COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - An offer to become a secret shopper was too irresistible to pass up.
Patsy Pederson thought it might be a fun way to spend some of her time now that she's retired.
"I used to work at the grocery store, and we used to have the secret shoppers who would come through, and then we'd get the reports and tell you how everybody was doing."
So when she got an email about becoming one herself, she didn't hesitate.
"I saw it online and I thought, 'Well, that would be something kind of fun to do,' since I kind of know how they work, so I filled my information that they asked, and there was no phone number or Social Security number so I thought, 'Well, this should be pretty harmless.' So I filled that out and sent it back."
It took three months, but one day Pederson came home to a large envelope, complete with a cashier's check and a note explaining whar Pederson would have to do.
"So I went and did all the things," she said.
She deposited the $1,870 cashier check into her bank account and completed the assignments: shopping at Walmart and then buying two $735 money orders at the post office. She sent them via Fed Ex to a woman in Baltimore.
"I sent the package and came home and wrote the email review and sent it, and then I never heard anything. I kept looking every day to see if I got some kind of response from them.
"Then the next response I got was from the bank was that the check was bad."
Pederson learned she was too late trying to cancel the money orders; they had already been cashed, leaving her bank account about $1,900 short. The bank listed on the phony cashier's check has the warning on its website, saying crooks were circulating fake checks in their name.
"I thought this was going to be a pretty safe deal, but live and learn" Pederson said.
11 Call for Action investigator Betty Sexton reached out to the nationally-recognized Mystery Shoppers Providers Association (MSPA). A spokeswoman with the organization told Sexton real shoppers are never given money upfront. They're paid and reimbursed after their assignments are over.
In fact, sometimes mystery shoppers don't have to buy anything at all, just research a business.
Most importantly, the group never asks people to become shoppers. You have to visit the website yourself and fill out an application. If you receive a mystery shopper request unsolicited, beware -- it is likely a crook.
Lorraine Houghton with MSPA Americas has this advice:
Some shopping assignments will ask you to pay upfront when mystery shopping a company and yes they will be reimbursed. The best thing for anyone to know is – make sure they are a certified MSPA Americas member company. Click here to search for certified MSPA Americas member companies. You can alsom email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org -
Think You Might Be Involved in a SCAM?
If you have received checks or communication concerning conducting a mystery shop for which you purchase products and send them to a specified address or wire money from checks that were sent to you in the mail, it is a scam and we strongly suggest that you do not waste your own time and money carrying out the illegitimate assignment.