Working as a secret shopper sounds like an easy, fun job. But the position's appeal makes it perfect for scammers. Watch out for con artists creating fake "secret shopper" job ads that trick victims into parting with thousands of dollars.
How the Scam Works:
You apply for a secret shopper job on Craigslist or another site. The business' name is close -- but slightly different -- to that of a large, recognized company. Recently, scammers have been using "The Home Depot Survey."
The "manager" responds to your application and offers you the job. To get started, he/she mails a packet of information, which contains a fake check. This check supposedly covers your $300 payment and contains money to spend on secret shopper purchases.
The instructions tell you to deposit the check and subtract your fee. Then, use the remainder to "evaluate" The Home Depot (or another store) by making a few purchases. When your first assignment is complete, just wire the balance back to the "The Home Depot Survey." Of course, the check is a fake. A few days later, the bank will reject the check and delete the advanced funds from your account.
Spot a job scam before you waste your time and money.
- Some positions are more likely to be scams: Always be wary of secret shopper positions or any job with a generic title, such as admin assistant or customer service representative. These often don't require special training or licensing, so they appeal to a wide range of applicants.
- Watch out for these phrases: Scam ads often contain the phrases "Teleworking OK," "Immediate Start" and "No Experience Needed." Watch out for ads that urge you to apply immediately.
- If a job looks suspicious, search for it in Google. If the result comes up in many other cities with the exact same job post, it is likely a scam.
- Be very cautious of any job that asks you to share personal information or hand over money. Scammers will often use the guise of running a credit check, setting up direct deposit or paying for training.
- Check out the business' website to make sure the opening is posted there. If you are still skeptical, call the business to check on the position. Don't rely on websites or phone numbers provided in the advertisement; find the "employer" on your own to make sure it's the real deal.
This Scam Alert has been sponsored by Western Union, a BBB National Partner.