I-Team: Consumer experts warn of 'mystery shopper' scams

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Want to make some extra money? Consumer experts warn that some elaborate mystery shopper scams could cost you.

Debbie Arthur of Lake Zurich recently clicked on a pop up window offer online that asked her if she was interested in being a secret - or mystery shopper

"Click here to see if secret shoppers are required in your area," Arthur said. She accepted and within two days got a Fed Ex packet containing her instructions and a check for $1,866.

"They really covered all their bases to make it sound genuine," Arthur said.

The instructions in the packet told Arthur to immediately deposit the check at her own bank, and then take it out for her first secret shopper assignment: evaluate a money wire transfer service.

"How was the customer service professionalism at the stores?" Arthur said.

Her mystery shopper duty was to evaluate the money wire service by sending most of that $1,8000 to an address in Las Vegas. She was told she could keep $200 as her "fee" for her first completed job.

Consumer experts and the Better Business Bureau said that model of doing business is a common scam. Arthur could have been on the hook for all $1866 if she deposited a check that was fraudulent.

"The check is so authentic looking that your bank will most likely deposit the check and then you find the check is not authentic and your bank charges you," Arthur said.

A currency exchange told Arthur the check was a fake. Banking experts who examined it for the I-Team said there's no way of really telling unless it goes through the deposit process.

If somebody says you've got to send me money before you become a shopper- RUN!" Vince Norton said. He runs Norton Norris, a real mystery shopper agency in Chicago's Loop that is accredited by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. He said no assignment would ever involve a money wire transfer service or sending funds.

Bottom line: Never deposit a check from someone unknown, the Better Business Bureau said.

ABC7's I-Team called and sent emails to the people who sent Arthur that FedEx packet, but did not receive a response.

To become a real mystery shopper, visit mysteryshop.org to find opportunities in the area. A real firm may interview you and properly train you before you go to work.
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