then you need to take 5 or more pictures (can be up to 36 pictures) You are required to fill out a survey of 18 or more questions, up load the picture in a certain order and wait to see if it is accepted. Which it wasn't of course, they wanted me to go back and get more pictures. I pulled the plug right away. It was 17 miles to the station I spent 45 minutes at the station and returned to fill out the survey which took another 50 minutes. You do the math it wasn't worth it in any way. The only reason I picked that station was that it was on my way to work 22 miles away, where I make around $45.00 an hour as CAD Operator.
Oh by the way we need to do spell checks o our work.

HOSmall

Guest's picture
Guest

Maritz is legitimate company, I do not know your particular shop took so much work but I have been shopping for them for almost a year now and have never spent more that twenty minutes filling out the surverys and completing the shop.

Guest's picture
Guest

This evening I received a letter and a hefty check in the amount of 3,950
from the Maxonic Monitoring and Research Services, the name on the check was: Kimberly Clark: P.O. Box 59022
Knoxville, TN 37950-9002 and made out to me with my home address. Which I must have signed up for a work at home position for one of these advertising sites, but whether it was a phishing site is unknown to me tonight. I am still trying to get over the shock of almost being scammed.

was so excited, and over-whelmed, my first thought was, "this has to be a scam." However, as a new business owner and in need of making more income, to cover the cost. I have to admit, I was already prepared to drive to the bank in the morning to deposit the check. Thankfully, there is the internet, with all of this information available to unsuspecting customers.

I am an intelligent person working on a graduate degree, I own a business and I didn't think I was that "naive" until this evening.

If I can be fooled even for twenty minutes, I can understand why so many other people would fall for it. When you are trying to get a head, its easy to let hope drive a person in the wrong direction sometimes.

What I don't understand about people who spend so much of their seemingly intelligent minds and time trying to gain money from people who probably have less then them, is why don't they use their computer knowledge and obvious skill for business, even if it is the wrong type of business to secure an honest line of work.

it makes me so angry.
I work over sixty hours a week trying to get my first business off of the ground, I have not saw a paycheck in about two years, and then I receive this enormous check in the mail and think,

"its a bout time, I get something for all of my hard work." Only to learn, its another person in cyber space trying to turn a buck at the expensive of hard working individuals who really need ever penny they can get.

My glasses broke recently, so I've been using a magnifying glass to get my work done, even without the profits, and the very long hours behind my desk, I would never, ever, ever try to take from another person.

I don't see why these people are so adamant in stealing, have they no conscious what so ever? Err. really irritate me.

This is my second bout with scam this year, which is why I am so aggravated. The first was a person claiming to be my son, who I have not saw in over ten years. that was the worst scam ever, and I only hope no other person has to be subjected to that type of crime, it took a lot from me, more then any amount of income could cost to replace. They took my hope, my sprit and
ultimately, my trust in people.

Thieves, I have but one tip for you, and one only.
STOP IT---we don't deserve this, and you should want more for yourself. Have some pride, use your skills for some good, it may take you longer, and you may get a lot less but I guarantee, that when you do things the right way, your life changes. You become a better person, it doesn't matter how much you got, or how little, its your worth that counts, your individual worth as a person.

It cannot be measured with a dollar sign.

--Sincerely,

Katina M. Woodruff
Owner of
One Stop Write Shop
http://www.onestopwriteshop.com
Publish Writing, Community for Writers, Contest

Guest's picture
Guest

And a spokesperson for your firm would more than likely speak English and know how to make a grammatically correct sentence. You failed on both accounts so retreat to the little third world country you run your scam from and relish in the fact that you will likely spend the rest of your days sucking off the teat of another.

Guest's picture
Joni Utley

Hi Lucio,
I signed up with Gapbuster Worldwide, submitted personal information, completed the training video, passed with 100% and instructed to begin searching for jobs, I was not able to aquire the drop down boxes information so submitted a "contact us" request three times, still no answer. I noticed you worked for this company, I could not find any contact information other than submitting the three requests I did. Is there another way to contact these people? The web site I applied on was xec.gapbuster.com/. I can still log on but unable to get into the job postings. Any assistace would be greatly appreciated!
Joni

Guest's picture
Lynda Rule

Does being a reliable company involve paying your shoppers? I have not been paid for jobs I have done for GapBuster, since October 2012, despite many emails providing my account details over and over (although I had been paid for the previous year I did jobs without a problem), and asking for explanations and payment.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have submitted over 10 emails to Gapbuster over outstanding payments owed and not recieved a single reply. Now I am locked out of my account. DO NOT TRUST GAPBUSTER THEY ARE CON ARTISTS.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm sorry Lucio but you cannot say that Gapbuster are not complete con artists. They reject completed assignments and then don't reply to emails with an explanation.

I would tell anyone to avoid this company at all costs!

Paul Michael's picture

I took a look at your site, and did a quick check with the BBB (hope you don't mind). The BBB gives your company 0 complaints over 36 months, a quite exceptional record. Your site answers many questions and, take note WB readers, is free to join.

One question I do have is about certification. The FTC says it's not required, yet you offer certification. Is that necessary, or something optional. And do you charge a fee for it?

THanks.  

Guest's picture

Back in the day, when I worked as a social worker four days a week, I did a lot of mystery shopping for awhile. It was fairly interesting to snoop on businesses, I could take my young son along, I'd typically end up somewhere I wouldn't normally have gone, and I'd get something for free. Of course, it wouldn’t have been worth it to miss work to do a shop, but even for someone unemployed or working part-time, mystery shopping is generally just a break-even venture.

The $17/hr example above doesn't take into account the time it takes to print and read the instructions, drive to the location, find parking, do the shop, drive home and fill out the narrative questionnaire. Occasionally, the company wanted me to do a section over again, "costing" more time. Conservatively, it took at least two hours to do a shop for something like eating a certain sandwich at a deli or asking about banking services.

If you were trying to fill hours with an activity, really needed the service offered (like oil changes), were going to be in the area anyway or could walk to the location, mystery shopping makes more sense. Even for mystery shopping businesses with the most stellar reputations, reimbursement checks don't arrive for 3-6 weeks; depending on when in the month you did the shop. If you purchase a fairly big-ticket item, you're out the cash until the check finally arrives. A favorite shop of mine was dinner for two at a fancy steak house. Delicious and fun, but it was only because I’m no longer a social worker that I didn’t sweat the $150 tab for several weeks until I was reimbursed.

While I quickly learned that mystery shopping wasn't worth it for me, I do participate in user groups and focus groups. Those companies tend to work around participant's work schedules and pay $50-$100/hr cash on the spot to hear your opinions. I've never yet attended a focus group that wasn't at least somewhat interesting, although answering questions like, “If this kitty litter were a car, what kind of car would it be?” did border on the absurd.

Jill Walser

Guest's picture
Guest

Ok. I don't get it. You said NOT to pay for certification, but on the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, it offers certification.....for $15!!
???????????

Just curious!

-Jen

Paul Michael's picture

I am just as curious about that. Personally, I don't think it's necessary at all. But I'm waiting for a reply. 

Guest's picture
Pooch

Paul I am a long time Mystery Shopper with more than 12 years of experience. I am a Telephone Mystery Shopper; conducting shops for Call Centers, Banks, Medicare, Insurance, many other types of retail. I am Silver and Gold Certified through the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association. They offer two levels of certification, Silver and Gold.

You are correct; Certification is not needed to become a Mystery Shopper. With that said, there are many advantages to being certified. Certified Mystery Shoppers are seen as more reliable Shoppers. There are many new Shoppers who think this is an easy get wealthy or get stuff free industry. Often times they sign up and then fail to conduct the shop, fall short following the Shop Guidelines and/or fail to submit the report.

Certification demonstrates to Schedulers that you are reliable and take the industry seriously. Oftentimes, I am called on to reshop locations which have not been done correctly. I may be offered opportunities first or offered additional pay or bonus pay because of my Certifications.

I am able to negotiate with Schedulers too. They know that they can depend on me and may offer me a circuit of shop locations. I am often called on to conduct shops that do not show up on the company’s website. I often and called on to do those shops.

The Industry has changed a lot in a few short years. Shoppers no longer send in faxed or complete hand written reports as was done when I first started as a Shopper. The Internet is certainly changing the way Shoppers are recruited and Social Networks are having a huge impact on the way Shops are completed and reported. Certified Video Shopping is becoming a mainstay in the way some sectors within Mystery Shopping conduct business.

As the Social Networks, Internet and other technologies continue to expand and effect how we communicate, the Mystery Shopping Industry will continue to evolve. No, Certification is not currently required to be a Mystery Shopper, but it certainly helps to make the serious Shoppers more competitive.

Guest's picture
sarastrick

I happened to be researching mystery shopping for myself just yesterday, and read on the FTC site about looking out for companies offering or requiring certification. As Jen mentioned above, the FTC recommends the Mystery Shopper Providers Association, but the association sells certification. So, is the MSPA scamming or are companies beginning to ask for certified mystery shoppers?

Guest's picture

Hi Paul,
no worries,

We've been monitoring our image with BBB, and that's a reflex of our work, we do mystery shopping at the most reliable way.

About the Certification, the answer is NO, you Don't need to have certification form MSPA. You can apply as a Mystery Shopping at www.gapbuster.com an take our online training free.

Just to clarify a few things:

What is certification and why do GAPbuster shoppers need to take a certification test?

GAPbuster shopper’s a required to complete a certification test to be eligible to shop for our clients. Certification gives shoppers all the information they need in order to shop for each client correctly.

Certification is completely FREE ON OUR WEBSITE and is set up in order to educate and train our shoppers to shop for our clients.

Think of it as a mystery shopping diploma. GAPbuster’s certification includes a virtual
tour/ simulation of a mystery shopping job, it’s actually great fun.
At the end you’ll need to pass a test based on the information you’ve been presented in the tour/ simulation to be certified and eligible to shop for that particular client.

MSPA charges an amount for a general training. But as I said, YOU DON'T NEED to get the MSPA training to be a Mystery Shopping for different companies.

All other mystery shopping companies have their own free training and they are not connected to the MSPA.

Paul Michael's picture

I appreciate all of your input. Tthank you for being involved in a valuable service that is 100% genuine.

Guest's picture
Gill

if any mystery shopper company tells you TO WIRE MONEY to anywhere it's a scam.........i nearly fel for this scam recenty.

Guest's picture

The single most important thing to remember when it comes to mystery shopping companies and avoiding scams is to never send money.

No legitimate mystery shopping company will every ask you for money or charge a fee to join them.

Guest's picture
Tracey

I got an letter in the mail today from ISCL Independent Shopers Company LTD. the campaign Coordinator is Patric Newman and I just wanted to know if it was legit or not.

Tracey

Guest's picture
Rich12345

Despite the unfortunate scams that are rife at the moment, there are some good mystery shopping sites out there, which are genuine, such as the following:

www.ukims.co.uk/docs/services/mystery-shopping.asp

www.mysteryshopmybusiness.com

www.oldenough2drink.co.uk

Guest's picture
Guest

I recieved a check in the mail last week, in the amount of $3,840 from a company named Service Performance Group, Inc.. My assignment was to deposit the check and withdrawl $3540. I was to go to any western union or money gram and transfer $3250.00 to someone name Garry Fuller. $190 was for the cost of transfer fees, I could keep the remaining as my salary or for shopping. Plus $100 for shopping at any Sears, Wal Mart, Kmart, Victoria's Secret, Home Depot, JcPenny and so on... and i could keep whatever i bought. I was to call my "assigned coordinator" Mellissa Cole after every assignment. She instructed me to fax all the required forms to the phony fax number. I must have tried to fax these papers 5 times, and everytimei did, i'd get a busy signal or it told me that the number was not a working one. The holiday was coming up, so i was going to wait till monday to call my "coordinator". By this time i checked my checking account activity and it was negative $3400 because that check i cashed was a fake! This morning I searched that internet for the company and it came up legit. So, I called the customer service number on the website. the man that picked up the phone immediately told me that i was scammed and that the people who were scamming me are using his good company name. I knew that it was too good to be true! Now i'm out almost over $3500 dollars. Money we could've saved for the arrival of our new baby and payments on our new car. I was scammed! If i report this to the police, will i be in trouble for sending large amounts of money to someone i didn't know?

Guest's picture
MystifiedMan

Hi there

I have read the various posts here and am still curious whether the mystery shop I have been assigned is a scam. I have a cashiers check for $3,400 and I am to buy $100 worth of goods, keep $200 and send the rest.

I have not been asked for banking details or social security number. If I cash it, I will most definitely wait for it to clear before sending any money. I suppose this would just cost me the bounce fee if it didn't go through?

Apparently the name of the company I am dealing with is a well known mystery shopping company but I also don't know if they are simply using that name.

One thing that I am cautious about is that the Remitter on the check, the signature on the check, the person I am wiring the money to and the person I got the assignment from are all different (but I guess that could be explained as well even if legitimate).

Any advise. Is this possibly a real one? If not, any way of getting these guys?

Mystified Man

Guest's picture
Guest

I got a $2680.00 check in the mail today after signing up to do surveys and stuff online - It was so official looking, even said it was listed with the BBB! Luckily I checked and yes they are, with an article about these fake checks! Glad I'm suspicious by nature.

Guest's picture
Guest

Gapbuster are fraudulent. Beware

Guest's picture
Guest

Hi. I would really like some more information about this post or if anyone else has some information. I have carried out surveys for Gapbuster for about a year and have had no problems until recently. On two occasions recently they have queried my reports and said they would not pay. The most recent one was for something outside of my control. I have noticed a change in their attitude recently which bothers me and I wonder if anyone else has been having problems too.

Guest's picture
Guest

Yes I have had the exact some problem with gapbuster this month! They queried one of my reviews and it was immediate from the line of questioning that they were looking for an excuse not to pay for the assignment and then I received an email saying that they would not pay me. It seems very strange to me as the review wasn't critical it just simply stated the facts. I am now reluctant to give negative reviews for any of my assignments as it seems that they are looking for reasons not to pay people at the moment. I've been recommended two other companies by friends TNS and Acumen, I will work for them instead from now on.

Guest's picture
Guest

For the person that claims gapbuster are fraudulent, would you care to expand as I'm unclear what you mean? I've only had positive experiences in dealing with them and I know I'm not alone on that.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

This comment is for the two individuals who made a posting regarding receiving a check in the mail. Please be careful. There have been numerous posting on the internet informing individuals that those checks are scams. If you want to really make sure if the check is legitimate, go to your bank and ask the bank if the check is legitimate. Do not deposit the check into your checking account. Most banks are aware of the scam checks and they will verify if the check is legitimate.

DO NOT DEPOSIT THE CHECK!!!! It is better to get confirmation from your bank, before depositing it into your account the risk is too high. Also, anytime somebody wants you to send them money back in return for cashing a check and you do not know the recepient it is screaming SCAM...SCAM...SCAM....!!!!!

Please be careful. If it too good to be true, then it isn't good....Theses are hard economic times for people and therefore you have more deceitful people out there trying to take advantage of people. It is unfortunate that good people are few and far between. I was raised by my mother on the truth and honor code, however, we have more bad individuals in the world than good. I was a victim for having too much trust in man. I haven't given up on the truth and honor code, however, I have become much wiser and alert. Nothing is free in the world and always be reminded to stay alert and use good common sense.

I apologoize that I can not direct you to the website that I received this information from. I found them when I was researching mystery shopping agencies.
However, I did find out they were scams. I hope this help you.....

mysteryshopperguru

Guest's picture
linda

Yesterday I received 2 money orders for 980.00. And was instructed to take them to my bank and deposit them for clearance and then go to western union. and do a mystery shopping on sending this to the other person with address provided but before I do to cash the money orders and take out 200.00 for myself and then email them on how the service was and how long it took and how clean was the store and so forth. and it came in a big white business envolepe. looks good and sounded good but they dident want me to hesitate they wanted me to do it right then. and that's where I said something is wrong with this. its a scam, Im going to send it back to them with a letter.

Guest's picture
Guest

I received an email after registering for a mystery shopping company by the name of charest evaluation inc. It told me that my first assignment would be to evaulate WalMart and Money Gram. I am to spend $100 for myself, keep $200 and wire over $1500 to somewhere in South Africa. They told me I would receive an package in the mail that would include the money and evaluation forms. Well today I received two money orders for $1000.00 each but no evaluation forms.

Other people on this site has received cashier checks and regular checks. Anyone out there heard about this company? Should I report it to the ploice department?

Thanks

Guest's picture
Mongo _

People don't seem to be understanding this "I got a check" concept. If someone, anyone, sends you a check and asks you to cash it and send any part of the money anywhere - IT IS A SCAM. You don't need to check out the company, you don't need to contact BBB, you won't get anywhere reporting them to the police -- just throw it in the trash. ANYONE, no matter how valid they seem, that asks you to do this is scamming you. If they mention a company name, rest assured they don't work for that company. Walmart, Maritz, JC Penney - doesn't matter - IT IS A SCAM. Don't do anything but throw it away.

Guest's picture
Guest

ll I can say is OH MY GOD and FOR FUCKS SAKE YOU PEOPLE ARE STOOOOPID 'NSHIT. The stooopid 'nshit was my way of "dumbing it down" a bit for you morons to understand. No, actually cash that $3750.00 check and spend it. I mean it looks real right? ****!!!! HOW FUCKING STUPID ARE YOU MOUNTAIN DEW DRINKING INBRED HALF WITS?

Guest's picture
Guest

My father just received a check in the mail for $3980.00 with instructions to do a mystery shop to one of these stores was-mart, k-mart, macy's, jc penny or target and he had a $300.00 allowance to spend. he would get paid $175.00 PER HOUR and then to mystery shop western union or money gram by sending $3,200.00 to a disclosed location. it said he could call (514)655-8271 to talk to his assignment coordinator. the thing that caught me as odd the letter is from 221 w. 6th st austin tx the check is from salina ks and the envelope is postmarked in canada. could we or should we report this to the authorities. or is there a dept that is investigating this ever growing problem?

Guest's picture
Guest

I was just sent $3,660 from GAPbuster Worldwide. I was to deposit the money then call them for my "training assignment". I was then to shop at Walmart in three different sections of the store, buy stuff up to $50.00. I was to observe and write down my observations. Then I was to send a MoneyGram for $1,770 plus a $35.00 fee. The object was to see if they would re-imburse me the $35.00 after I cancelled sending the money through. I was to fax them all the receipts by 3:30 in the afternoon.

Ok, I did it. I was told to make up a fake name as the recipient and to make sure I send it to London, UK. I used my ATM to do this. Ashley, my contact person said I could do that.

I was then to repeat it at a second Walmart, visit 3 areas, observe, write down obsevations, then send $1,720 dollars to another made up name to London, UK.

When I tried transferring money from my account it would not go through. I figured that my ATM had too much activity so my bank was not letting me complete the transaction.

I drove to my bank and they told me that the $3,660.00 check was put on hold because it was suspicious and it probably won't go through. I told them the whole story and advised me to go get the money back from MoneyGram at Walmart.

They returned the entire amount including the $35.00. I then found the manager and told her the entire story. She said that they had just been inserviced on this scam.

I was so angry that I wasted so much time and that I fell for this. I was supposed to fax the information, but I didn't. I figured that they needed the info to get the cash at their end. Ashley must have called me 4 times that afternoon. I did not answer because I was livid and I wanted to calm down before doing anything else. (I had saved their number and labeled "Criminals" so when she called, Crimimals would appear on my phone.)

The following day, Ashley called again, no message was left. Now it was my turn to call them. A man with a British accent answered and I told him who I was and told him the good news that MoneyGram did return the entire amount. He asked me if I had faxed them the information. I told them that I hadn't and that I was waiting for the check to clear before doing anything else for them. He tried to carry a conversations with me asking me what my Rep ID was. I then told him that I did some checking around and I found that what they are doing is a scam and that I almost fell for it. I couldn't understand what he was saying but I think he said he would call Ashley so I could speak to her. He put me on hold, then I was disconnected. They never called back. I was out $90.00 for the purchases I made at Walmart, but they are things I needed to get anyway, so I did not return any of the things. What a good lesson for me. I'm usually so vigilant, but they almost had me.

I'd like to share the information from their letter:

Carley Anderson-National Program Coordinator
448 Jackson Ave. Bronx, NY 10455
Control Centre Tel: 1-646-875-5835
Control Centre Fax: 1-888-637-4575

Web: www.gapbuster.com/mystery-shopping

I'm so glad to be done with this. By the way, I'm still waiting for the check to bounce.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've tried TNS and Acumen and have gone back to gapbuster. I have recently also had some of my feedback questioned by gapuster however after clafifying with the phone operator what the basis of the query was I was able to add more further detils and it was taken on board. I recommend chatting to them.
I think if you consider that the foundation of their business lays on the premise that companies need to improve customer service, if they had only positive feedback they would cease to be an important service to that industry. So I doubt that they would be intentionally knocking back negative feedback but may just be needing clearer/better/more information.

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Guest

does anyone know if this site is legit? as this would be my first time and i had no idea of the scams as gapbuster is well known here.

http://myjobspace.co.nz/job/254035?title=Mystery_Shoppers_wanted___Get_p...

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Guest

Introduction
-------------
Gapbuster Secret Shopper is a venture that checks reputatable companies performance and services,We are registered and established in America for a long while now, Gapbuster Secret Shopper® is accepting applications from qualified individuals to become mystery shoppers.

It's fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop. There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials via e-mail, fax or postal mail.

One amongst many others pay for Secret Shoppers to shop in their establishments and report their experiences. On top of being paid for shopping you are also allowed to keep purchases for free. Secret Shopper® never charge fees to the shopper, training, tips for improvement, and shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers.

Assignments Example
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Secret Shopper has available for immediate assignment an inspection of the customer service of any walmart in your area. This fee will be paid upfront. During this shopping you will visit the location and make several observations as regards the customer service.

*You will be required to interact with the shop clerk.
*You may conduct the shop alone or as a couple.
*We will pay $150.00/ Assignment

Interested Shopper need to kindly fill Out the application form below and we will get back to you shortly with more information, and be advise that you need to be checking your mail atleast once or twice everyday. If you fail to respond to any mail for more than 24 hrs you will miss your assignment.

First Name........
Last Name.........
Street Address ...............
City, State, Zip Code ...........
Cell Phone Number .............
Home Phone Number .............
Age ...........
Current Occupation ..................
Alternate Email Address .............

SEND INFORMATION ABOVE TO " thomas.gapbuster@live.co.uk "

Regards,
Mr. Thomas Andrew

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Guest

Don't send this guy your personal information.  He will use it for Identity Theft.

Everybody needs to wake up about these scams and use common sense.

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Guest

$150 for an assignment?  Yeah right!  LOL!

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Guest

All I can say is OH MY GOD and FOR FUCKS SAKE YOU PEOPLE ARE STOOOOPID 'NSHIT. The stooopid 'nshit was my way of "dumbing it down" a bit for you morons to understand. No, actually cash that $3750.00 check and spend it. I mean it looks real right? ****!!!! HOW FUCKING STUPID ARE YOU MOUNTAIN DEW DRINKING INBRED HALF WITS?

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Guest

ll I can say is OH MY GOD and FOR FUCKS SAKE YOU PEOPLE ARE STOOOOPID 'NSHIT. The stooopid 'nshit was my way of "dumbing it down" a bit for you morons to understand. No, actually cash that $3750.00 check and spend it. I mean it looks real right? ****!!!! HOW FUCKING STUPID ARE YOU MOUNTAIN DEW DRINKING INBRED HALF WITS?

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Guest

It sounds ligit but my concern is the story of the lady that got the check an was told to cash it and well so on and she was told to contact ashley you know the story. Also they want checking info I dont have that I have a paypal account so what do I do? I filled the application out and I want to get started but..........

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Guest

The following are a few things I have found are good clues about these scams:
1. If their email address is not from a private domain (it's a hotmail, yahoo, gmail, etc. account not so-and-so@companyname.com). This is without actually pulling up the header information and tracing back to the original server it was sent from.
2. If they can't construct a sentence correctly (someone else mentioned this). Poor grammer and/or spelling. You would think they would at least use a spell checker since they are mass mailing what are essentialy form-letters.
3. In the "To:" line on the email itself it either has no name, or a long list of email addresses it was sent to.
5. They do not provide their phone number.
6. They insist that you do something that could provide them with your bank information. They want you to use Direct Deposit, or insist you cash their check, money order, etc. at your bank. If you can't receive the funds through Pay-Pal, or cash the check at some place like ACE Cash Express, it's a scam.

The biggest scam of all though, is the banks themselves. First, they won't post funds from a deposit you make for 5 to 7 days, telling you the check you deposited must physically clear the bank it was drawn on. BANKS DON'T CASH CHECKS WITH OTHER BANKS, THEY CASH THEM THROUGH THE FEDERAL RESERVE BANKS... AND THEY GARUNTEE 24 HOUR SERVICE TO THE BANKS. Your bank (and mine), are sitting on our money for that time so they can collect the interest on it.
And, the banks now cash unsigned checks. Any request the bank receives electronically (through the internet, telephone, etc) requires only the banks routing number and a valid account number in order for them to pay it. That's just the numbers from the bottom of your check - A BLANK CHECK. And you can't do anything about it.
No one has to steal your identity to steal the money from your bank account. all they have to do is give those two numbers, an amount, and any check number - even one you've already used. Someone got my account number and started paying their bills and buying stuff online. Although they had the information, the bank would not even give me the persons name and would not stop paying out from my account. I had to close the account and open a new account. The police and the Justice Department would not do anything unless I could tell them who it was. They wouldn't do any investigation, I had to do it. According to the Federal Reserve and FDIC this is all legal now.
Sorry to go on so, but that's my two cents (or $15,000+) worth. I'll get off my soap-box now and you can take it for what it's worth to you.

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Tim

I'm trying to find out if TNS Global is for real or not. I can find their website, but I can't find too much more info on them. I work as a merchandiser for a company and I know there are actual secret shoppers out there. I received a help wanted notice from a site several weeks ago and sent in my resume and work profile. I got an email from them last week saying I had been hired and would receive my contract by mail which I just received today. Along with it was a check with a partial breakdown as to what it was for. Check amount was $3961.50 which will be activated when I call them. It is brken down into 3 catagories as to what it's for. It has a lot of normal looking info on the contract, including an rep i.d. number just like I use for my other company I work for. Have you or any one else heard of or know if this company is real or not?? Don't want to be suckered in on this. I haven't called them yet, because I just received letter today 8/14/10 and everone is closed now.
Thanks,
Tim Davis
spirit97x3@yahoo.com

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Guest

Whatever you do...do not trust Gapbusters! My bank account is getting closed right now because of the bullshit check I deposited. I admit I was a little worried about it being a scam, and the people there treat you so rude once you start to figure it out. I called the number (something with a 646 area code) and just like on of the ladies above, it was a guy named Micheal with a British attitude. He kept telling me the financial department would call me and "they couldnt figure our why my check was being held". I figured it once he would not let me speak to his supervisor, everytime I called I spoke with him, and he even hung up in my face when I got irate. He told me the only way for them to get my account straight was to give them my account info! ARE U SERIOUS? I told that guy **** you! Im honestly pissed that I believed this was a way to make money on the side and all I got from this experience is my bank thinking I cash counterfeit checks!

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Guest

I have been a member of TNS Global for a while and have only ever been offered invites to answer surveys and have accumulated points that I have redeemed for small amounts of cash ($50). The offer you described seems like a scam. I never recieved anything like that and I suspect it is a scammer immitating the TNS name. If you contact TNS they will probably tell you the same. Tear it up.

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Suzi

WAIT! DON'T TEAR IT UP! I, too, received the same kind of scam, but I didn't fall for it at all. So I contacted the Texas Attorney General and discovered that the FBI is quite interested in these scams. Keep all the emails, the check, the envelope the check came in, and everything else pertinent to the scam. The FBI is investigating scams, and especially ones that use Western Union or other wire services. This is not just a scam; it is HIGHLY illegal. So contact your Attorney General for your state and follow through with reporting the scam. EVEN IF YOU FELL FOR IT. Especially if you fell for it. Don't be so embarrassed that you will let these people get away with their activities and continue preying on others. Good luck, and God bless.

Guest's picture
slg

hey how do you contact the attorney general?

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Simon Pearce

I did my first mystery shopping for Gapbusters in July. I have had 9 assignments and not been paid for any. When I rang Gapbusters I was told that they did not take calls from "Shoppers" I did not need to ask why, it simply seems that they have no intention of paying their clients. The last time that I rang, and got through to a real person, I was told that my last payment was missed and would be paid soon. Ha! Ha!
The very next day I saw that my identity as a "shopper" had been withdrawn and all my shopping details expunged.
Due to my experience with these people I would URGE that no person should ever become involved with them.

Guest's picture
Guest

I was wondering, is SASSIE/JobSlinger a scam?
They don't ask you to wire money, and they don't require an aplication fee.
Thanks!

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Ariana

It was difficult for me to differentiate scams from the real thing, when I started mystery shopping. I've since compiled a guide to help potential shoppers get through the process.

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Julie

I know this is not a recent article, but thank you for posting this.
I just received a $2700 check in the mail with directions to wire them back a large sum of money...just as your article described. Everything looks very professional down to the last detail, but something just wasn't sitting well with me. The letter even says "Even though this is only a training exercise for you, it should be considered a job interview". I hopped online to see if this was legit by looking for a website or any information on this company and found nothing.
But I did find your article...and so glad that I did!
The offer DID seem to good to be true and you've saved me from possibly doing something stupid by trying it out.
A million times, thank you!

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Guest

@gap buster employee...
I am wondering if you are on careerbuilder... A victoria moore is e-mailing me about becoming a mystery shopper with GAP buster... can you confirm?

-SG

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Guest

Great question SG, I received the same email and am doing some research myself....would love to hear a response!

Guest's picture
slg

Is gapbuster on any jobs sites like career builder?

-sarah

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Guest

yes I received an email from Victoria supposedly from careerbuilder though my resume there isn't published for anyone to see...they are from the UK supposedly which already makes me think scam...why would a US company hire someone on the other side of the earth to do this in the US, I am sure there are US companies that do this mystery shopper stuff...I smell a nigerian scam...

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Guest

Same here...email from Victoria Moore via Careerbuilder.I emailed them and got a reply almost immediately with info on their services.It was a tad evasive.My instincts tell me this is a scam.For 1:Noone pays $2000 a month salary without meeting you 2.When I Googled Gapbusters.com the site doesn't come up.3.A reputable employer will send you address,phone numbers and company info in a valid email.4.They are claiming to be in the UK, if such a big company, why no US headquarters? I have sent them my phone number twice, but they haven't called me yet.If they do,it should be interesting.

Guest's picture

No. We are not on Careerbuilder and rarely use such sites to recruit.

This scam was drawn to our attention last week.

We have contacted Careerbuilder who are working with us to shut this down.

As a point of information, we NEVER randomly send emails to anyone who has not signed up to become part of our data base. All of our recruitment is done through our secure access site at www.gapbuster.com.

And any emails that we do send out come from an @gapbuster.com email address. If you receive any email that is not from that email domain, it is not from GAPbuster. In that event we would very much appreciate it if you would contact us through the website and let us know.

Preventing our name being used in this kind of scam is very important to us.

Thanks

Wendy Carey

Global Training Manager

GAPbuster Worldwide Pty Ltd

Guest's picture
Guest

As a retail specialty sales person, my comment is that some of the so-called mystery shoppers are brutal and take up your precious time away from your real customers. I think it borders workplace harrassment. I'd love to hear what workplace attorneys say about this.

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Guest

I have been a Mystery Shopper for a long time and I am certified as a Gold Shopper through the MSPA. I hate to scream but...ANYONE WHO SENDS YOU A CHECK TO CASH for anything before you shop IS A SCAM. I specialize in telephone Mystery Shopping and spend my days calling companies to evaluate activities done on the telephone. This includes evaluating Mortgage Loan Officers, Senior Admissions Services, Insurance Agents and Bank Call Centers. This is hard work. The calls pay from $4 to $50 per call depending on the complexity of the shop. After the call, I have to submit a report on my experience between 12-24 hours. I make from $200 - $400 each month. For me this supplements my limited income each month. I do not have any outlay for the shops that I do. Companies pay for this service anywhere from 30 to 45 days. I will never get rich Mystery Shopping but it will help to pay a bill or two each month.

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Guest

Very good info. I have always wanted to do this. The one thing that sticks out to me is GAPbuster can comment on so of the little post on here, but the posts questioning their payment methods and no payment tactics, they have yet to respond. I have good contacts with a few of their customers and will be passing these and other post on to them. For all that have posted, thanks for the info!!!

Guest's picture
Rosie

Gapbuster owes me $100.s since June 2012 (yes I am a slow learner and was still doing assignments for them till Dec 2012 in the belief that they would sort things out and I would get paid). I am seriously out of pocket through travel and shopping expenses. Avoid this company - they are bad news. Their HO is in Melbourne and the Aussie authorities are powerless to stop them as we shoppers are self-employed contractors.