The BBB is warning consumers about a mystery shopper scam posing as Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), which is using a fake address in West Virginia.
An Auburn, Maine resident recently contacted the BBB serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia after responding to a mystery shopper email. After responding, the Maine resident received a package via UPS with an instruction letter and check for $1,645.00. The instruction letter appears to be from Franco Luggi, Head of Recruitment. The letter instructs the survey agent to cash/deposit the check at their bank, telling them the funds will be available within 24 hours. The agent is to document how the transaction goes, noting quality of customer service and how long the transaction took. Once the agent has the money, they are to deduct $200 for their commission and take the remaining amount to Western Union using the “Money in Minutes” service. The letter then states once the agent emails them to say the assignment has been completed, another assignment will be sent out immediately. The consumer did respond to an email from the agent asking if she had received the package. Two days after responding she had received the first package, another package was received from Fed Ex including the same instruction letter and a second check for $1,645.00.
The instruction letter includes the logos for both Mystery Shopping Providers Association and the Better Business Bureau; despite that the return label on the first package appeared to come from a company called Presentation Products & Services located at 1341 Bitonti St, Ste A2, Morgantown, WV 26505. The second package had a return address from Gregory Nicholson, PO Box 219, Yuma AZ 85365.
Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) is a company that provides information on the industry in general. They show how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA member company, offer a database of available jobs and also offer training courses for serous mystery shoppers.
Frank Cilona, BBB President and CEO, states “Similar mystery shopping scams have been around for years. But stealing the name of a real, legitimate company is taking this scam to another level. Not only are they victimizing consumers, they also are victimizing reputable businesses”.
The BBB’s investigation found there are several locations for Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), one of which is accredited with the BBB in Kentucky. The BBB also found that MSPA has issued a warning on their website regarding this current scam using their logo.
When doing an internet search for Presentation Products & Solutions, the BBB found the web address domain name is actually for sale and the physical address listed is an apartment building in Morgantown, WV. The checks that were received by the consumer were drawn on LBS FINANCIAL Credit Union, Long Beach, CA and Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union, Anchorage, AK. The BBB contacted both credit unions and were told they were already aware of the fraudulent checks.
BBB offers the following tips for persons contacted about mystery shopping jobs:
Ignore claims that promise big rewards and guaranteed assignments.
Be cautious of unsolicited mailing, emails or advertisements offering “work-from-home” jobs.
Avoid claims that “guarantee” a position without training.
Be on the lookout for businesses that send checks and ask you to use money from the checks to pay for your shopping assignments. Fraudulent checks often look real.
Never pay money in advance. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training or recruiting. Never give them your credit card or bank account numbers.
Never wire money to businesses you know little or nothing about. Wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once the money is gone, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to recover.
Start With Trust. If you’re interested in a specific mystery shopping company, check them out with BBB first by visiting www.bbb.org or calling 1-800-362-0494.