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Consumer loses nearly $2K in ‘mystery shopper’ scam

ROANOKE – As she pushed the shopping cart through the crowded aisles of a Roanoke department store, she beamed with delight. After months of job searching an opportunity had finally come her way. Not only would she be allowed to keep all the goods in her cart, but she also would be getting a paycheck just to shop!

Sounds like a dream job right? Sadly, it was more of a nightmare.

A company pretending to be Global Test Market of Cranston, RI has actively been recruiting consumers in Western Virginia to become “Customer Service Evaluators.” Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia warns consumers that this is a scam.

According to BBB, the company makes claims that participants can make up to $600 a week. However, the real Global Test Market (in Bellevue, Wash., not Rhode Island) has no connection to secret shoppers and has listed a warning as such on its website.

The warning states,  “If you have received an offer in the mail, by email, phone, or seen an advertisement online offering you work as a ‘customer services evaluator,’ ‘mystery shopper,’ ‘survey agent’ or ‘customer service rep’ for Global Market Insite, Global Market Insight, or Global Test Market, please be advised that this is a scam.”

BBB reports that the fraudulent company operates by sending its “shoppers” money orders or checks, then requests that the consumer deposit the funds into their bank account. The shoppers are then required to send that money back to the company, minus their “salary,” in the form of a MoneyPak or other type of pre-paid card.

Days later the victim realizes the company check is counterfeit. In most cases the victim is required to repay the bank thousands of dollars they withdrew against the bad check. One consumer told BBB Serving Western VA she lost $1,815 to the secret shopper scam.

Ironically, one particular assignment of the scam has shoppers “evaluating the security and efficiency” of MoneyPak – the very pre-paid card system the fraudulent company uses to “rob” its victims, according to BBB.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” said Julie Wheeler, C.E.O. and president of BBB serving Western VA. “There is no reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back.”

The job offer from the company looks professional, and includes a schedule for secret shopping at the Valley View Mall in Roanoke. The schedule even lists the names and numbers of other secret shoppers “working” for the company.  The company’s main office is allegedly located in Cranston, RI, but that location does not exist. The phone number, meanwhile, uses an Ontario, Canada area code.

Some BBB tips for avoiding job scams:

•Look for reputable firms that qualify and train mystery shoppers to perform specific evaluations.

•Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily.

•Be cautious of unsolicited e-mails or letters offering “work-from-home.”

•Be wary of work-at-home companies that require up-front fees. Never give them your credit card or bank account numbers.

•Never wire money. Wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once the money is gone it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recover.

•Check out the company’s BBB Business Review at  www.bbb.org to see its BBB rating, complaint history and more.

•Visit the Mystery Shopping providers Association (MSPA) website at www.mysteryshop.org for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general.

For more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501 or visit www.bbb.org.

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