Cyber Mystery Shops News 12/20/11

Department of Justice sees same holiday scams as last year


Vicki Perry was elated when she opened a letter from Houston Outsourcing Services offering her a job as a mystery shopper. Just for rating the service at some local fast food restaurants, the 59-year-old Corvallis woman was told, she would be paid about $400 to $500 per week.

To get her started, Houston Outsourcing Services enclosed a check for $3,200 to cover expenses, with any money remaining to be returned to the company. The letter instructed Perry to call a phone number for further instructions.

“I had the deposit slip in my hand; I was so excited about it,” she said.

But her husband saw red flags and asked her to talk to the bank about the check before attempting to cash it.

“It turns out to be no good. They said every check sent out by the account had been returned,” she said.

Perry did not deposit the check and advises others to take precautions when they get offers that seem too good to be true.

“Check it out before you get into it,” she said.

Oregon Department of Justice spokeswoman Kate Medema said “secret shopper” cons are typical of the holidays and that people should be wary of unsolicited offers of employment. Medema could not confirm from her records that Houston Outsourcing Services was running a scam, but a Google search of the name returned no matches.

“By and large we’re seeing the same type of consumer complaints that we received around the 2010 holiday season,” she said in an email to the Gazette-Times. “The secret/mystery shopper scam is one that has been around since about 2007 and is among a number of scams that tend to generate consumer complaints throughout the year.”