Secret shopping is where an individual is hired to “act” like a customer, and evaluate services at a business. Walmart does NOT utilize these services or hire associates to perform services on behalf of other retailers or companies. However, scammers take advantage of these types of programs by sending fraudulent solicitations via mail, text, or email to entice consumers to evaluate the retail experience. Often times these offers of employment are accompanied by a fake check made out for a large amount of money or otherwise offer immediate employment with a good salary and minimal effort required.
Signs of Fraud
- These communications are often associated with fictional departments or branding initiatives with letters or emails coming from addresses that appear to be “Wal-Mart” or an address such as “email@example.com”.
- There is usually another email address embedded in the “from” line. You can see the embedded email address by hovering your cursor over the “from” line in the email.
- There may be multiple emails listed in the “to” line, or to “undisclosed recipients”
- Associates hired by Walmart are required to complete a hiring process, including legally required paperwork and drug testing.
- Walmart will NEVER mail you a check and ask that you deposit it in order to purchase an item or service and keep the remainder of the amount as payment for services.
How these scams work
- The scam artist sends a letter or email solicitation describing a paid, stay-at-home position in which the consumer will evaluate customer services at large retail stores. In reality, these stores have no affiliation with the scam artist placing the ad.
- After responding to the ad, the consumer receives an "employment packet" containing a training assignment, a list of products to purchase at different stores and a realistic-looking cashier's check, often for several thousand dollars.
- The "training assignment" is to deposit the check into the consumer's bank account, pose as a shopper and then use Money Gram to send the balance of the check's proceeds (minus the cost of the purchases and the consumer's "salary") to an address outside the United States.
The problem is that the check is fake; so when it bounces (is returned to your account by your bank as “insufficient funds” or a “drawn on a closed account”) —which occurs after the money is wired—the consumer is accountable (in some cases, criminally) to the bank for the entire amount of the fake check, plus additional penalty fees. Also, in some instances, consumers are asked for personal bank account information. The company will then "deposit" money into their account for payment and funds with which to perform their Secret Shopper tasks. These consumers often then become victims of identity theft or have their accounts drained by the fraudster.
How to Protect Yourself
- Don't open or respond to unsolicited emails asking you to become a mystery shopper or secret shopper.
- Never deposit a check you receive in the mail from a "mystery shopping" company. No legitimate business will pay in advance and ask you to send back a portion of the money.
- If you have posted your resume to an online job site, verify with the site any job solicitations you receive.
- Don't click on or respond to online ads or web sites offering free gift cards.
- Remember, if it sounds too good to believe, it is!
- Walmart never solicits mystery shoppers via e-mail, mail, or any other public means
- These shopper offers are not from Walmart and should be deleted or reported.