Master Research Inc: The Secret Shopper Scam. Master Research Inc., a company that swindled people by the hundreds with one such scam, was recently exposed in Canada leaving behind victims older but wiser.
Secret shopper scams try to cash in on the popularity of genuine “Mystery Shopper” services. Such help is often availed of by some companies to check on the services provided by their retailers. The checks are done by people who agree to play the part of a dummy customer for a small per-transaction fee. These individuals would try to ascertain the quality of service provided by retailers on specific issues like their handling of fraud checks or credit cards.
But of late, some fraudsters have used general awareness of this concept to pitch a scam. Their victims are mostly people who only vaguely know about such a service in the market. Fraudsters bank on their ignorance and use them to commit a crime. One such scam that was recently uncovered was run by Master Research Inc.
The scams are legitimate companies and flood the internet or offline media with recruitment ads. Their bait would be a $500 or there-about fee for every transaction that you agree to enact.
It is an open invitation to mires and mires of trouble. The fraudsters send you counterfeit checks and ask you to use them as payment after buying from specific retailer locations. You can buy anything you want. If the transaction falls through, you are asked to keep some part of the original check amount as your commission and to send the balance as a return check to the fraudsters. Ah! Yes, you also get to keep everything you bought at the store!
However, this is not how the script usually plays out. After initially being overwhelmed, retailers have now become wary of such frauds and make special arrangements. They would have police presence very near the counter. Chances are, the moment you present the check at the counter, waiting police personnel would be motioned to come hither and handle you!
You are left with an impossible situation of explaining how you came to have the fraudulent check. Circumstantial evidence would damningly accuse you of forgery and fraud. There would be no way of getting at the people behind the ads you responded to. All phone calls and emails are bound to go unanswered. The real criminals would remain untraceable.
On the other hand, in the event that you manage to get past the counters undetected, you are asked to keep a commission from the original amount and send back the rest as a return check. But here you are playing a gamble with loaded dice against you and your luck would run out sooner than later.