Secret shoppers make money by shopping and eating, but some jobs can be scams

Getting paid to stay at a nice hotel or eat a meal on someone else's dime?

It's called being a secret or mystery shopper. You're paid to test customer service and other areas for various businesses.

There are legitimate secret shopper jobs. But it's also a big area for scammers.

Michelle Holt saw an ad and thought the job would be perfect for her.

She even got a check for $1,900. She had to deposit the check, then take out $1,500 and wire it to certain person.

Her assignment was to fill out a survey about the experience. But Michelle grew concerned about wiring any money to someone she didn't know.

So she let me know.

Another Valley man was not so lucky.

We'll call him Bill. He didn't want to be identified but wanted to warn others about his experience.

Bill is a disabled vet who also thought a secret shopper job would be a good fit. Once he expressed interested, he received a check for $2,900. He too, was supposed to deposit it.

Bill would then buy $2,500 worth of money paks at Walmart and send them to a specific address.

Money paks are basically pre-paid cash cards.

He would then complete a survey about his customer service experience. Bill did all of that. And a day or two later, he received a much larger check for $9,900.

His assignment was to buy $6,000 worth of money paks, send them away and complete a survey.

He did that as well. Then his bank called and that changed everything. It turns out both checks he deposited were bad. So, the bank wanted back the $9,500 he had taken out.

Bill called his secret shopper contact. But they were no help, and eventually they were gone.

Bill is stuck with a huge debt. "How could I have fallen for this twice," he asks.

He says his family is going through hell trying to find a way to pay the money back. It's money he doesn't have.

While secret shopping is a big area for scammers, there are legitimate jobs.

The scams usually involve getting huge checks and being asked to wire your money back. You later find their check is no good, and you've lost your money.

To find legitimate mystery shopper jobs, go to the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association website and click on the "shoppers" section.

You can enter information there, and see what legitimate jobs are available in our zip code.

E-mail me with any consumer issue you have or "like" my Let Joe Know Facebook page and tell me about it there.

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