Selected Press Release
Title FTC Settles with Scammers Who Misrepresented Mystery Shopping; MSPA Cooperated in the Investigation
Date Published 02/06/2009
Author MSPA Staff
Publication MSPA Distribution

Operators of a website that scammed unsuspecting would-be mystery shoppers into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for emtpy and overinflated promises about mystery shopping settled with the Federal Trade Commission on December 4, 2008. (Details of the settlement may be seen at this link. ran advertisements online, in newspapers, on the radio and on television. Respondents to the ads were told by the company's telemarkers that Mystery Shop Link had large numbers of unfilled mystery shopping assignments available. In exchange for a $99 fee, consumers were promised enough work to earn steady full-time or part-time income as mystery shoppers, the FTC said.

Rather than earning regular income, consumers received a worthless certification and access to postings for mystery shopping assignments controlled by legitimate companies. The FTC said consumers had to apply for these mostly low-paying assignments and had no advantage over anyone else who found the postings free elsewhere on the Internet. Most consumers got no jobs and earned no money, the agency said.

The companies charged by the FTC in March 2008 were Mystery Shop Link and Tangent Group, both based in Portland, Maine, and telemarketer Harp Marketing Services, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The FTC also charged five of the eight defendants -- Mystery Shop Link, Tangent Group, Robin Larry Murphy, Andrew Holman and Kenneth Johnson -- with contempt. The contempt charge alleged that Murphy violated the terms of a consent judgment in a prior telemarketing fraud case involving false promises of government jobs. The 1997 consent judgment barred Murphy from making material misrepresentations of fact while telemarketing, and required him to post a $100,000 bond.

Mystery Shopping Providers Association Executive Director John Swinburn said, “MSPA is committed to maintaining the integrity of the mystery shopping industry and will continue to denounce the practices of fraudulent and deceptive companies that use mystery shopping as a cover to take advantage of people. We were happy to cooperate with the FTC in this successful effor and we also are taking action to combat other mystery shopping scams, particularly scams involving an unsolicited cashier’s check.”