Mystery shoppers beware: ' I just want to warn other people'

Mystery shoppers beware: ' I just want to warn other people' »Play Video
EAGLE, Idaho - The job of a 'secret shopper' is becoming a popular job, but you have to be careful because it's also an easy way for scammers to take advantage of you.

There are several credible companies that hire secret, or mystery, shoppers. You go into retail stores and restaurants, and report on the service and products. Karla Vandenberg thought it was the perfect opportunity to get paid for doing what she loves.

"Come apply for a job, a mystery shopper, it's exciting and we'll pay you $200 every time you go out," said Karla Vandenberg, who lives in Eagle.

Vandenberg got the e-mail and says she was hooked in.

"I thought that's cool because I love to shop and I'm pretty critical," Vandenberg said.

So she e-mailed back the information they wanted including her address, age, and date of birth. Two big money orders totaling $1,800 was sent to her with instructions to cash them and keep $200 for her first shopping trip and wire the rest of the money back.

"They pursue you when you don't do it and tell you they're going to call the F.B.I because you stole their money.

"Scam artists love to play the part of the mean guy if all the sudden don't follow instructions," said Dale Dixon, president of the Better Business Bureau.

Dixon says they receive numerous reports like Vandenberg's. He says the scammers are sending real, stolen checks, that can be cashed. However, a few days later the bank will call to say the checks were stolen and you are responsible for the money.

"They're smart and skilled," Dixon said. "A scam artist is nothing more than a thief who figured out how to do it without putting a gun to your head to do it."

Vandenberg says she feels foolish.

"If it happens to me I just wanted to warn other people," Vandenberg said.

She always thought scams just hit senior citizens, but this mystery shopper scam certainly proved her wrong. As for legitimate mystery shopper jobs Dixon says they're usually with one retailer, you'll be paid once your shopping trip is completed, and you will never be asked to wire them money.