Dear ABC News Fixer: Secret Shopper or Sneaky Swindle?

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Dear ABC News Fixer: I recently received several emails asking if I would like to be a secret shopper.

They asked for my name, address, and cell phone number and offered to pay $300 per assignment. This did not sound right. They also want a one-time membership fee of $36.

Are they legit?

- Marilyn Zeigler, San Antonio, Texas

Dear Marilyn: Go with your gut, because there are red flags all over this.

First, companies that legitimately want to hire mystery shoppers to evaluate their stores don't find workers by sending mass emails.

Second, legitimate mystery shopping jobs usually pay small amounts, typically $8 to $20 per assignment, according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America, a trade group.

And third, you should never pay money upfront to get a mystery shopping job.

The ABC News Fixer has seen lots of well-meaning people fall victim to mystery shopping employment scams. Typically, the company sends them a large check, asks them to deposit it into their bank account, and then gives them the "assignment" of testing the services of a money-transfer service. The victim doesn't realize the original check was fake until long after the money has been wired. The result is an empty bank account and the mystery of why they fell for this trick.

The MSPA offers training and certification for a fee, but they stress that certification is not required to apply for jobs. You can find more info about what mystery shopping entails, how to spot scams and how to find jobs at www.mysteryshop.org.

- The ABC News Fixer

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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