Mystery Shopper & USPS

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in Mad Monday, Mystery Shopper, Spam

It’s always surprising to me just how popular the Mystery Shopper scam is. If you’re a chap that has stumbled upon this site because you are investigating what this Mystery Shopper offer you’ve recently received is all about, know this: don’t take a chance, it’s probably a scam!

From an earlier post, we already know that the Mystery Shopper scam can be broken up into four parts:

  1. Scammer Baits a Victim
  2. Scammer Verifies the Victim’s Details
  3. Scammer Priority Mails the Victim a Check. Upon reflection, I think this part should really be renamed to “Scammer Gains the Victim’s Trust”.
  4. Victim Indirectly Sends the Scammer a Check in Return

I recently “fell victim” to yet another scammer in the Mystery Shopper Scam. It’s funny to write about, but it’s not so funny when one considers that real people lose real money on this nonsense all of the time.

In this scam, the scammer followed the classic four pronged attack from above. Here’s what happened:

1. Scammer Baits a Victim

On a mailbox that does not exist, I received the following spam email:

From: Thomas Pelot [mailto:thomaspelot@icloud.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:34 PM
Subject: Approved: Retail Supervisor

Good Evening,

My name is Thomas Pelot, Hiring & Evaluation Consultant for BP 
Outsourcing LLC. We received your application in response to 
our Email campaign for mystery shoppers in your area. I am writing
 to congratulate you, as you have been selected as our newest 
shopper. You have been shortlisted to participate in our forth 
coming survey evaluation. It is our hope, that your addition to 
the fold will bring another edge and an heightened perspective 
to our surveys in your local city.

I will be contacting you tomorrow with more details on the position. 

Please write back as soon as you read this, to acknowledge receipt.

Thomas Pelot
mysterysupport@me.com
Hiring & Evaluation Consultant
BP Outsourcing LLC
Please find our webpage: WWW.BPOUTSOURCINGLLC.COM

I replied with

Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:57 PM
To: 'mysterysupport@me.com'
Subject: RE: Approved: Retail Supervisor

This is such good timing. Thank you thank you!

What do you need from me?

2. Scammer Verifies the Victim’s Details

Shortly after my first reply, the scammer and I had a short e-mail exchange where he asked me for a valid physical address and telephone number that I could be contacted on (which he checked via a quick call!)

3. Scammer Gains the Victim’s Trust

A few days later I received a priority parcel in the mail

The contents of this parcel are a little more interesting than the previous scam we discussed. Instead of one check he sent us two. Remember, he sends us fake checks that look genuine so as to gain our trust; note that these are Postal Money Orders from USPS (very official looking).

mystery shopper scam

Of greater interest than the checks, is that he sent us a cover letter! mystery shopper scam

mystery shopper scam

The cover letter is a good idea and quite different to what the other scammers are getting up to. Four features in it are quite a nice touch:

  • I liked the fact that he carefully explains how much I will be paid and for what (the remainder going off to the Philippines)
  • He makes reference to an external company (bpoutsourcingllc.com). Of course, this could be a totally legitimate company and both this company and the victim would be none the wiser of what’s going on (unless the victim was disciplined enough to double check things).  Otherwise there’s absolutely nothing stopping the victim from saying he is affiliated with X Y or Z. Nice one scammer.
  • The scammer is available for support and questions. How wonderful! I tried to give him a call to ask him some questions but he is no longer picking up his phone.
  • The last statement in this cover letter is real classy: “Remember, you’re a mystery shopper. You are expressly forbidden to disclose this information to anyone.”

4. Victim Indirectly Sends the Scammer a Check in Return

So he gains our trust by sending us an upfront payment (and more) for services that have yet to be rendered. Call it Terms – 15 (unheard of!). The scam comes in when we deposit the fake money and before waiting for the checks to clear, we rush off to wire our own money to the scammer in the Philippines. A few days later we find out that the checks were fake and did not clear (but our own money has already been sent and received by the scammer)

How not to fall victim to this scam ?

Straight from the FTC’s writeup on the Mystery Shopper scam,  don’t do business with mystery shopping promoters who:

  • Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email
  • Require that you pay for “certification.”
  • Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper
  • Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities
  • Sell directories of companies that hire mystery shoppers
  • Ask you to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to someone

How to rate this scammer?

This scammer falls short in a few areas. I think he could have done a lot more work when it comes to reducing the number of people involved in the scam. If I was an old Grandpa this is one of the things I would probably be suspicious of:

  • I originally received an email from Thomas Pelot
  • The Fedex parcel came from John Timpandis
  • The checks were signed by William Hinson
  • The money order was supposed to be wired to Erin Dubois

I know that money laundering is probably the reason why these other folks are involved (some of which could be innocent victims themselves), but I think the scammer would look more legitimate if he reduced the number of people to just one person.

Adding the phone number and contact details was a good idea, but he should have picked up when I called. So much nicer to chat to a real person when my money is being stolen from me.

Bottom line: this Mystery Shopper scammer gets a 4/10

  • +1 for basic mystery shopper scam
  • +1 for calling me to validate my details
  • +1 for USPS Postal Money Order
  • +2 for a cover letter with details and support details. I really liked this.
  • -1 for not picking up his phone
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2 Comments

  1. Mystery Shopper
    February 11, 2013

    After reading this thorough post I feel like more and more people need awareness about the possible scams out there and how they are tricking people into these can’t pass up deals. Maybe there should have been an ad run during the Superbowl to bring awareness to the masses. I have been involved in mystery shopping for over a year and get multiple emails a week that are for sure scams. Is there a division in the government that is working to catch and stop all these scam artists? Thanks for the great post by the way!!

  2. wesleyb
    February 13, 2013

    There’s a saying I have heard a few times now: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice, shame on the FTC”

    That said, I am not entirely sure that the government can do much to thwart the mystery shopper scam. Of course, more awareness always helps. But at the end of the day the barrier to entry for this scam is incredibly low, i.e., it doesn’t take much to do this. The net result is an army of barrel scrapers trying their luck over and over again until there’s a hit.