Selected Press Release
Title Mystery Shopping Providers Association Warns Consumers: Beware of Ads Promising Quick Returns for Cashing a Check
Date Published 12/14/2005
Author Hart Associates



DALLAS – December 14, 2005 – A new crop of mystery shopping scams has popped up all across the United States, offering consumers the opportunity to make “easy money” by cashing a large-sum cashier’s check and evaluating the service they receive.

The Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality through the use of mystery shoppers, advises the public to disregard letters or classified ads that promise fast cash and free gifts by performing mystery shopping and service evaluations.

The most recent scam asks the consumer to cash a cashier’s check and wire the money back to a specified address, typically outside the country. The “reward” to consumers – they keep a percentage of the original cashier’s check as payment.

In these scams, the cashier’s check bounces several days later and the consumer is held liable for the entire amount of the money they wired to the international address – typically between $2,500 and $3,500.

“Mystery shopping is a valuable customer service tool that has gained widespread acceptance in the retail, financial services and restaurant industries, and proves highly valuable to companies that use it to gain customer experience metrics. However, it is not a quick and easy way to make a large sum of money and receive numerous freebies,” said John Swinburn, Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) Executive Director. “It is unfortunate there are scammers out there preying on individuals looking for legitimate mystery shopping opportunities. The bottom line – if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Mystery shoppers typically are paid modest amounts and on some occasions may receive reimbursement for required purchases,” Swinburn said. “Legitimate mystery shopping companies will never promise large sums of fast cash or require consumers to pay an up-front fee to become a mystery shopper.”

Prospective shoppers looking for legitimate mystery shopping companies can simply visit the MSPA Web site at There, they can find information on how to register to be a shopper with an MSPA company, what jobs are available in their region, and additional information on the mystery shopping industry.

The following tips are provided for those interested in becoming a mystery shopper:

- Respond directly to the companies that post the assignments (not to MSPA).

- Sign up with as many companies as you can. If a company asks you to pay, decline and move on to the next company.

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

- Once assigned a shop, ensure it is completed according to the guidelines set forth by the mystery shopping client. Shoppers who do a good job have a much higher likelihood of being invited back for future assignments.

- Prospective shoppers should never need to pay a fee to become a mystery shopper. If a shopper receives an email or visits a Web site that requests a fee, simply disregard it.

About the MSPA

With more than 180 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.

To learn more about the Federal Trade Commission's information on cashiers check scams, visit the FTC Alert on the topic).

If you think you’ve been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, report it to the following agencies:

  • The Federal Trade Commission: Visit or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

  • The U.S. Postal Inspection Service: Visit or call your local post office. The number is in the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory.

  • Your state or local consumer protection agencies: Visit for a list of state Attorneys General, or check the Blue Pages of your local telephone directory for appropriate phone numbers.