Company Offers Advice on How to Spot and Avoid Mystery Shopping Frauds

NEW YORK–December 10, 2007– GfK Mystery Shopping, a division of GfK Custom Research North America, today released a warning to consumers to beware of a recent countrywide wave of scams targeting consumers looking to earn additional income through mystery shopping.

GfK advises consumers to disregard letters or classified ads that promise fast cash and free gifts by performing mystery shopping and service evaluations.

The most recent round of scams asks interested individuals to cash a check and wire the money back to a specified address, typically outside the country. The “reward” to consumers – they keep a percentage of the original cashier’s check as payment. In these scams, the cashier’s check bounces several days later, and the consumers are out of pocket for the entire amount of the money they wired to the international address – typically between $2,500 and $3,500.  

To perpetrate these types of frauds, unauthorized third parties use the names and logos of legitimate mystery shopping companies illegally as part of false advertisements and on bogus cashier’s checks.

Elizabeth Nolley, vice president of GfK Custom Research North America’s Marketing Communications department explains, “As a leading mystery shop research provider, we are absolutely committed to helping spread the word and protect consumers against mystery shop fraud. Utilizing our resources around the country and the world, we are actively working with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association and appropriate local, state and federal authorities to put an end to this scheme.”

John Swinburn, executive director of the MSPA, the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality through the use of mystery shoppers adds, “Mystery shopping is a valuable customer service tool, providing a unique opportunity to gain consumer experience metrics and feedback.  As such, these programs have gained widespread acceptance in the retail, financial services and restaurant industries.”

GfK and the MSPA offer the following tips to consumers who may be considering a mystery shopping opportunity or have recently been the target of a shop scam:

  • Prospective shoppers should never need to pay a fee to become a mystery shopper.
  • If a shopper receives an email or visits a Web site that requests a fee, simply disregard it
  • Legitimate companies never ask shoppers to send a check or cash advance.
  • If a company promises to pay you through check cashing or money transfer, it may be a scam.
  • Be patient. It takes time, sometimes months or even longer, to be contacted with an offer to conduct a shopping assignment.  Respond directly to the company that posts or advertises assignments.
    • Once assigned a shop, ensure it is completed according to the guidelines set forth by the mystery shopping client.

To learn more about these scams, includinghow to protect yourself and the steps to take if you've been victimized, please visit or  To report suspicious communications you may have received from someone posing as a GfK representative, please contact .

About GfK Mystery Shopping
A division of GfK Custom Research, North America, GfK Mystery Shopping offers more than 15 years of North American mystery shopping experience and specializes in helping clients increase revenues, grow brand equity, build positive customer experiences and drive operational improvement.

About GfK Custom Research North America
Headquartered in New York, GfK Custom Research North America is part of the GfK Group.  With home offices in Nuremberg, Germany, the GfK Group is among the top-four market research organizations in the world.  Its activities cover five business divisions: Custom Research, Retail and Technology, Consumer Tracking, Media and Healthcare.   In addition to 13 subsidiaries in Germany, the GfK Group has more than 130 subsidiaries and affiliates in over 70 countries.

About the MSPA
With more than 200 member companies worldwide, the MSPA has a diverse membership, including marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services.  Its goals are to establish professional standards and ethics for the industry, educate providers, clients and shoppers to improve quality of service, improve the image of the industry and promote the membership to other industry associations and prospect clients.

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