Mystery Shopper Scam

Mystery shopping, sometimes referred to as secret shopping, is where an individual is hired to “act” like a customer, and evaluate services at a business. The individual is essentially paid to shop, and then report on the experience.  Walmart does NOT utilize these services.

Fraudsters are sending fraudulent solicitations via mail, print, text, and e-mail to entice consumers to evaluate the retail experience, products and services at stores, including Walmart.

This mystery shopper scam uses fraudulent offers, fake checks and wire transfers to persuade unsuspecting consumers into sending money to fraudsters who are often located outside the U.S.

These communications are often associated with fictional departments or branding initiatives with e-mails coming from addresses that appear to be “Wal-Mart” or an address such as “admin@walmart.com”.  There is usually another email address embedded in the “From” line.  You can see the embedded email address by either hovering your cursor over the “From” line in the email or in many cases by clicking the “Reply” button and seeing what is in the “To” line of the reply email.  Be careful to delete the reply before sending as to not confirm your receipt of the email to the scam artists thus confirming to them that your email is active.

These communications ask consumers to assist with Walmart's secret shopping efforts through mystery shopping in our stores and through evaluation of MoneyGram services we provide and often lead to consumer financial loss or identity theft.

How these scams work:

  1. The scam artist sends a letter, e-mail solicitation or places an ad in a newspaper or on an electronic message board describing a paid, stay-at-home position in which the consumer will evaluate customer service at large retail stores—businesses with familiar names. In reality, these stores have no affiliation with the scam artist placing the ad.
  2. After responding to the ad, the consumer receives an "employment packet" containing a training assignment, a list of products to purchase at different stores and a realistic-looking cashier's check, often for $2,000 to $4,000.
  3. The "training assignment" is to deposit the check into the consumer's bank account, pose as a shopper and then use wire transfer to send the balance of the check's proceeds (minus the cost of the purchases and the consumer's "salary") to an address outside the United States, often in Canada.

The problem is that the check is fake; so when it bounces—which occurs after the money is wired—the consumer is accountable (in some cases, criminally) to the bank for the entire amount of the fake check, plus additional penalty fees. Also, in some instances, consumers are asked for personal bank account information. The company will then "deposit" money into their account for payment and funds with which to perform their Secret Shopper tasks. These consumers often then become victims of identity theft.

How to protect yourself:

  • Don't open or respond to unsolicited e-mails asking you to become a mystery shopper or secret shopper.
  • Never deposit a check you receive in the mail from a "mystery shopping" company. No legitimate business will pay in advance and ask you to send back a portion of the money.
  • If you have posted your resume to an online job site, verify with the site any job solicitations you receive.
  • Don't click on or respond to online ads or Web sites offering free gift cards.
  • Remember, if it sounds too good to believe, it is!

Walmart Practices:

  • Walmart never solicits mystery shoppers via e-mail, mail, or any other public means
  • These shopper offers are not from Walmart and should be deleted or reported, per the next section:

To report suspected wire transfer scams:

If you receive an e-mail related to, or suspect you have been a victim of, a wire transfer scam such as the "mystery shopper," please forward, or send, an e-mail to fraudalert@moneygram.com or call 1-800-MONEYGRAM. If the money has not been picked up, Money Gram will refund the amount and transfer fee.

If you suspect you have received a fraudulent e-mail claiming to be from Walmart, please forward the e-mail directly to Walmart at abuse@walmart.com. For investigatory purposes, please do not cut and paste the e-mail; change the subject line and e-mail it to us or send it as an attachment.

If you were a victim of fraud via the Internet, you should file a report with your local law enforcement along with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICCC). The ICCC is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. You can make a report with the ICCC by going to the following link: http://www.ic3.gov/

Additional Resources: