Mystery shopping or “secret shopping” is when a store pays you a fee to pose as a regular shopper in exchange for evaluating the store’s customer service. While some of these opportunities are legitimate, many of the ads you’ll encounter for mystery shoppers are just a ruse to swindle you out of your money. The scammers may lure you with promises that you can make easy money. All you have to do is go to their website and pay a “fee” to register or to get access to a directory of mystery shopping opportunities. But the only one who ends up making money is the scammer who collected the fee.

Another twist some scammers use is to tell you your first mystery shopping job is to evaluate the services of a wire transfer company like Western Union. They send you a large check and ask you to deposit it in your bank account and then wire back a portion of those funds.  Unfortunately, the check turns out to be counterfeit and now you’ve wired your own cash to the scammers.

Remember that legitimate mystery shopping jobs do not require you to pay money. In addition, a request to wire money is a big red flag of a scam.