Chris Carpenter, of Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., says it was one of those crazy moments when he responded to an advertisement to do something different.
“I’d heard of the different angles the mystery shopper takes, but this one sounded so right,” he says. “But they showed they conducted mystery shopping for Best Buy, IKEA, Western Union and Walmart.”
Mystery shopper scams usually arrive disguised as genuine job offers; recently, Better Business Bureau has been receiving inquiries from consumers who’ve received suspicious emails and letters from alleged “employers.”
With most mystery shopper job offer scams, cashiers’ checks and letters arrive in the mail.
When Chris received the letter and check, it was drafted on the company’s check and letterhead was from C.R.M. Blackstone Intl., with a PO BOX in Caldwell, Idaho. He called the phone number provided (208) 402-8222, and faxed off the required paperwork (208) 795-0563, and wrote an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It all sounded legitimate, he says. But the fact’s didn’t quite add up.
The original email he’d received:
“Congratulations! You have been selected as a mystery shopper for your area! Deposit the enclosed money order into your personal bank account and shop at the following stores … [large, well-known retailers] … rating your experience with customer service, product availability and cleanliness; wire-transfer the remaining balance back to company headquarters.”
“When someone deposits a check, he or she is responsible for that check whether or not it is known that the check is a fake,” says Dale Dixon, CEO of BBB serving the Snake River Region.
Employ caution when considering mystery shopper job opportunities and avoid offers that:
- Require upfront payments or money-wiring
- Lack verifiable contact information
- Contain unrealistic or unsubstantiated earnings claims
Caldwell’s post master said the Postal Inspectors had already been tipped off to the scam, and the Idaho Department of Finance was working in conjunction with the postal service.
Calls to Blackstone went unreturned, and attempts to locate a physical address for the company were futile.