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Western Union Mystery Shop? Read This First! April 8, 2012

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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If you’re reading this, it is likely that you received a “mystery shopping” offer via email or postal mail that involves Western Union and Walmart or another large, well known company. Most likely, you are not a mystery shopper at this point, but you’re intrigued and wonder if this is legit.

PLEASE –  STOP RIGHT THERE! IT IS NOT LEGIT!

The one unfortunate thing about the mystery shopping industry is that scammers love us. I don’t know why, but they do. It seems that every few months – or if we’re lucky, years – mystery shopping companies get to take turns dealing with this scam. It is my hope that enough people who are contacted with the Western Union “shop” will see this page and understand what it is and what they can do.

You may receive an email that appears to be from a legitimate mystery shopping company – if you look the name up online, you’ll see they are legit. Unfortunately, the only truthful information in the correspondence you receive is the company name. If you look closer at the sender, email address, or company address, they do not always match. In the most recent case that affected our company, someone decided to purchase a domain name that was exactly like ours, except for one letter. At a quick glance, though, it would look like it is in fact coming from us.

They will email you a “mystery shop” offer, letting you know that you will be receiving a package in the mail that contains a Western Union check for a large amount (I’ve seen anywhere from $1,600 to $3500). You are supposed to “evaluate” the service at the Western Union in a Walmart or other “assigned” location. You are instructed to bring the check to your bank, deposit it, withdraw a big portion of it for the “evaluation”, and keep the rest as your “payment.”

Here’s what will happen if you go ahead with this: the banker may be able to tell if the check is fraudulent, but unfortunately, these people are becoming so good at what they do that sometimes the bank cannot even tell you if it’s real or not.  If you deposit it, it will bounce, and you can be in a financial mess.

Thankfully, people are becoming more savvy about scams and they will check it out before doing anything. One piece of advice – calling the number that is listed in the documents you receive will NOT help! Several mystery shopping companies have called these numbers posing as a “shopper” who just received the check, and the people who are answering the phone make it sound very legitimate.

If you receive this “mystery shopping” offer, what should you do? To help us out, it would be great to search for the name of the mystery shopping provider and give them a call to make them aware that their name is being attached to the scam. We really appreciate these calls, as they are most times the only way we know we’re being hit with this. Save all of the emails, checks, and documents that you receive so you can send them to the mystery shopping provider if need be. I always ask people to send me everything they have so I can report it and try to shut them down. The more documentation we have, the better we can deal with it and stop it from happening to others.

It is also a good idea to call your local police department (non-emergency, of course) and tell them you received a Western Union scam and would like to file a report. It is very hard to trace these people or do anything about it, since they often operate from outside the country, but again, the more documentation that is collected, the more it can help.

Finally, it’s a good idea to review this list of actions you can take. Cory Jensen is a respected colleague of ours and owns Core Research Mystery Shopping. He has been dealing with this issue for many years and is passionate about educating the public on the scams.

If this has intrigued you and made you curious about mystery shopping, I can give you some tips on finding legitimate opportunities if you’d like to check it out. Please know that the pay is not as enticing as it sounds – you will not be making hundreds of dollars per shop. However, it’s a great way to improve customer service and shop at a variety of places and make some extra cash. Check out the following places to learn more about the industry:

1. MSPA – this is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Only legitimate mystery shopping companies belong to the association, and there is a search function to learn more about companies you can register with.

2. Jobslinger – this is a free site that you can register for. It will allow you to search by zip code to see which companies have shops in your area. The site makes it easy to register with these companies so you are notified when shops become available in your area.

3. Volition – this is perhaps the oldest and most robust forum dedicated to mystery shopping. It’s a good place to read and learn from shoppers’ perspectives.

4. Ann Michaels & Associates – of course, please register with us! We have shops nationwide and are always welcoming new shoppers!

Hopefully we can educate the public little by little to save them from financial heartache. If you’ve had experiences with this, please share. the more we can get the word out, the harder we will make it for scammers to prey on the public!

Until next time…happy shopping!

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The Shift in Traditional Mystery Shopping June 17, 2010

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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Years ago, mystery shopping focused on the onsite experience. More recently, it has shifted to telephone evaluations as another area of importance, as businesses realize that customer service standards need to be upheld across all customer touchpoints.

As internet traffic and online shopping have increased, there is again a shift in mystery shopping uses. Online mystery shops have been on the increase – if you haven’t seen them, they are a simple and interesting, and provide a nice diversion from the norm.

We’ve seen clients use online shops for a variety of uses – anything from being assigned to shop for a specific product to evaluate the ease of use or making a purchase to then take pictures of the delivery and enclosed information, to emailing or using the live chat feature to interact and track response time. We have also seen instances in where shoppers are required to place an order online, and, once it is received, call to place a complaint to see how it is handled. Sometimes the return process is also evaluated.

Written evaluations seems to be the norm for this type of shop, but most recently we’ve seen recorded shops in which shoppers use an online recording product where the client can “watch” the shopper as they navigate the website. This helps clients see what customers see first when visiting their website, where they tend to click and other pertinent web analysis. Couple this with audio recording of the experience, and the client can be a “fly on the wall.”

It is definitely interesting to watch as this industry evolves. I’ve been in the business for 12 years, so I’ve seen it all so far! Mystery shopping is a great industry to be a part of for this reason – you never know what’s going to happen next!

Until next time…happy shopping!

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