Stephanie Zimmermann on E-Mail Scams

Consumer Tips from "The Fixer"

Chicago Sun-Times' "Fixer" columnist Stephanie Zimmermann posed as Jan Brady in an attempt to scam an e-mail scammer. She tells us what she uncovered on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm. Check out some of her tips below.

Stephanie Zimmerman

Getting a job as a “mystery shopper” sounds like a fun way to make a little money, and there are people who legitimately do this for companies who want to keep tabs on how well their workers are treating their customers. But there are lots of scams, too.

In one common scam, the bad guys send out e-mails for a phony mystery shopper website, where they say you can register to find work. This scam is simple: they take your money for a bogus certification program or a useless list of job opportunities and leave you with nothing in return.

In a more complicated scam, the con artist offers a mystery shopping job via e-mail. After you accept, they give you your first assignment: to deposit their check into your personal bank account and wire the money back to them, to test the services of Western Union or MoneyGram. 

The problem comes after the assignment is completed. That’s when your bank realizes the check was a fake and comes to you for the missing money. By then, the so-called employer is long gone. 

To avoid this scam, remember:

  • Be skeptical of ads for mystery shopping jobs that arrive in unsolicited e-mails or guarantee you employment.
  • Beware of anyone who wants an upfront fee to access mystery shopping opportunities.
  • Never wire money as part of a mystery shopping assignment.
  • For information on real mystery shopping jobs, check out mysteryshop.org, a trade association website.

For more consumer tips from Stephanie Zimmermann, visit the links below.