Cathy Stucker

Mystery Shopping: How It Really Works, and How to Spot a Scammer Before It's Too Late

Veteran mystery shopper Cathy Stucker keeps over $2 million out of crook’s hands.


Sugar Land, TX -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/01/2015 --It seems too good to be true. Cash a check, complete a couple of simple "mystery shops," wire some of the proceeds from the check to someone else, and pocket hundreds of dollars for a few hours of work. Rinse and repeat and make up to $2000 a week.

So what's the catch? After wiring the money, the bank informs the would-be mystery shopper that the check was a forgery and they are responsible for repaying all of the funds. What are the chances of recovering the money sent to the scammer? Zero. Once money has been wired, it is gone.

Mystery shopper and author Cathy Stucker has talked to many potential victims and estimates that she has kept more than $2 million out of the hands of scammers. "I have received more emails and phone calls than I can count from people who received a check and want to know if the company is legitimate," says Stucker. "My answer is always no. It doesn't matter what company name the fraudster is using, if they send you a check to cash it is not a real mystery shopping assignment. It is a scam."

Scammers use trust signals to get victims to fall for the scam. These include claiming to have big-name clients, such as McDonald's, WalMart, MoneyGram, Western Union and others, putting copyright and trademark notices on their emails, claiming to be members of the Better Business Bureau, and using the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies.

To avoid becoming a scam victim, Stucker recommends three best-practices:

Don't respond to spam emails claiming to offer mystery shopper jobs. They are always scams. Mystery shopping companies do not solicit people at random.

1. NEVER wire money to anyone that's not recognizable, for any reason. Ever. If someone sends a check or money order, asking to cash it and wire some of the money somewhere (or buy pre-paid cards and send the PINs to them), it is a scam. It doesn't matter what they call it, whom they claim to represent or why they say to do it, it is a scam.

2. Do not assume that if a bank allows the withdrawal of money, that the check has cleared and is good. They are required by law to release funds within a few days, but it may take weeks to determine the check is a forgery.

3. People interested in mystery shopping should stick to working with legitimate mystery shopping companies. There is a free list of 200 legitimate companies

About Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper's Manual, currently in its seventh edition. She has been a mystery shopper since 1995, has done thousands of mystery shops, and has personally trained more than 10,000 mystery shoppers across the U.S. and Canada. The Mystery Shopper's Manual is available in paperback at and, and as an e-book from most e-book retailers.

Cathy Stucker
Sugar Land, Texas