Selected Press Release
Title Scams Continue---MSPA Continues Vigilance
Date Published 02/06/2009
Author MSPA Staff
Publication MSPA Distribution

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Some scammers use legitimate company names, even including Mystery Shopping Providers Association or MSPA. Be wary! One scammer signs email as: Mystery Shopping Providers Association, John Edwardson, Admin Agent,, © MSPA, 2009. Don't be fooled!

DALLAS – Updated: April 22, 2009 - The Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), the largest trade association dedicated to brand management and improving service quality using anonymous resources, wants to warn consumers of an ongoing check cashing scam.

Scammers approach prospective victims via mail, email, and telephone, or lure in victims by posting ads online, such as in Craigs's List. They pose as representatives of mystery shopping companies and attempt to persuade their targets that they want to engage them as mystery shoppers. Using highly sophisticated ploys, the scammers convince their victims that they will receive checks that they are to deposit in to their checking accounts, then wire most of the moeny to someone else. Often, this "someone else" is said to be a fellow mystery shopper who is involved in the evaluation of the money wiring service, etc. Victims deposit the check and wire the money, as instructed, discovering later that the check was counterfeit and that the victim is liable for all the money sent from his or her bank.

In the past, the scam used a fake cashier’s check to take thousands of dollars from consumers. More recently, consumers have received what appears to be a regular check from a legitimate mystery shopping company, but the check is actually forged.

Another scam tries to convince prospective victims to undertake shops by spending their own money, which the scammers say will reimbursed through direct deposit to a Citi Bank (or other institution) account (and the shopper is urged to open such an account and send details to the scammer so the "deposit" can be made.

In another version, consumers receive a large-sum check, typically between $1,000 and $5,000. They are asked to evaluate the service at a variety of stores and wire a portion of the money back to the sender while also evaluating the wiring service. Consumers are told to keep a portion of the money as payment.

The name of a real company usually appears on the check as well as real account information. The forgery of the check is discovered a few days after it is deposited, and the consumer is held responsible for the entire amount of the check.

“Scammers are taking advantage of the allure of Mystery Shopping to take money from consumers' hands,” said MSPA Executive Director John Swinburn. “MSPA has long recognized the problem and is constantly working to make consumers aware of new scams related to Mystery Shopping.”

MSPA urges consumers who receive similar offers to file a report by contacting the following:

National Consumers League/Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness:

Internet Crime Complaint Center: (if the offer is received by email or you are

Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service: (if the offer is received by mail)

Local Police

Federal Trade Commission:

Federal Bureau of Investigation:

To see a list of legitimate companies go to

Mystery shopping is a valuable tool used by some of the largest retailers, restaurants and banks to understand and enhance the experience they provide to customers. However, it is not a quick and easy way to make a large sum of money and receive “freebies.” The MSPA has developed the following tips for those interested in becoming a mystery shopper:

  • Prospective shoppers do not have to pay a fee to become a mystery shopper. Shoppers should be extremely wary of any mystery shopping offer that requests a fee.

  • Visit the MSPA Web site ( for a list of reputable mystery shopping companies and opportunities. Contact the companies directly, not the MSPA, for more information on how to become a shopper.

  • Be patient. It takes time, sometimes months or even longer, to be contacted with an offer to conduct a shopping assignment.

  • Be cautious of opportunities that offer large sums of money for simple tasks like cashing a check or wiring money. A typical mystery shopping evaluation will earn about $8 to $20. If an assignment sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

About the MSPA

With more than 275 member companies worldwide, the MSPA has a diverse membership, including marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services. Its goals are to establish professional standards and ethics for the industry, educate providers, clients and shoppers to improve quality of service, improve the image of the industry and promote the membership to other industry associations and prospective clients.