This weekend’s Bottom Line column:
It’s no mystery when a mystery-shopping job offer asks the prospective shopper to cash a money order and wire most of the money to a third party. It’s a scam.
An actual mystery-shopping job is much less mysterious: Some retailers hire companies that recruit mystery shoppers to check in-store service. The shopper buys an item in the store or restaurant, then documents the experience. An actual mystery shopper is reimbursed, and sometimes paid.
Jackie of West Hartford knows both sides. She has worked as a legitimate mystery shopper sampling menus at local restaurants. She also has been a victim of mystery-shopper scammers. In mid-2011, after responding to an email offer to be a mystery shopper, she received two money orders, each for $896.90. She was instructed to cash both, spend $30 at Walmart and then – as another part of her mystery shopping, this part aimed at evaluating Western Union services — wire the rest to an address provided by the company that hired her.