Secret shopper scams in CNY: The Real Deal

The Better Business Bureau says 13 companies with New York addresses, including one in Syracuse, are offering you fake secret shopper jobs.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Scammers are targeting people looking for work in our area. We've seen it before: you're offered the opportunity to be a secret shopper and rate companies based on aspects like customer service.

The Better Business Bureau says 13 companies with New York addresses, including one in Syracuse, are offering you fake secret shopper jobs.

The companies target people who have resumes posted online and job statuses updated on social media sites.

They appear real at first, with professional looking websites and fake stamps of approval from the Better Business Bureau itself.

But a red flag comes in the mail. You're sent a check for money to spend at a company you're told to evaluate. After shopping, you're told to wire money back to your employer.

Soon after, you find out from your bank that the first check was counterfeit. You could owe the bank back the money you spent, with added fees. The losses people have been scammed out of range from $300 to $1,900.

Some of the companies are still soliciting job applicants even though they've been flagged. NewsChannel 9 spoke to one company that claims to be from Batavia that assured me they still have job openings and that they'd send an email with more details on the process.

The Better Business Bureau provided the following information:

BBB warns against the following businesses and their ‘mystery shopping’ job offers
are all currently F rated, due to concerns BBB has with the industry in which they operate:

LibertyTrade Management Services of Batavia,NY - consumers have reported to the BBB that they have received unsolicited checks and wired money to a foreign location. After wiring the money consumers are alerted from the bank that the checks are not good and the consumers have to repay the bank.

The National Consumer Voice Customer Evaluation of Niagara Falls, NY - consumers were sent a check in the mail. When one consumer tried to cash the check the bank verified the check was fraudulent.

SchnuckSurvey Consumer Research of Niagara Falls, NY – consumers report this company sent checks in the mail for a Secret Shopping opportunity. The address the company is using is a fraudulent address in New York.

Consumers are also encouraged to avoid the following ten businesses:
  1. In Touch Mystery Shopper Experts of Warsaw, NY
  2. Kata Management of Lancaster, NY
  3. Laredo Marketing Inc. of Niagara Falls, NY
  4. Logic Marketing Inc. of Lockport, NY
  5. Mystery Evaluation Research Company of Clifton Park, NY
  6. Regional Marketing Services of Rochester, NY
  7. Spectrum Management Inc. of Rochester, NY
  8. The First Alliance Survey Management Services Inc. of Buffalo, NY
  9. Vantage Market Research Inc. of Syracuse, NY
  10. Yak Management Solution of Lancaster, NY
In some cases, businesses receive a lower rating when they do not respond to BBB requests for information about the businesses, or fail to provide sufficient background information on the business. More information about BBB ratings elements can be found at bbb.org.

To steer clear of get-rich-quick offers, the BBB advises mystery shopper applicants to:
  • Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily. Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income.
  • Avoid falling for claims that "guarantee" a position, without training.
  • Be cautions of unsolicited e-mails offering "work-from-home."
  • Never pay money up-front. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training or recruiting.
  • Check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general.
  • 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.

The Better Business Bureau’s Peggy Penders Tronolone answered the following questions:
Just how widespread is this scam?
This scam has been traced across the country.
How many people do you know that have fallen for it?
Thousands, but it would be difficult to provide an exact number since many people that have are too embarrassed to say so.
How many complaints have you received this year?
The complaint volume is in the hundreds, but the inquiry numbers are in the thousands. This activity number is not available in our public records, but indicates a spike of activity as consumers research the business and seek out BBB information about them.
Just how much has it picked up speed in this area?
BBB has seen a significant increase in business files, up 60% over last year, about this type of industry.
What is the range of money people seemed to be getting scammed out of with this?
Losses range from $300 to $1,900.

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