Mystery Shopping Scam

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A short while ago I received an e-mail from a woman named Terisa that appeared to be through CareerBuilder.  She stated that she had seen my resume and had some positions she thought I would be a great fit for.  I am working full time, but looking for something new and I just nonchalantly shot an e-mail back asking what kind of positions exactly she was talking about.

Sometime later I received another e-mail from her with a description for a mystery shopping position.  I must admit, I was intrigued.  I looked up the name of the company and saw a blog that said it was legitimate.  I saw their website which was very nice and looks very legitimate.  As it turns out, the name of the company she used, Performance in People, Ltd, is totally legitimate.  I thought this would be a great way to make extra cash and I decided to give it a try.  She sent me a very official looking agreement and the info in it all seemed ok.

So I signed up and was sent my first assignment, to do a mystery shop at two different Wal-Mart stores, as well as buy these reloadable debit cards.  It seemed simple enough, and I was told that I would receive all funds prior to completing the shop.  I received two checks in the mail, and this is where I should have suspected something was fishy.  The company is based in the UK, but the checks were postmarked in Ohio and drawn on a personal account in Hawaii.  However I was caught up in the idea of making extra cash just for shopping.  I went to the bank and cashed the checks because these PayPower cards were supposed to be bought with cash.  A couple days later we went to complete the shopping, buying $50 of merchandise at 2 different Wal-Mart’s.  Now here is what probably saved my bacon.  These cards that they were looking for, are not sold around here, even though the website says they are.  We went to three stores and could not find them.

I believe the way this scam was meant to work was that I would buy these reloadit cards and submit the codes as part of my “report”.  Then Terisa would use the codes to cash in the cards and have the money for herself.  The reason I know this was a scam is because a couple days later I looked at my bank account and found that the checks I had cashed had been returned.  I tried to e-mail Terisa, but have not heard back from her.  I e-mailed someone at Performance in People and they told me that a) they don’t use this kind of recruitment, and b) they only hire people in the UK.

So this woman is using this company’s name, logos, and address to perpetrate scam on people trying to make a few bucks.  If not for the fact that we couldn’t find those cards I would be out almost $3,000.  Thankfully I am only out the $100 or so worth of stuff that we bought at Wal-Mart and it’s stuff that we wanted or needed and will use anyhow.

I guess the moral of the story is to make sure you do all kinds of research before you sign up for something… and listen to your gut.

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