BBB Warns: Mystery Shopping Scam Uses BBB Name

April 01, 2011

Scam artists are using the Better Business Bureau’s good name in a Mystery Shopping Scam. BBB Evaluation Inc promises to pay $50 to $100 an hour. The email states “your urgent response needed ASAP.” An excerpt from the email, which has several grammatical and spelling mistakes, is below:

From: BBB Evaluation Inc. <>
Subject: Re: Your Urgent Response Needed ASAP®


Yes, it's true you really can make money shopping!

You can become a mystery shopper and make anywhere from $50- $100 an hour. You are probably not going to get rich mystery shopping, but in time you can earn some extra money.

We are a company that conduct surveys and evaluate other companies. We get hired to go to other peoples companies and act like customers in order to know how the staffs are handling their services in relation to their customers. Once we have a contract to do you would be directed to the company or outlet and you would be given the funds you need to do the job (either purchase things or require services) after which you would write a comment on the staffs activities and give a detailed record of your experience.

Fraudulent mystery shopping promoters often use emails, like this one, and newspaper ads to entice people into “easy money.” Solicitations often promote a website where consumers can “register” to become mystery shoppers – after they pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job. In other mystery shopping scams, the scam artist sends the “mystery shopper” a check to cash. The shopper is told to use part of the money to buy the merchandise or service, and wire the rest of the money back to “employer.” Later, the shopper finds out the check was fake and he/she owes the bank the money.

Consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:

  • Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. 
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 jobs.
  • Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.
  • The fact is, a list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free; and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are on the Internet for free. Here’s how you can become a mystery shopper:

    • 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 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.

    If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, your State Attorney General, or the FTC (

    For more consumer tips go to