A Greer man, who wishes not to be identified because he fears for his safety, says he was less than 48 hours away from being swindled out of thousands of dollars.
The man injured his knee several months ago and has been out of work, but he thought he had found a way to make some quick cash by being a mystery shopper.
Mystery – or secret – shoppers are paid to discreetly shop in stores and then rate their customer service experience.
There are many legitimate secret shopping companies, but the man says the one he found appears not to be.
He said he applied for a job online with Grass Root Mystery Shopping — a company he found advertised on www.sciway.net.
He had a phone interview, but then several days passed without hearing back.
Last week, the man received two checks from a company called Hospitalists Physicians of Eastern Connecticut. They totaled nearly $3,000.
Because of the name on the check, the man assumed it was insurance money for his recent knee injury, so he deposited the money.
But a few hours after the deposit, the man received an e-mail from a John Craig with Mystery Shopping who advised him to deposit the checks and then follow certain instructions.
The man was to keep $150 as a payment, spend $50 in a nearby convenience store as a secret shopper, and then wire the remaining balance back to Mystery Shopping — and quickly.
“It was a whole lot more fishy at that point because the person was extremely insistent on having the money returned quickly as possible, within a 2-3 day time period,” the man said.
Instead of wiring or spending the money, the man called his bank which advised him to sit on the money and see if the checks cleared.
The checks didn’t clear, and a few days later, they were returned to his bank and labeled as fraudulent.
“I consider myself as an educated man, and I didn’t realize that I was going to be duped this way,” he said.
The bank removed the funds from his bank, and he called the US Secret Service.
News Channel 7 wasn’t able to reach the Secret Service Tuesday, but the man said an agent investigating the case said several other people in the Upstate had fallen for this scam in recent weeks.
In an e-mailed statement from Grass Root Mystery Shopping, a man named John Craig responded to accusations of fraud with the following e-mail:
“Regards to your email. I hereby confirm the receipt of your email. However we have had a lot of complains (sic) about some malicious people using our company for their scamming act. I will like to say that we do not pay for being a mystery shopper in our company and we did not send any check from our company. I deeply regret this as we are in the process of rectifying this issue. Thank you”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, people looking to be secret shoppers should do their homework, and avoid businesses that:
Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it’s much more likely that they’re pitching unnecessary – and possibly bogus – mystery shopping “services.”
Sell “certification.” Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.
Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.
Tags: mystery shopper