Scam Alert — Canadian Mystery Shop Scam Company Targets Me

I guess it was just a matter of time before one of those Canadian-based mystery shopping scam companies found my mailing address and sent me one of their scam packages in the mail. My intention with this post is to provide you with the details of this particular scam package, so that you’re less likely to fall victim to similar offers.

The material they sent me is very similar to those that have been well documented by web sites and news stations for the past few years. Let’s start with the envelope. As you can see from the following picture I took of the return address, the letter was sent from Ontario, Canada. This is an important tip-off that the contents are likely fraudulent, as Canadian scam operations are apparently immune to U.S. consumer protection bureaus, and are nearly impossible to take to court, should you fall victim to their scams.
Return Address is Canadian!

The first document in the letter I noticed was the check, made payable to me, in the amount of $2,800! It’s an impressive looking check, with signatures, proper bank fonts, and even a bank that is supposedly located in my state of Missouri. However, the check is completely fraudulent. If a bank would for some reason actually allow me to cash this check, it would soon bounce, and I’d be liable for repaying the $2,800 plus penalties.
The Fake Check

The next document of interest is the letter explaining my mystery shopping tasks. While it is fairly well worded, you can still find several grammatical and typographical errors throughout the letter, which should arouse suspicion. It also contains copyrighted corporate logos of McDonalds, Western Union, Sears, Money Gram, and Wal-Mart which are used to lend some credibility to the letter. The letter explains how I’m supposed to spend my money at the various business listed. The two main tasks are wiring a significant amount of money back to the Canadian scam operation using both Money Gram and Western Union. This money would theoretically come out of the money you received for cashing their check. Of course, the scam company hopes you transfer your money to them BEFORE you are notified that their check bounced.
The Shop Details

And finally, they provided a very poor imitation of a mystery shop feedback form. Anyone who has had much experience with actual mystery shops would recognize the generic and unrealistic quality of this feedback form. Every question could apply to basically any shop for any product. But any legitimate feedback form would be catered to the actual shop being performed, would have more questions, and would ask for more detailed responses.
The Fake Feedback Form

Since I have been targeted by this company, it’s likely many more have as well. Hopefully my exposure of this despicable scam operation will help prevent many of you from falling victim to their scheme. Be careful out there, fellow shoppers!!!

If you truly are interested in earning money from home, I strongly suggest you obtain the following free programs and see if one of them interests you. Then report back here with your experiences: Rich Moms, Work Home Now, Your Bill Killer, Make Money With Google, eBay for Dummies

– Christy

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Scam Alert — Canadian Mystery Shop Company

This story hits close to home. In this case, a person from the St. Louis area was nearly scammed by a Canadian scam operation posing as a Mystery Shopping company. It’s a familiar story with the same cautionary advice — NEVER wire money to a company based on check funds they provide you! The checks are fake, and YOU will be responsible for covering the bounced funds.


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Mystery Shop — Car Wash Service

Business Shopped: Auto Washing and Cleaning Service
Average Profit: $5.00
Recommendation: Recommended

You probably have a good idea who this company is, as they are a well known national gas and car wash service provider located in St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver and Cleveland.

The objective of the shop was to drive in and park at one of their available gas station pumps. An attendant was then supposed to greet me within 30 seconds and ask what services I desired. For this specific shop, only a full service wash and vacuum was required. Of course, he tried to upsell additional services, such as tire cleaning, but I refused, as that would have cut into my profit margin for the shop.

The next step was to note whether my license plate had been noted on the service slip the next service person provided. I also had to time the entire experience from arrival, to completion of the cleaning services. It was also important to get the names and physical descriptions of the greeter, the cashier, and the checkout service person.

Average time to compete these type of shops is only 10-15 minutes, but the profit margin is fairly low. So pick these shops up only if the business is on your way home from work, or you can work it between other more lucrative shops. But the requirements are fairly easy, and you get a nice clean car to show for your trouble!

Christy’s Tip: Make sure to be in a good position to observe the services being performed on your car, as you may get questions regarding their completion. Or you may get asked whether the manager looked inside your car to approve the work.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before participating in any mystery shopping job that requires travel, make sure you’re vehicle is insured according to state and local regulations. You wouldn’t want to be pulled over by the police and given a fine, or have your auto impounded or license revoked. If you are interested in learning more about insurance offers, feel free to check out this informative site.

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Mystery Shop — Auto Service / Tire Stores

Business Shopped: Auto service and tire store
Average Profit: $15.00
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

This type of shop requires you to enter a large chain auto service and tire store and discuss a purchase with a sales associate. Typically the shop will require you to express interest in purchasing a certain number of tires for your vehicle.

As you discuss your needs with the salesperson, it is important not to guide them towards any particular brand of tire, or to ask for current specials. They should bring these items up in time, and if they do not, you’ll be noting that in your shop report. You’ll basically be keying on the salesperson’s overall knowledge, friendliness, and description of each recommended tire’s features, prices, and discounts.

I highly recommend these type of shops because they pay well, are fairly easy to complete, and what you learn can come in handy the next time you actually need tires or service. In one case, I was actually able to line up two shops for the same business on the same day. It was very interesting to see how different the two salesperson’s approaches actually were.

Christy’s Tip: Make sure to know your vehicle’s year, make, and model so that the salesperson can look up available tires for you. Alternatively, you could provide your tire’s actual specifications (i.e. P235/55 R17).

If you are taking a road trip, I highly recommend bringing along plenty of travel guides to keep you on track. You can find free ones here.

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Tips and Info — Getting the Highest Payout

Let’s face it. Most mystery shop companies do not offer to pay much for their shops, especially those for fast food establishments. Four to five dollars on top of the meal compensation is fairly standard. Sure, you can line up several such shops in a day. But unless you maximize your compensation, your profits may barely cover your travel costs.

So what do I do to maximize my mystery shop profits? Here are the tactics I use:

1) I will first complete several shops for any new mystery shop company. This shows them you are an effective and reliable shopper. In this way, you will build a favorable relationship with the MSC and make them more likely to compromise with you on future shop rates.

2) For an MSC for which I’ve compiled a solid work record, I almost never accept an assignment at the proffered compensation. It may seem counter-intuitive, but they will eventually almost expect you to ask for more, and won’t usually balk at a higher rate.

3) MSCs will often contact you directly for shops they need completely quickly, as the deadline for its completion is soon approaching. In such cases, they will almost always increase the payout, as long as you ask for it.

4) If the mystery shop is not an emergency for the MSC, you can usually cite the excessive travel expenses and inherent risks you have to incur to complete it. You must consider distance and time necessary for the shop. The MSC usually just compares the zip codes of your residence location to the shop location, which can indicate an under-estimated distance. Therefore you can cite the true distance, toll roads, high traffic conditions, parking costs, or high-crime risk in certain areas. All of these considerations can impact your expected payout rate.

5) Stand firm on your requests for enhanced payouts. There is, of course, the risk that they will just not be able to meet your expectation. But you must remain firm and refuse the shop. If you back down, then they’ll be less likely to meet your future payout increase requests.

6) How much extra should you ask for? There is no specific dollar amount or percentage that I always use. Experience is key here. But a basic guideline is that I ask typically ask twice the shop fee, if the original fee is under $10. For shop fees over $10, I usually ask for a basic $5 increase.

While these guidelines may not work perfectly for everyone, I’ve found them very helpful in maximizing my own mystery shopping profits. As always, feel free to add comments with your own techniques so we can all benefit!

If you are considering other work from home options, consider checking out sites such as WorkHomeNow or Your Bill Killer for more information.

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