Mystery Shopper Scam – Western Union Scam

There are businesses who employ Mystery Shoppers, but those businesses do not recruit through bulk unsolicited emails.

These are just another form of the overpayment scam.

There is never a legitimate reason for anyone to overpay and ask for much of it back, but this is a slightly more plausible pretext than most for asking the victim to make a Western Union payment.

The way the scam works is that you are sent money to spend at businesses to “secret shop” them. The businesses will include Western Union or Money Gram.

You are “paid” with a fake check, but sometimes the money is allegedly sent via a wire transfer direct to your bank account. While this may seem safer, it isn’t when you’re dealing with a scammer. The money will come from the account of someone who has fallen or a phishing scam and will be clawed back when the account owner notices. It’s known as flashing a bank account. After you have received the “payment” you will be instructed to wire money through one of these services. The check or bank transfer will be fraudulent and any money you have wired will have been stolen from you and received by the scammer.

Sometimes the ad will ask for mystery shoppers, and sometimes not go into details. The nature of the “employment” is mentioned later once someone applies.

Exceptionally you may be asked to evaluate another business such as a restaurant as well, possibly to make the job look more genuine.

Here is a sample Mystery Shopper scam email:

“Dear Applicant ,
We got you resume on craigslist for the position posted, and we thought you might be interested in this Part time job offer. Here’s your chance to Get paid for shopping and dinning out. You’ll be paid to shop and dine out-plus,you can also get free meals, Free merchandise, Free services, free Entertainment, Free travel . Great Pay. Fun Work. Flexible Schedules.No experience required.If you can shop-you are qualified!
Spies in Disguise is a company that conduct surveys and evaluate other companies, we get hired to go to other peoples companies and act like customers in order to know how the staffs are handling their services in relation to their customers, once we have a contract to do so, we direct our agent / secret shoppers to the company or outlet to carry out the evaluation, and you would be given the money you need to do the job (either purchase things or require services), after which you would write a comment on the staffs activities and give a detailed record of your experience.
Examples of details you would forward to us are
1) How long it took you to get services.
2) Smartness of the attendant
3)Customer service professionalism
4)Sometimes you might be required to upset the attendant, to see how they react to clients when they get tensed.
And we then turn the information over to the company executives and they would carry out their own duties in improving there services. Most companies employ our assistance when people give complains about their services, or when they feel there are needs for them to improve their customer service. your Identity would be kept confidential as the job states (secrets shopper) you would be paid $200 for every duty you carry out, and bonus on your transportation allowance, and funds would be given to you if you have to dine as part of the duty.
We currently have a contract to evaluate a local western outlet in your area, your first assignment will be to run a survey on this Western Union outlets within 6 miles of your area ( which will be disclose to you in our subsequent email as soon as you accept the responsibilities to carry out this assignment).
The Western union location was reported for evaluation for the following reasons.
I) Customers has file report for unprofessional customer service
ii) Slow services
iii) Unbalanced exchange rate
(Iv) Poor services
(v) Rudeness to customers
(vi) Excess charge
(vii) Late opening time and Closing before time.
Your Secret Evaluation would be
1) To make a transfer of fund from this western union location to our Mystery shopper and the funds would be picked up by our based mystery shopper at the other location. ( Note : the money you will be needing for this services will be provided in advance by our company before you carry out the assignment)
2) You would have to record your time of arrival, departure and how long it takes to get the transaction done.You would be sent funds in form of money orders which will cover your commission for the duty and the amount you will be sending at western union.
4) You will also provide me with the name of the cashier that attended to you, you will have to keep a comprehensive report on every activity that happens within the time you are carry out the transaction.
As soon as you reply back with your mailing address and information below, the funds you will be needing to carry out the assignment plus your commission, will be sent to you in form of money orders , the Western Union outlet address will be disclose to you, and also the Name and address of the other Mystery shoppers you will be sending the money to , will be provided .
If you are still interested in this job opportunity, reply this e mail with the follow information and your readiness to carry out this assignment.
FULL NAME …………………………….
MAILING ADDRESS (no P.O.Box please) …….
CITY…………………………………
STATE……………………………………… …..
ZIP CODE………………………………………. …….
CELL PHONE……………………………………… …..
HOME PHONE……………………………………… …..
GENDER…………………………………….. ……..
MARITAL STATUS……………………………….
BEST TIME TO CALL……………………………..
PRESENT JOB STATUS/POSITION……..
As soon , as you get back to us with this information, then we can proceed to the next step.
Best Regards
John Smith”

Fake cashiers check & Western Union scams come in many forms. Generally,

  • Do not depend on the funds from a cashier’s check from a source you do not know.
  • There is usually no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask for money to be wired back or wired to a third party. Don’t do it.
  • Do not rely on the fact that the check was accepted for deposit by their financial institution as evidence of the check’s authenticity. It can take up to a week or much longer for a financial institution to determine whether a check is good, especially if the check is from an institution located outside the United States.
  • Consumers are responsible for the deposited fake check, even if it was a cashier’s check. When the check bounces, the bank deducts from the consumer’s account the amount that was credited with the fake check–often with charges added. The bank will not take the loss.
  • If you’ve received an email you believe to be a scam, I’d love to have it and share it here with my readers in hopes of helping would be victims avoid the pains and suffering so many of these scams are causing. You may forward those emails to me at gayla [at] gaylabaer DOT com

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26 Responses to “Mystery Shopper Scam – Western Union Scam”

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  1. Eric says:

    The newest scam is setting up a Citizens MasterCard in the “Mystery Shoppers” name and having them take cash advances off it then sending it via Western Union at any Money Mart.
    The person receives a MasterCard with their name on it and instructions to withdraw the money and send it to a fake person in the UK.

  2. Ted Robinson says:

    I got the same thing and now they are checking to see if I have received payment. I never authorized them to send it-I just filled out the form with my information asw being interested-here it is:

    Good morning to you over there ? How are you doing ? I just want to
    confirm from you.. If you’re receive the payment that i send to you ?
    Get back to me now asap and update.

    On 5/30/11, kimleey01@gmail.com wrote:
    > Thanks for your response, Here is the Job description. Shopper’s
    > Guide wants you to run a survey in a company in your area. Which is
    > WESTERN UNION OUTLET.
    >
    > There have been reports about laps in the services of their
    > Management and some of their staffs, Their complains are based on
    > reports which their customers forwarded anonymously and Phone calls
    > which were also made to the head office.
    >
    > The Western union location was reported for evaluation for the
    > following reasons:
    >
    > (i) Customers have reported their money missing
    > (ii) Slow services
    > (iii) Unbalanced transfer charges
    >
    > Your Secret Evaluation would be:
    >
    > 1) To make a transfer of funds from this western union location to our
    > Mystery shopper, And the funds would be picked up by another mystery
    > shopper at another location where a customer reported there funds
    > missing.
    >
    > 2) You would have to record the time at which you go to the location
    > and how many minutes it took you to get service.
    >
    > 3) You would be sent a check that would cover a payment of $3150 and
    > also for the duty. As soon as you receive the check, you should cash
    > in at your bank, and deduct your $300.00, which stand for your
    > compesation.
    >
    > 4) Upon receiving the funds, the locations address would be forwarded
    > to you, and also the Name and address of whom the Mystery shoppers
    > transfer would be made to. You would have to keep a comprehensive
    > report on every activity you carry out.
    >
    > 5) You would also provide me with the name of the cashier that attended to
    > you.
    >
    >
    > PLEASE NOTE: YOU HAVE NOT BEEN ASKED TO PUT UP ANY MONEY UPFRONT FOR
    > THIS JOB, THE MONEY REQUIRED TO CARRY OUT THE EVALUATION WOULD BE SENT
    > TO YOU AS SOON AS YOU HAVE LOCATED THE WESTERN UNION LOCATION.
    >
    > About Western union…
    >
    > Western Union offers one of the easiest ways for families and friends
    > to send money and stay connected almost anywhere in the world. It all
    > comes down to the relationships we’ve established over 150 years. We
    > take pride in being close to our consumers. Together with our Agents,
    > we speak our consumers’ languages and live in our consumers’
    > neighborhoods. And we share our consumers’ cultures. We are a
    > significant part of each other’s lives.
    >
    > As a result, our Agents and employees are more like ambassadors. They
    > are ambassadors of trust. Ambassadors of responsibility. And
    > ambassadors of hope. They are the living, breathing manifestation of
    > who we are as a company and everything we stand for:
    >
    > Integrity. Partnership. Opportunity. Passion. Teamwork.
    >
    >
    > Please reply this email so that the evaluation funds including your
    > paycheck would be sent out to you ASAP
    >
    >
    > Thanks:
    > Yours Sincerely
    > Shopper Manager

  3. Gayla says:

    Interesting. I’ve never seen anything from their responses. It’s sad that people are actually buying into this scam to begin with.

  4. VERNAL HASTINGS says:

    I love the mystery shopper scams. I reply to as many as possible, i now have over $20,000 in checks that have been sent to me priority mail that cost them about twenty bucks a crack. Every one should reply to them.

  5. Robert P McDaniel says:

    I responded to ads on craigs list for one of these deals and got four more offers in 2 days, all with identical wording etc.
    how stupid do they think I am?

  6. Gayla says:

    Robert, it’s amazing at just how many people fall for these scams. It’s so sad because most are in horrible financial ruins and hoping this is the break they’ve been waiting for. :(

    Having seen it happen to a family member is the very reason I started tracking and posting all the scams I can find.

  7. Milan Bansal says:

    Great blog, thanks for sharing. I will for sure visit once again

  8. Bob says:

    Interesting. We have received two “Mystery shopper” letters by priority mail both with two Postal Service money orders for almost $1800 and ask to cash them, keep $200 and go to a western union and wire the remainder to a person in the Phillipines.

    I found that to be odd and have not done anything yet!

  9. Gayla says:

    Good! I’m so glad you haven’t responded to those scams. There really are so many of those and it saddens me to know the number of people who are actually buying into them. :) Thanks for sharing.

  10. Mooch says:

    I have not received one of these letters in a long time, but since lately I have been frequenting job boards, I suspect some are phising for names and emails from them
    Because today I got a check in the mail for 2200.00, its nice to ‘feel rich’ even if the check isn’t real.
    But here’s the thing they want me to deposit the check and when the funds have cleared do 2 assignments, Wire money via Western Union and then do a retail store spree.
    First of all was the red flag of a Cashiers Check in the mail.
    Second, I have not applied for mystery shopping in years so how they got my name and address is beyond me, outside of legitimate job sites.
    third while the routing number is real, places just don’t work this way with mystery shoppers, so I will be shredding the check and not even bothering.
    But here’s the kicker, they claimed to be rated with the BBB, but yet a check comes up with nothing, a search for them at the address they claim to be at does not show them there either. And the phone numbers, ? Seems to be a cell phone or number outside teh U.S.
    I know they are a scam, but this seems to be a ‘new’ name that hisn’t hit any of the scam lists.

  11. Brandon Boman says:

    This is what I received 1/19/2012

    RE: The Mystery Shopping Survey/Task.
    The assignment & payment has been sent out to you for your mystery shopping assignment do make sure you are home to receive the package. Kindly get back to me with the assignment & transfer details once completed. As soon as I hear from you another assignment will be sent to you.
    I await your response with the assignment & transfer details.
    Have a nice day,
    Regards,
    Robert Merry.
    Mystery Shopper evaluation team®

    KINDLY NOTE: ALL EMAILS SENT TO THOMAS PINK SHOULD ALSO BE SENT/FORWARDED/CC TO ME FOR RECORD PURPOSES AND ALSO FOR ME TO GET YOU ANOTHER ASSIGNMEN

  12. Gayla says:

    Thanks for sharing. The number of these emails that circulate are proof that some people will and still fall for it. Hopefully our sharing variations of these letters will prevent some people from being scammed.

  13. Gayla says:

    I always use an “alternate” email account when signing up for forums and boards for this very reason. I’m glad you had sense enough to investigate thoroughly.

    Thanks for sharing details of your personal experience.

  14. Ashley says:

    I just had that happen to me. The western union scam, they sent me two United states postal service checks for 998.00 and they wanted me to cash them, keep 200 and then send the rest to someone in the Phillippines! So once I found out the checks were invalid, because I had never seen a United State Postal Service check, I reported them to the FTC, and will be filling out a police report and turning the checks in. i am so glad that we didn’t cash these or anything or my family and I would of been out 2000. I think they are really doing this now because everyone is getting tax money. My favorite is that they send them on weekends, probably so you can just use your own money and then cash the checks at the bank during the week so you would be out the money! Bunch of losers

  15. Sonja Wilson says:

    Hello,

    First thank you for sharing this information. We all perish
    for lack of knowledge. I just signed up for what I thought
    was another mystery shopping job. This is what attracted
    me. I have been working for a legitimate mystery shopper
    company for 2 yrs now(marketforce) so I liked what they claimed
    to offer. After receiving a fedex with nothing but a check
    I was leary. After searching the web some I started to
    see the connection to ths ad and the check. I decided to
    take my business degree fr a whirl and ask some ?? As they
    were in the background blowing up my cell and email to cash
    this check I was demanding some background information before
    we going any further. Their response?? More emails about
    doing the wire and more and more info on the transaction
    and NOTHING about the company per my request. This was
    enough for me. I encourage ANYONE to ask this question of
    any of these “so called businesses” and watch the dodge.
    That’s all I needed. I now want to know where I can give this
    check and information to for reporting. The more exposure to these
    scams…the better. Thank you so much!!

  16. Chan says:

    What do I do with the check that they sent me? I obviously don’t want to get stuck in the scam!

  17. Nicole M says:

    I just got one of these in the mail and the check is from the US postal service. So just to make sure this is a fake too?

  18. Carrie N says:

    I just received a scam mystery shopper in the mail today. It came by regular mail that had a check from Prudential Retirement in Dubuque IA for $2,900.30 I supposedly had filled out a “home base job application”. I am very suspicious right away because it was from “Prudential Retirement”? I have been an IT pro for 20 years and on the internet for 18 years and I don’t fill out job apps online for a home business as I already have one (our family has a specialty software business. To further protect myself I use a separate email account (than my business or personal one) to do any kind of shopping or filling forms out online. I was to then call Daniel Reed at 1-403-681-1846 for “activation” and “authorization” to cash the check. I want to give details here so others can see the differences in the scam. Then they explain that they wanted me to put the check in my bank then take the money out in 2 days (after it supposedly clears). I happen to know it takes longer. Then I was to go to Western Union and give back the majority of the funds ($2,390.30). Then go to a Walmart, JC Penny, Victoria’s Secret, Shell Gas Station, Best Buy, Old Navy, Pizza Hut, Subway, Target, or Home Depot and fill out a shopper survey. For this I will be able to keep $400 from the check I received. I am very hard if not impossible to scam since I have seen them all. If you get one tear the check up or shred it. Tell others as I feel bad for people who don’t know enough to be skeptical about EVERYTHING you don’t remember signing up for. Post it on these type of sites, even warn friends and family on social networking. Even in the tech age one old adage is still true IF IT SOUNDS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT USUALLY IS!! Doubt EVERYTHING and research it ALL!

  19. Christina says:

    I recently received emails from “Direct Executives” regarding mystery shopping, and Western Union was the first “assignment” they gave me. I decided to research it a little, and found this page. I emailed them back and asked them to remove my contact information from their database.

  20. lori says:

    i received oine today with a check for 3,000 for a money gram and western union secret shopper

  21. trina says:

    well I feel pretty stupid I almost fell for this western union scam!!!!

  22. trina says:

    this is just horrible that people actually do this and get away with it!!!

  23. lynn says:

    This is horrible. I had been doing surveys online and would receive coupons, knifes, free samples, etc. I received in the mail a mystery shopper check. I spoke with the contact and he assured me it was legitimate. I brought the check to my bank and deposited. I did not do anything until the bank said it was ok. I called the bank 3 times in 7 days all three times they said the check was good, it cleared. I asked did the money transfer from the other bank. “Yes” I told them I was not sure about this and please make absolutely sure because at the same time the “mystery shopper” person was calling me saying I have their money and I need to do as they say. Still “Affinity Federal Credit Union” Member service center states its good give them the money. So I had been googling, I read bab checks, to money laundering in which case this check could be good but the people I was dealing with were not. So I was getting nervous. I called the FBI – they said don’t answer the phone, did not want my name, senders phone number or any other information from me. I asked if they even try to catch these people “no – their network is too big. Never be able to catch them”. I called the Canadian Anti Fraud Center, they took the information, the mail came from Quebec – nothing they could do. They don’t even try. Said what do you think this is “CSI like TV?”. So everyone says don’t answer don’t do anything. However, my bank syas I have their money and “Mystery Shopper” says I have their money. “Mystery Shopper” has my name, my home address. Great everyone says don’t answer but they don’t have to worry about the drug cartel smashing down their door. So after 7 days I send a portion of the money to someone in Mexico via Western Union. Next day I check my bank account still ok, but I check with the bank again to make sure the funds cannot be reveresed. Again the member service center says “its all good, give them their money”. I ask them if there is still anyway these funds can be reversed – No she says. Now the funds are reveresed and I am out the ~$1,000.00. Affinity Federal Credit Union claims no responsiblity for the information given to me by their agents. It’s my problem. I believe they should have some responsiblity in providing me accurate information on check clearing and reversal of funds – I asked 3 times. All 3 times I was told I had nothing to worry about. Affinity Federal Credit Union stated they immediateley sent out updated procedures for their agents regarding these inquiries. Glad I could help them with updating their training for their agents. Free of charge. Would like to mention I have been a member for over 30 years and their head of member services “Diane Bock” said its in the paperwork I signed – ha!! I’m supposed to remember but their agents are not.

    Do I feel stupid. Yes. However, I did try to protect myself. I also no longer felt safe in my home. Since the FBI wants nothing to do with it, AntiFraud.can’t do anything I wonder why we all are not doing the same thing these crooks are doing. They seem to be the only safe ones.

  24. Gayla says:

    I am really sorry for your loss. Hopefully your story will help rank these jerks on search engines to help others avoid such horrible outcomes. Thanks for sharing your story

  25. Traci brown says:

    I received at money order over $900, I am asked to cash it at my bank and then purchase something from my local walmart and then send $800 to another shopper with an evaluation of all three places, my bank, walmart and western union. How do I know if this is a sc. I never talked to anyone directly and they said I could not talk to anyone. Please advise

  26. Gayla says:

    I would contact your local attorney generals office or a local news source to have the matter investigated. If you would like to email me privately with the details, I would be happy to use my resources to dig a little deeper. Honestly, it sounds like a big scam to me – but you can check into it deeper. Could end up saving you a ton of money.

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