Live 5 Scambusters: The truth behind secret shopper scams

VIDEO: Live 5 Scambusters: The truth behind secret shopper scams

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Parents may be dreading back-to-school shopping, but what if you could get paid for your time at the store?

Secret Shopper programs are real, but scammers are using the opportunity to take your money.

Vera Couturier has used a secret shopper program before and thought an offer from Walmart might be another chance to make a little cash. She didn’t realize the offer was a scam.

“I spent $200 buying groceries,” Couturier said.

Couturier thought she was using her “payment” from the secret shopper job. She actually spent nearly $2,000 of her own money. It started when she received a check in the mail for $1,994.90. The check also came with instructions on how to spend it.

The letter instructed Couturier to buy three gift cards worth $500 and one worth $130. She also had to buy a $14 cashiers check made out to the American Cancer Society. The money leftover would be her payment.

This is classic example of a fake check scam. The check Couturier received was a fake and the $1,645 she spent on gift cards was really coming out of her own pocket. Her husband stopped her from sending the gift card numbers to the scammer and they were able to get refunds for the cards from Walmart.

The Federal Trade Commission put out another warning about mystery or secret shopper scams. It includes these red flag warnings:

  • If you’re asked to pay someone to work for them, it’s a scam.
  • If you're asked to deposit a check and send money back for any reason, it's check fraud.
  • Never wire money, send a moneygram or share gift card numbers. It’s just like giving away cash.

If you are interested in legitimate mystery shopping programs you can check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. If you think you’ve been a victim of this scam, report it to the FTC.

If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at

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