Number 11 of the Scams of Christmas: Mystery Shopping

Number 11 of the 12 Scams of Christmas: Mystery Shopping

Who wouldn’t like to have a little extra cash for the holidays? If you happen to be one of those people who doesn’t mind the crowds, a part-time job doing what the industry calls “mystery shopping” can be a great option, or an expensive mistake as a man in America’s heartland learned when he was caught by No. 11 on this 12 Scams of Christmas list.

In November, an Orange Village, OH man reported that he had been scammed by Retail Active Inc., of Remsen, NY. (hat tip: Cleveland.com.) The man claimed Retail Active promised to pay $300 to employ him as a mystery shopper. The man received a check for $1,850. As instructed, he deposited the check and immediately purchased $1,500 in MoneyPak cards, then emailed the 14-digit codes on the back of the cards to his employer. The following day, he discovered the check was a fake, and that the MoneyPak cards, which were still in his possession, had already been cashed.

Bogus companies tout how easy it is to become a mystery shopper and how you can make money doing something fun. An interesting twist to this scam is that Retail Active is a legitimate UK company involved in the business of “business intelligence.” As part of their business, they hire mystery shoppers—but not in the US. They also get rather persnickety over the fact that someone is besmirching their name.

Want to get paid to get a massage? Done! Eat haute cuisine? Stay at fancy hotels? No problem. All of these opportunities are open to the mystery shopper. And the scammers know that. Just do your research to be sure that your “mystery shop” doesn’t turn into a flop. Otherwise, you might wind up working for an ingenious scammer who’s playing fast and loose with someone else’s business and your money.

No. 10 of the 12 Scams of Christmas involves naughty spellcheckers and, oh yes, Scrooge wants money.

Image via Serif of Nottingham.


Terry Ambrose writes the McKenna mystery series set in Hawaii. They're filled with snark, scams, and trouble in paradise.

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