A secret shopper or secret consumer is a legitimate tool used by retailers or market research companies to measure quality of service or compliance to regulation. These companies use secret shoppers to get the information anonymously. They assign a secret shopper to purchase a product, ask questions, register complaints or behave in a certain way, and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.
Typically, the shopper is reimbursed and can keep the product or service. Many professionals in the field consider secret shopping a part-time activity. Opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies.
How a secret shopper scam works
- The victim responds to a job posting for secret shopping.
- They receive an employment packet containing several items, including the first training assignment, along with a cheque that is typically made out for $2,000 to $4,000. Sometimes there is a money order, often from Western Union or MoneyGram.
- Secret shoppers are asked to cash the cheque within a short amount of time (e.g. two days) and use a portion of the funds to pay for a money wire to a specific location. If they don’t comply, they will not be paid for the assignment, or hired again as a secret shopper.
- The remaining funds are to be used as payment for their secret shopping services.
- Secret shoppers cash the cheque, wire the money to a non-traceable person and then find out from their bank that the cheque was a fraud. The secret shoppers are responsible for returning the money to the bank, and are out of pocket the money that was wired.
- Another variant has the victim receiving a money order that is to be used at Wal-Mart or a similar store to purchase a MoneyGram. They are told that their secret shopper assignment is to test the MoneyGram system to see how courteously customers are treated. The money order is fraudulent and the victim must repay the bank.