Thursday, March 11, 2010 and other scams.

There are so many scams floating around out there that I have trouble keeping up with them. I have always been curious what would happen if I decided to take some of these people up on their offer of larger body parts, “free” credit reports, online doctorate degree programs and “mystery shopper” jobs. is at the top of my list because their dang song gets stuck in my head so often. They want you to believe they're the place to go if you don't want to end up "selling fish to tourists in t-shirts," living in your new in-laws basement, or driving around in a used subcompact. Their website and commercials state that they are offer a “free” credit report but when you call them they ask for your credit card to enroll you in a 30-day “credit monitoring” program. After 30 days, you are billed $12.95 per month. That is not “free” in my opinion.

The Federal Trade Commission’s website says that is the ONLY authorized source to get a 100% free annual credit report under federal law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) every twelve months. There is lots of money to be made in this scam so until attorney general’s get involved in this scam, they are likely to continue.

Another fraud that I’d like to expose is the “Mystery Shopping” scam. This is one that I see on many computers brought into my shop for repair.
Some legitimate retailers actually do hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores; these companies use “mystery shoppers” to collect the information anonymously. The way it works in the legitimate world is that they assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service. They may even collect a small salary.

Professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best, and not a “lucrative” job as some scams claim. Legitimate opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies. Nevertheless, fraudulent mystery shopping promoters are using newspaper ads and spam emails to create the impression that they’re a gateway to lucrative mystery shopper jobs with reputable companies. These solicitations usually promote a website where consumers can “register” to become mystery shoppers — after they pay a fee for information about “certification programs” or a directory of mystery shopping companies.

Mystery shopper scams can be detected by observing numerous red flags. One is the obvious guarantee that an individual will make a substantial amount of income in "X" amount of time. No legitimate company will ever make such a claim. In fact, it is very unlikely that even legitimate mystery shopping will ever provide tremendous wealth for anyone. This is essentially a low paying job that should be viewed more as a hobby or part-time gig rather than a career move.

1 comment:

Kimberly Nasief-Westergren said...

Scammers prey on desperation. They can easily set up a website and 800 number. They put up advertising messages, like, “interested in becoming a mystery shopper?” Then they pay to have their listed higher in the Google ranks, so when people do a Google search, they find the scam site. It's just a matter of finding the right business to help you become a Mystery Shopper, and they are out there.