Beware! Fake ‘Amazon’ Mystery Shopper scam?

A would-be mystery shopper is skeptical of a surprise in the mail

Recently, I received an email from “Amazon,” announcing a big research project in my area.

Mystery Shoppers were being recruited to report on all aspects and details of their shopping experiences at large national shops and restaurants in their area. Commenting in detail about treatment by employees, displays, cleanliness and much more, to then be sent to the companies — providing valuable information as to how their units are performing.

The email said that if I registered to perform these ongoing surveys, I’d be paid $300.00 for each assignment. The company claiming to be Amazon only required my full name, mailing address and contact cell phone with my acceptance. A few days later they were congratulating me as a new Mystery Shopper!

I was assured that no commitment or membership fee was required. I would just be posing as a normal customer, purchasing a product, or using a service, while secretly evaluating quality of customer service, merchandise displays, store cleanliness, etc. The mystery shopping would take place at large chain stores, popular franchises like CVS, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Western Union, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and 7 Eleven.

Lastly, they said a survey packet, including funds, would be mailed soon. A week later, a FedEx envelope arrived with instructions for the first assignment, including a bank check for $2,300.00. Now, I must confess, I was feeling skeptical about this  “to good to be true” undertaking!

All they knew about me was my name, address and cell phone. But I was too suspicious to deposit the check: Would that put me at risk for exposing my bank account information? And it seemed clear at this point that the company was only purporting to be affiliated with Amazon when it was not. I felt I was being lined up to be scammed — especially since there are recent news stories about similar mystery shopper offers that turned out to be a way for fraudulent companies to steal money from people who were just trying to make some extra income.

I found a phone and address for the FBI, but when I called, the phone had been disconnected. Believe it or not, I could not reach an FBI office in my area, so I turned to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, eventually reaching a live person. Instructions were short and sweet: a Postmaster Inspector’s address to send my fraud complaint with all documents, including the check, but no way to speak and discuss the case, nor any future follow up with the Inspector. I simply sent off all the documents!

That, I trust was the end of it, but those scammers do have my residence address, so I’m hoping that I will not hear a knock on the the door some time in the future.