I recently experienced both the danger and benefit of Internet communication when I was almost lured into a Mystery Shopper scam.
Unaware that being a Mystery Shopper is a thing, I was reviewing the inbox in my university email account when I came across a message with the subject line: Earn Now. When I opened the message, it read as follows (no grammatical corrections made):
This Job is currently recruiting. A Job that will not affect your present employment or studies, fun and rewarding. You get to make up to $300 weekly, I tried it and i made cool cash, If You are interested you can visit their website at www.consumerinsight.us to apply and read more about the job.
Job Placement & Student Services
900 South Crouse Ave.
Syracuse, NY 13244
This emailed message arrived in my university inbox during the week leading up to the first week of classes and as a beginning student, I was receiving a lot of emails from school sources that were new to me. I was intrigued by the chance to make extra money since I was looking toward taking on the significant expense of graduate school, so I visited the website, which turned out to be attractive and well-designed.
The “job” was “Become a Mystery Shopper” and the enticing offer stated, “This is your chance to get paid to shop & dine out. You can make money, have fun and help improve customer service. The importance of customer service has turned mystery shopping into a $1.6 billion a year industry.”
Wow, it sure sounded like the perfect opportunity to make a little extra cash to pay for books, equipment, supplies, and other school expenses. Furthermore, this interesting job opportunity was sent to me from a trusted source: my university’s Job Placement & Student Services department. What the heck, I may as well apply.
So about three weeks later I received a text stating that I got the job; I should expect to receive a “survey packet” in the mail and when I do I should let the company know.
I received the packet and much to my surprise enclosed were three very authenticate looking Money Orders totaling almost $3,000.00, and instructions on what I should do to earn my pay of $300 (plus $50 for travel expenses) off the top. After the initial shock of seeing that much “money” being sent for this Mystery Shopper job that I hadn’t even done anything for yet, I became very suspicious. My husband immediately stated that it was a scam.
It appeared that I had encountered one of the dangers of the Internet: an online con game.
However, to verify that this was indeed a hoax, I turned to one of the benefits of Internet communication: I Googled “mystery shopper scams” and immediately accessed several sites warning against this particular Internet con. I found on the Better Business Bureau’s website (BBB.org) the interactive “BBB Scam Tracker” that searches scams based on keywords. After I entered “mystery shopper” in the search, a report showed the number of related scams reported, a map of the locations of the scams, the date the scam was reported, the zip code where it occurred, and the amount of money the individual lost in the scam. Each report entry also includes a Scam Description. It was complete and instantaneous access to critical, scam prevention information.
I read one of the Mystery Shopper scam descriptions that was very close to my own experience (see image above) with the exception being that the poor victim had lost $2,250.00. I’m definitely happy to have been warned about this “too good to be true” opportunity before it was too late.
Apparently, Internet communication can both torment and protect users, so browsers beware.