On Your Side Investigators reveal secrets behind some secret shopper ads

Posted at 5:45 AM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 07:42:24-05

On Your Side Investigators are revealing the secrets behind some Secret Shopper websites.

They claim they want you to "test" businesses but they're really only out for your money.

"I wanted to be a Secret Shopper always,” said Terri Jones from Cleveland's east side. She’s retired, uses a cane, and has been looking for some extra money to supplement her social security and pension. "Oh, you can become a Secret Shopper and make anywhere from a $100 to $1,000 a week just for shopping for 2 to 3 hours," Jones said.

We found legitimate Secret Shopper companies on MSPA Americas — formerly Mystery Shopping Providers Association. The companies’ ads are alluring and it's easy to see how people could be enticed.

Jones found similar looking ads online, filled out a few forms on several sites and then an envelope came.

"I opened it up and there's this check... and I thought, ‘Oh, my God!" said Jones. It was a check for nearly $3,000.  And it had the logo of a real credit union. Terri was excited. "It's Christmas,” Jones thought.

What was Jones supposedly "testing" for the scammers? Money wiring operations.

The crooks told her to deposit the check into her personal bank account then take out large chunks of it.

"Send $1,200 to this guy in Houston and then go to another Walmart and send another $1,200 to a guy in Dallas,” explained Jones.

Sue McConnell is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland.

"These Secret Shoppers or Mystery Shopping scams continue to be a problem,” she told us.  McConnell also said sometimes the letters will tell you to pay upfront fees and you'll be reimbursed later. People in our area have tried them out.

"But all too often, they realize that after the fact that they've been duped," explained McConnell.

Terri took the check to her credit union. They told her it wasn't real. Now she's warning you especially because, on the day of our interview in her apartment building, someone else got a different kind of envelope.

"(She) just came in the office and said that they…sent her a letter that they were approved for this loan,” said Jones. That motivates Jones even more. "I really wanted everybody, especially the people around here to see this, to not be fooled by this."

To help verify a Secret Shopper or Mystery Shopper ad, check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.  Plus, there are more tips from the Federal Trade Commission about secret shopper jobs.