This story was first published on July 24, 2012
Emails offer recipients part time work as secret or mystery shoppers and promise to send cheques or money orders for them to use in their shopping evaluations. Workers will be instructed to cash the cheques, deduct a percentage as their wage and then “evaluate” a specified service before sending the remainder of the funds back to the “employer” via a cash money transfer.
The mystery shopping jobs offered in such emails are money laundering scams. The cheques or money orders that workers are sent are in fact fake or stolen. The scheme is a method of converting bogus cheques and money orders into cash. The scammers can thereby abscond with their stolen money while leaving the hapless “mystery shopper” to deal with any legal consequences.
Subject: Mystery Shopper Job Offer
Shopper’s Guide wants you to run a survey on two prominent companies in your area.
The 1st is a Western Union Location
The 2nd is a Restaurant
There has been reports about lack of good services and bad Management of their employees,the complaints were based on reports which their customers forwarded anonymously and Phone calls which were also made to the head office.The Western union location was reported for evaluation, Negligence for the following reasons:
I) Customers have reported their money missing
II) Slow services
III) Unbalanced transfer charges
The 2nd company was reported to be rendering
(I) Poor services
(II) Rudeness to customers
(IV) Excess charge
(V) Late opening time and Closing before time.
Your Secret Evaluation would be:
1) To make a transfer of funds from this western union location to another Mystery shopper, and the funds would be picked up by the mystery shopper at the exact location Which a customer reported her funds missing.
2) You would have to record the time at which you go to the location and how many minutes it took you to get service.
3) You would be sent a check/Money order which would cover your payment of $200 and also for the duty. As soon as you receive the check/money order, you would cash in at your bank, and deduct your $200.00, and use the balance of the money for the services.
4) Upon receiving the funds, the locations address would be forwarded to you, and also the Name and address of whom the Mystery shoppers transfer would be made to. You would have to keep a comprehensive report on every activity you carry out.
5) You would also provide me with the name of the cashier that attended to you. Please, confirm to me that you did received this message so that the check/Moneyorder can be sent out to you ASAP.
KINDLY RECONFIRM YOUR INFORMATION BELOW FOR ASSESSMENT.
Full Legal Name :
Zip code :
Home and Cell # :
I will await your prompt response, its very important that you respond to this mail if not we take it that you are not interested in the job.
Best Wishes and Regards .
We are accepting applications from qualified individuals from all-over
the world to become Secret-Shopper. There is no charge to become
a shopper and you do not need previous experience.
After you sign up, you will have access to training materials from us.
Should you interested, your wages would be US $3000 per assignment.
No commitment is made on this job and you would have flexible hours.
At least 2 evaluations a week will be assigned to you because this is
a part time job and we think this job suits you. We will provide you the
money for all of your evaluations.
Money order/Payment check would be in a certain amount which you
would be required to Cash at your Bank, then deduct your salary and
have the rest used for the evaluation at the store that would be given
to you for evaluations.
Provide the following information if you interested and we will get back
shortly with an your assignment.
We are waiting your good response, Thank you.
(Candidate from USA & Europe are allowed to apply for this offer)
Head of Recruitment
At face value, emails like the examples included above appear to offer quite lucrative and easy work to job-seekers. Billed as “mystery” or “secret” shopper positions, the offers claim that workers will be paid for evaluating specified services and that they will be sent funds to be used in these evaluations.
However, these are not legitimate mystery shopper jobs, but rather clever schemes designed to turn the proceeds of crime into untraceable cash. Those who fall for the scam and take up one of the offered jobs will be sent cheques or money orders, ostensibly for use in evaluation assignments. They will be instructed to cash the cheques or money orders, deduct a percentage of the funds for their “wage” and then use the remaining cash for their shopping evaluations.
But, unfortunately for the would-be mystery shoppers, the cheques or money orders will turn out to be stolen or counterfeit.
In many cases, the first assignment the “shopper” receives will be to evaluate a money transfer service such as Western Union. They will be told to wire cash remaining after they have deducted their percentage to another “worker” as a means of testing the quality and integrity of the money wire service. In other cases, the shoppers will be told to cash the cheques or money orders at a particular bank and evaluate the quality of the service provided by the bank’s staff. Again, they will be instructed to wire the cash to another worker after their bank evaluation is complete.
Of course, the “other workers” will, in fact, be the scammers themselves. In this way, the criminals responsible for the scam manage to turn fake or stolen cheques into cash that cannot be traced back to them, thus effectively “laundering” the proceeds of crime. Meanwhile, the “mystery shopper” will be the one left to face any legal ramifications when police discover that it was them who processed the bogus cheques or money orders and come knocking at their door. If the victims processed the funds via their own bank accounts, they may also be left out of pocket when the bogus cheques are finally rejected by their bank.
There are genuine companies that may employ mystery shoppers to evaluate various businesses. However, these companies will certainly not expect workers to process cheques via their own bank accounts, deduct their wages, and wire extra funds to other parties. No legitimate organisation is ever likely to conduct its business in such a way.
Mystery shopper laundering scams are a sibling of another common type of job scam in which victims are hired to work as “payment processing agents” for supposed overseas businesses. These “workers” are told that they need to receive payments from customers, process the payments via their bank accounts, deduct their “wage”, and send the remaining funds back to their “employer” via cash transfers. Again, the purpose of these schemes is to launder the proceeds of crime and point law enforcement investigations towards the innocent “workers” rather than the criminals who actually stole the money in the first place.
Be wary of any job, be it a mystery shopper position or payment processing agent, that requires you to cash cheques or process funds via your own bank account and wire money back to other people as cash.