Terry Goddard Warns Consumers of
"Secret" Shopper Scam
(Phoenix, Ariz. - July 12, 2006) Attorney General
Terry Goddard today warned Arizona consumers about a new scam involving
phony advertisements for employment as a "secret," "mystery" or
Recently, several Tucson residents have answered employment ads calling
for "shoppers" to test a company service, claiming that if they perform
this job, they will be paid thousands of dollars.
"This is a new twist on old scams," Goddard said. "This combines a phony
job offer with the fake cashier's check scam. The ads and the employment
packages look real, but they're not. The cashier's checks look so real
that even bank employees have been fooled."
In some instances, the scam works this way: When consumers contact the
company about the position, they are told they can earn money by
purchasing items at different stores or dining at different restaurants.
This is the hook that gets consumers to take the next step to become a
"secret" shopper. The company then sends an employment packet. The
packet includes business evaluation forms, a training assignment and a
fake cashier's check, often ranging between $2,000 and $4,000.
The training assignment is to pose as a customer and wire money to a
"relative." The consumer is told to cash the check and wire the money to
an address in Canada. The check is phony and bounces after the consumer
deposits the check into his or her personal account and wires the money,
leaving the consumer liable for the fake check. Consumers are told they
have 48 hours to complete the "assignment" or they will lose their job.
"Consumers need to know that a legitimate company will never send you a
cashier's check out of the blue or require you to send money to someone
you have never met," Goddard said. "The scam artists use realistic
looking documents, the 'secret' nature of the job, and the 48-hour
deadline to pressure consumers into cashing the check and wiring the
money quickly before the bank or the consumer can determine it was a
fake check. By then, it's too late."
Goddard said that while some "secret" shopper companies are legitimate,
consumers should be skeptical of any secret, mystery or investigative
shopping companies that:
Advertise jobs for shoppers on the radio, in a newspaper's classified or
"help wanted" section or through unsolicited email. Legitimate secret
shopper companies generally do not advertise for jobs in this manner.
"Guarantee" a job as a mystery, secret or
Charge a fee just for applying or charge a fee for
access to secret shopping job opportunities. You should not pay any fee
to apply or to obtain job information.
Appear to be located in places outside the country,
such as Canada. If the company does not have an established office
nearby that you can visit in person, be very cautious. Goddard offered
the following additional tips to protect consumers from these scams:
Do not depend on the funds from a cashier's check from a source you do
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 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 more 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.
It is always a good idea to check with the Better
Business Bureau and investigate any business offering this sort of
employment. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please
contact the Attorney General's Office in Phoenix at 602.542.5763, in
Tucson at 520.628.6504, or outside the metro areas at 1.800.352.8431. To
file a complaint in person, the Attorney General's Office has 23
satellite offices throughout the state with volunteers available to
help. Locations and hours of operation are posted on the Attorney
General's Web site. Consumers can also file complaints online at