Am I Spam Or Not?

In an age where Nigerian E-mail Scams are a form of art (via Patri), it's getting more and more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

That is why I call upon you, kind reader, in absolute confidence primarily to seek your assistance. This request might surprise you because we have not met neither in person nor by correspondence. I came to know of you in my search for a reliable and reputable person to handle a very confidential scam analysis, which involves the transfer of a huge sum of money to an account requiring maximum confidence...

Okay, this joke is going nowhere. On to the e-mail!

Subject: Part-time Real Job Opportunity!
To: Me


I would like to offer you a challenging and well-paid part-time employment opportunity. Thousands of companies look for smart and responsible people willing to visit their business sites and evaluate their products, services and employees. This job is performed by 'mystery shoppers', who pretend to be normal customers in order to evaluate restaurants, shops, banks, fitness centers, etc.

The mystery shoppers not only earn between $10 and $50 per hour, but also shop, dine, and watch the newest movies for free! Furthermore, they receive free products and get reimbursed for their transportation costs and other expenses.

The mystery shopper's job is suitable for students, full-time employees, mothers, and retired people. Becoming a mystery shopper means that you will be your own boss, free to determine your working time and place. You can help many companies improve or create new products, and develop customer services that better satisfy their customers. needs.

Write back if you want to take advantage of this real job opportunity

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Sir Spam-a-Lot

I must admit, I almost fell for this one. I've done market research in the past, but never with this format. If it wasn't for the fact that the e-mail address domain name is fake, the sender provided no marketing firm name or contact information other than the shady address, and it sounds too good to be true (always a good indicator), my email address would now be circulating among all the various spammer lists.

The thing is, other than collecting live email addresses, I'm not sure what this spammer is trying to achieve. Is it bait, used to entice people into providing sensitive financial information? Snopes lists it as one of the many stimuli for the 809 Phone Scam.

After a bit of google snooping, I've found a number of semi-professional-looking websites recruiting these "mystery shoppers." I even came across a number of articles like this one which at first appear to debunk mystery shopping as a scam, but then recommend some mystery shopping websites as legit. Yet all of these supposedly kosher recommendations require a $25 "One Time Membership Cost." When was the last time an employee had to pay an employer for the honor of hiring them?

Yet just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. One of these websites linked to an apparently legit Wall Street Journal article profiling one of these mystery shoppers. The AARP links to this article as well.

Is it all an elaborate scam, snookering both the WSJ and the AARP? Is there some demand for "mystery shoppers," but so little than the legit operations are drowned out by the scammers?

The only thing I know for sure is that I wasted the last 30 minutes or so researching this nonsense when I could have been doing something more productive. Maybe that's the scam.

Leave your thoughts on mystery shopping and your bank account number in the comments.

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I have no expertise as to

I have no expertise as to "mystery shoppers" in particular, but it seems to me there are quite a few situations in which an employee has to pay an employer for a job or the possibility of one.

For instance, if you want to register with a casting agency to be an extra in movies, they are likely to charge you a nominal fee for the cost of taking your picture and putting you in the database. I paid $20 to Beau Bonneau Casting to do this and have since made thousands of dollars working as an extra in a half-dozen projects for them.(Matrix II was the biggest - I drove a car on a fake freeway during the car-chase sequence.)

Another example: strippers pay for the opportunity to work a shift in a club, making their money back from the customers directly.

The fact that a company makes employees pay for the job means it /might/ be a scam, but doesn't mean it /has/ to be. It's most likely in cases where the "employer" is really a referral service connecting applicants to jobs. Charging a commission upfront is a safe way for the intermediary to get paid; it means they don't have to worry about being cut out of the loop later after the introduction has been made.

I belive that the "mystery

I belive that the "mystery shoppers" are real in at least the case of movies. The money the studio recieves from the theater is based on ticket sales, so in order to make sure the theaters aren't lying about how many people actually attended, they pay people to go to movies and count the number of people in the audience.

Mystery shoppers are real.

Mystery shoppers are real. If you work retail, especially major firms, they are a major part of your life, and can be part of your paycheck. Safeway, for example uses them a lot. They post them so the customers can see what the shopppers say.

However, the shoppers are hired by large but discreet marketing firms, and there is a lot more to it than buying stuff, which is the smallest part of the job.

Mostly it is walking the aisles, asking directions, evaluating bathrooms, :roll: etc.

And no, the pay is not that great. And there are no freebies.:dunce:

The goal is to get a sucker list. A list of valid emails that will respond to a too-good-to-be-true come on. Sucker lists are valuable merchandise in themselves. And a sucker list can be sold multiple times, so even if the revenue per sucker is low, you can hit a few home runs on these guys. The thing about suckers is that they are like a well of money that you can always tap. All scams are pretty similar, and some folks don't need to be taught, and some folks never learn

I probably should have

I probably should have provided a link earlier. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and are looking for "extra" work, the company I mentioned earlier is here (warning: Flash-heavy site):

Caveats: non-union extra work requires you to have a flexible schedule, pays less than a hundred dollars for an 8-hour workday and involves a lot of sitting around waiting. You won't get to talk to the movie stars and in most cases you won't be recognizable in the finished film without freeze-frame. That said, you'll meet interesting people and spend time in interesting locations and generally get to see and do things most people don't get to see or do.

Steve and Stormy are right:

Steve and Stormy are right: I can assure you we are indeed real. Where I live - a small city of 20,000 people - there are at least 6 different legitimate mystery shopping companies with agents here, plus whoever breezes through on assignment. I am an agent for three of them. It's funny I should come across this post today of all days: as it happens, today I did a shoe store (didn't buy anything) and on the weekend I did Hungry Jacks ("Burger King" to US folk) where I got paid to buy and rate a regular whopper value meal and the drive-through service by which I obtained it. I paid for the burger myself, where being reimbursed is just part of the payment. I've even had to knock back other offers because MS companies keep getting their shoppers to go to the same store over and over. I happen semi-personally to know the sales 2IC of this one electrical goods place that one of the MS companies I've raised a hand for keeps trying to send me to. The biggest concern is 'being made.' I can't keep stringing along my mate's subordinates on the matter of buying $1000 cameras etc and then turning them down all the time, now can I? I think as of today I've been 'made' at the shoe store. Oh well, that was only once a month anyhow.

Anyway, for today's little escapade I will get $AUS15 for 20 mins work and one local call, and I got the same for HJ's (10 minutes 'work'). No word about being reimbursed for travel or whatnot, though. Steven is correct about it not paying all that well, but it is not as bad as he makes out. It wont make me rich, but it is not some stuffing-envelopes scam either - still, by the same token it wont get anyone off of welfare. We do NOT get paid by the hour, we get paid by assignment where it so happens it ought take no more than half an hour (eg $10 for 15 minutes work is thus $40 per hour) for something that happens once or twice a month. If someone locally were to be a shopper agent for all 6 companies here then even then I doubt if they'd get more than $100 per week from it - it's not as though a mystery shopper will be on a $60kpa income.

Why do it? Me a sucker? Nah. I've got a nice $US40k job with a loud title so I don't need a single cent of this pocket money - I did it initially for the CV and now just because I like doing it (and get the occasional free lunch), though I doubt I will be doing it much longer. I can't say anything about others' motives as I haven't met any other mystery shopppers (that would mean having been made.) I imagine that in a number of cases it is kids getting pocket money for what they do all the time anyway, sometimes it is semi-retired people getting out of the house for something to do, and so on. I wouldn't call anyone who does the real thing a sucker, unless they were expecting to make an actual living out of it. Imagine enjoying window shopping - then having a store owner buy your lunch for you scoring his window display: that is the reality of mystery shopping for us, at least those of us who have no illusions about what the job has to offer.

What can get mystery shopped? In essence, anything that is for sale to the public: if you've got customers and you aren't the boss, then there is every possibility that somewhere down the line you will be mystery shopped, if you haven't already been. My brother - who works at a petrol station - tells me that he found out he was mystery shopped about two weeks ago and scored 98/100. Even the government gets in on the act: a few years back some pubs were busted because government-hired mystery shoppers bought rounds of spirits and measured the volume and quality and found that some places' offerings were not up to scratch. I think similar tactics were used for real estate sales regulation enforcement earlier this year in South Australia, too. As to your spam email, personally I wouldn't trust it. Again Steven is right: I came across the work a few years back looking through official workers-wanted postings on a government-vetted job-exchange website. Thus similarly, if the MS company is for real and wants shoppers then it will actually pay real money to advertise for them through regular channels like newspapers and websites, plus ask around temp agencies etc. Legitimate firms don't tempt recruits with talk of earning lots of money, but focus on what is really there: getting out and about and subsequently paid a little for the fun.


I am a real life Mystery

I am a real life Mystery Shopper. This is part time only for me, but I enjoy the covert extra cash I make. I will never make over $5k in a year, but it satisfies my shopping compulsion while negating the inevitable impact on my bank account!
I blog my experiences at, but please also check out - that is where you can find all the free information on legit companies your eyes can stand to read.
1. Never pay to work/apply
2. Don't "flake out" - if you commit to doing a "shop," do it!
3. Keep accurate records as you are considered an Independent Contractor and sometimes MS companies need a friendly reminder to send the check!
Good Luck - :kiss: - Penny