SECRET SHOPPER SCAMS -- The only thing “secret”--they will quickly fleece you!

Many of these supposed employment frauds prey upon gullible and/or desperate persons who simply desire to secure a lucrative job. This type of con-artist will promise easy-to-perform work that they claim pays well. They target you because they know many of us want to believe we’ve found a good deal. Their offers lead you down a “primrose path” to get your money--- stay away!

The typical lure used to suck you in is found in newspapers and on the internet. It reads: “Secret Shopper; short hours, easy work, money to be made!” All you have to do is visit stores each day and make purchases for their company account. According to the con, if you are hired, you will supposedly be working for a variety of retailers and manufacturers of products who are allegedly interested in knowing how their products are being displayed and marketed. You are told that you will spend your day making specific purchases at targeted retailers. When you turn in your “reports” you are supposed to receive a “fat paycheck”. Sounds good---right? Well, wait just a moment!

There are some bona-fide Secret Shopping Employers out there, but trying to tell the real from the fraudulent is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There is really no protection against an ad which appears in a newspaper or on the internet to help you see which is a real job or one that will fleece you. The Federal Trade Commission can help you providing some advice on becoming a “Secret” or “Mystery” Shopper.

Here are some key pointers:

1. Never pay any up-front money to get into this business.

2. Don’t be hooked by money-back guarantees---- you will never see your money again.

3. Don’t purchase flim-flam training materials or a supposed “Certificate” or “Registration” with a database -----these are all cons and you are being set-up.

4. Don’t ever get sucked into cashing a check for these so-called “Shopper” administrators (pitchmen). The check will be a counterfeit phony and you will be stuck.

5. Alert-- these con-artists are able to create counterfeit checks that look good enough for the banks to clear for a few days. By the time the bank figures out the check is a counterfeit, the con-artist will already have had you wire through Western Union the lions share of the cash to another scammer--- supposedly leaving you with a few hundred bucks as your fee. In about 48 hours, you will then end up stuck for the whole amount of the phony check when the bank comes calling for its money.

6. $3,000 to $4,000 is the common amount of the pitchman’s bogus check to be cashed. Usually, there is a “must act quickly” included in their ploy. Why? Because these con artists know that they have about a 48-hour window before the counterfeit check will be detected and then bounced. The pitchman scams you with this exercise using the phony premise that part of your “job assignment” is to test out the Western Union/ Money-gram system to see how quickly Western Union performs and supposedly how “courteously” customers are treated.

7. Be aware --- There are many other derivations of these counterfeit check scams.

8. Many swindlers clone well-know names of reputable firms.

9. Western Union / Money-grams is often misused by these scammers.

9. Stay away from any company that asks you to use your own money for purchases.

10. Repeat: Never pay companies to employ or train you, and never ever wire any money to strangers that have supposedly hired you.

So the answer is ---never cash a check sent to you for the foregoing purposes. They are all phonies and counterfeit. Keep in mind, anyone can place an ad online or in the newspaper. Don’t fall for scammer bogus claims that give you false a sense of security. Don’t delude yourself, with these scam-artists, when your cash goes out the door it will never come back in the window---that’s it---your money is not retrievable! It’s gone forever. Again, please always remember: “IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT IS!!!”

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