GfK Mystery Shopping Issues Alert to U.S. Consumers Regarding Recent Nationwide Scam

Mon Dec 3, 2007 11:35am EST

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

GfK Mystery Shopping Issues Alert to U.S. Consumers Regarding Recent
Nationwide Scam
- Company Offers Advice on How to Spot and Avoid Mystery Shopping Frauds -

    NEW YORK, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- GfK Mystery Shopping, a division of GfK
Custom Research North America, today released a warning to consumers to beware
of a recent countrywide wave of scams targeting consumers looking to earn
additional income through mystery shopping.
    GfK advises consumers to disregard letters or classified ads that promise
fast cash and free gifts by performing mystery shopping and service
evaluations.
    The most recent round of scams asks interested individuals to cash a check
and wire the money back to a specified address, typically outside the country.
The "reward" to consumers - they keep a percentage of the original cashier's
check as payment. In these scams, the cashier's check bounces several days
later, and the consumers are out of pocket for the entire amount of the money
they wired to the international address - typically between $2,500 and $3,500.
    To perpetrate these types of frauds, unauthorized third parties use the
names and logos of legitimate mystery shopping companies illegally as part of
false advertisements and on bogus cashier's checks.
Elizabeth Nolley, vice president of GfK Custom Research North America's
Marketing Communications department explains, "As a leading mystery shop
research provider, we are absolutely committed to helping spread the word and
protect consumers against mystery shop fraud. Utilizing our resources around
the country and the world, we are actively working with the Mystery Shopping
Providers Association and appropriate local, state and federal authorities to
put an end to this scheme."
    John Swinburn, executive director of the MSPA, the largest professional
trade association dedicated to improving service quality through the use of
mystery shoppers adds, "Mystery shopping is a valuable customer service tool,
providing a unique opportunity to gain consumer experience metrics and
feedback.  As such, these programs have gained widespread acceptance in the
retail, financial services and restaurant industries."
    GfK and the MSPA offer the following tips to consumers who may be
considering a mystery shopping opportunity or have recently been the target of
a shop scam:
    * Prospective shoppers should never need to pay a fee to become a mystery
      shopper.
    * If a shopper receives an email or visits a Web site that requests a fee,
      simply disregard it.
      -- Legitimate companies never ask shoppers to send a check or cash
         advance.
      -- If a company promises to pay you through check cashing or money
         transfer, it may be a scam.
    * Be patient. It takes time, sometimes months or even longer, to be
      contacted with an offer to conduct a shopping assignment.  Respond
      directly to the company that posts or advertises assignments.
      -- Once assigned a shop, ensure it is completed according to the
         guidelines set forth by the mystery shopping client.


    To learn more about these scams, including how to protect yourself and the
steps to take if you've been victimized, please visit
www.gfkamerica.com/mysteryshopping or www.mysteryshop.org.  To report
suspicious communications you may have received from someone posing as a GfK
representative, please contact spoofs@gfk.com.
    About GfK Mystery Shopping
    A division of GfK Custom Research, North America, GfK Mystery Shopping
offers more than 15 years of North American mystery shopping experience and
specializes in helping clients increase revenues, grow brand equity, build
positive customer experiences and drive operational improvement.
    About GfK Custom Research North America
    Headquartered in New York, GfK Custom Research North America is part of
the GfK Group. With home offices in Nuremberg, Germany, the GfK Group is the
No. 5 market research organization worldwide. Its activities cover five
business divisions: Custom Research, Retail and Technology, Consumer Tracking,
Media and HealthCare. The Group has 115 operational companies and a current
total of 8,400 employees who offer market research services for 90 countries.
    About the MSPA
    With more than 200 member companies worldwide, the MSPA has a diverse
membership, including marketing research and merchandising companies, private
investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in
providing mystery shopping services.  Its goals are to establish professional
standards and ethics for the industry, educate providers, clients and shoppers
to improve quality of service, improve the image of the industry and promote
the membership to other industry associations and prospect clients.
SOURCE  GfK Mystery Shopping

Deanna Decker of Padilla Speer Beardsley for GfK Mystery Shopping,
+1-212-752-8338, ddecker@psbpr.com; or Laura Siegel of GfK Custom Research,
North America, +1-212-240-5300, info@gfkamerica.com
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