Dear Valued Shoppers,
Spot Check Services wants to take this opportunity to provide you with some tips to avoid being taken advantage of and becoming a victim of a scam from phony mystery shopping and work-from-home opportunities. You can help your friends and family avoid these scams as well by emailing them these tips and posting this on your Facebook wall.
10 WAYS TO AVOID BECOMING A VICTIM OF AN ONLINE SCAM
1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Mystery shopping is not meant to be a high paying job that you can build a full-time career around. It is meant for people who enjoy shopping and dining out, and most of the value is in the free services/products you receive. You will likely get around $10 pay which helps cover your gas used to get to the location, parking, postage, and other incidentals incurred while completing the shop. Your actual “pay” for visiting the location and filling out your report is the $20 movie or $40 hair cut or $50 meal that you get. Some assignments do have a higher allowance (hotels, casinos, travel), but we are not aware of any LEGITIMATE company that will pay $300 just for a basic retail or restaurant mystery shop. Companies that promise hundreds or thousands of dollars a month working in the mystery shopping industry or working from home are a scam, or at the very least are twisting the facts to make it sound much more profitable than it is.
2. NEVER get involved with any “assignment” that involves large sums of money changing hands, such as cashing cheques or money orders.
3. NEVER provide payment up-front to become a shopper or start working from home and NEVER give them your credit card number. With mystery shopping you will usually have to pay for your purchase up-front and will then be reimbursed by the company after you submit your receipt. However, no reputable company will ask you to pay them a fee to become a shopper or work from home. There are some companies who aren’t necessarily frauds, but what they do is just give you a list of mystery shopping or work-from-home companies with contact information and you still have to sign up with each of them. The information they are providing you for a fee is all readily available on the internet for free.
4. ALWAYS do your research before providing any personal information or making any kind of payment. You can do an online search for the company’s name to see if the company is reputable, and there are valuable online sources such as the BBB or the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association). Our personal favourite site that everyone interested in mystery shopping should visit: www.mysteryshoppersmanual.com. You will find a list of reputable mystery shopping companies there as well.
5. Be wary of unsolicited emails that come from hotmail, gmail, AOL, yahoo or other generic email accounts. Most professional businesses will have a company email address. For example, all of our emails will come from an @spotcheckservices.com email address. Do not reply to emails from people you don’t know asking you to, “Please acknowledge receipt of this email.” Scammers will use what is called email “spoofing” to make it appear as though the email came from another sender. Often the email address you see doesn’t even exist, and if you hit “reply to”, your email will actually be going to a different email address. Until you know a sender’s email address is legitimate, type it into the address field in your email rather than hitting “reply to”.
6. When someone is trying to introduce you to their company and get you to work for them, they will usually provide company information, their position, a website link, logo, address, phone number, or something so you know who it is coming from. If the email sender is vague and doesn’t clearly identify who they are, don’t respond.
7. Most established mystery shopping companies do everything online. We all have a secure database or online form that you enter your information into. We do not normally ask you to send your personal information via email, so always sign up directly through a website or web form when it is available.
8. Be careful about giving your Social Insurance Number/Social Security Number to a mystery shopping or work-from-home company, especially if they are a Canadian-based company. In most cases you are an independent contractor, not an employee, so you do not have to provide your SIN/SNN. Please note that work-from-home opportunities differ from tele-commuting or remote-employee situations where you are still an employee of the company and are required to provide your SIN/SSN. Also, laws differ and you may be required to provide your SIN/SSN to do work for companies based outside of Canada, even if the shops are in Canada. Be sure to check local requirements if you are being asked by a company to provide this information.
9. Look at the overall way the company communicates. While we are all human and typos may occur from time to time, no professional company would send an email that is full of errors or of such poor quality that you can barely understand what they are saying.
10. Don’t be afraid to contact a company directly and ask questions if you are not completely comfortable with what you see.