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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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A Unique Mystery Shopping Program Targets The Homeless October 10, 2011

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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I came across an interesting article this morning out of London, which examines the way in which people needing assistance due to difficult financial times are treated. You can read the entire article to see how they are handling this population and ensuring that they are receiving the help they need in an empathetic manner.

It is interesting and comforting to know that organizations similar to this one want to be sure they are helping people the way they need it, and treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

It brings home an interesting point too – businesses may have procedures in place that they deem to be important to the success of the company, or have procedures that are important to consumers. However, if you are not asking your target audience what they perceive the procedures to be, you may be missing the boat when it comes to customer satisfaction.

In this instance, the organization is using those who are in need of services or who have experienced them in the past. By utilizing the people who actually use their services, they are well on their way to ensuring that they are doing everything they can to provide in the best manner possible.

An added benefit of this specific program is that they are using the mystery shopping experiences as pre-employment screening tools, bringing these people in need potentially one step closer to finding employment and getting back on track.

Mystery shopping has evolved significantly over the last several years, and this is yet another example of the versatility of mystery shopping programs.

Until next time…happy shopping!

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