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November 15, 2008

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Nice Work If You Can Get It

By Elaine Viets

Blog detecting women Someone who says he’s Dr. Gregory Anthony sent this email to Willetta Heising. If Willetta’s name sounds familiar, she does the award-winning "Detecting Men," "Detecting Women" series. Willetta is currently working on the fourth edition of "Detecting Women."

She sent me this email because I write the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper novels. My mother was a mystery shopper, so you could say I grew up in the business.

This e-mail is genuine – a genuine scam. It begins:

"We are a company that conduct surveys and evaluate (sic) other companies. We get hired to go to other peoples (sic) companies and act like customers in order to know how the staffs (sic) are handling their services in relation to their customers. once (sic) we have a contract to do so, you would be directed to the company or outlet, and you would be given the funds you need to do the job (either purchase things or require services), after which you would write a comment on the staffs (sic) activities and give a detailed record of your experience" (sic)

Note the devil-may-care punctuation and free-form English. The so-called Dr. Anthony may have an English name, but his writing loses something in the translation. And I’m sick of writing (sic). Here’s the rest of his email:

"Examples of details you would forward to us are
"1) How long it took you to get services.
"2) Smartness of the attendant
"3)Customer service professionalism
"4)Sometimes you might be required to upset the attendant, to see how they react to clients whey they get tensed."

"Smartness of the attendant?" Come on, doc. How dumb do you think we are?

Dr. Anthony continues: "And we turn the information over to the company executives and they would carry out their own duties in improving there services."

And, we hope, their English.

"Most companies employ our assistance when people give complains about their services," Dr. Anthony said, "or when they feel there are needs for them to improve their customer service. your Identity would be kept confidential as the job states (secret shopper) you would be paid $500 for every duty you carry out, and bonus on your transportation allowance, and funds would be given to you if you have to dine as part of the duty"

Five hundred dollars per mystery-shopping job? If mystery shopping really paid that well, I’d turn off my computer and hit the malls. But wait! There’s more from the doc:

"Your job will be to evaluate and comment on customer service in a wide variety of shops, stores, restaurant and services in your area. No commitment is made on this job, and you would have flexible hours as it suits you. If you are interested do send in these information:"

Dr. Anthony wants your name, address, age, occupation. (Funny, "sucker" isn’t listed). He also wants your bank name and "attached copy of Valid Identification So we can look at your distance from the locations which you have to put your service into, and your address would also be need for your payments."

Right. I believe you, Dr. Anthony. Just like I believe my HMO wants to give me the highest quality care, regardless of the cost.
Like all professions, mystery shopping has potential problems. When you see a dubious offer, do your own mystery shopping.

Check with your state attorney general’s office or the Better Business Bureau. Look at the Mystery Shopping Providers Association www.mysteryshop.org/ and make sure your potential company is a member of MSPA. Also, check MSPA’s site for mystery shopping scams.

Blog Elaine Trimmings And while you’re shopping, stop by the bookstore for a copy of "Murder With All the Trimmings." I promise, it’s the real thing.


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Elaine, this is priceless! What is so sad is somewhere, someone fell or will fall for this nonsense. There was a recent news story about a woman who lost 400K (yes, I said Four Hundred THOUSAND Dollars) in the old Nigerian Email Scam. In her case, she received emails from 'President Georg Bush' and 'FBI Director Miller' thanking her for assisting law enforcement to trap these scammers, and oh by the way, please send an additional ten thousand dollars so the FBI could trace it "electrolonically".

While part of me feels horrible for these victims, a smaller part of me thinks maybe Darwin had it right all along....

There are days when I feel that half the people I meet are so spectacularly smart and accomplished, I am in awe -- I'm talking people who are good at car mechanics, carpentry, construction, literature, fire-fighting, whatever. The other half of the people I meet are so dim-witted I can't imagine how they got a driver's license, a high school diploma, a job.

Other days, I feel we are all just folks, and I sing kumbaya.

The thing is, depending on my mood, I feel I fall into all three groups.

Thanks for the warning Elaine - and I LOVE the Detecting Women/Detecting Men books.

So glad to hear that #4 is in the works!

Like you, it astounds me that people continue to fall for these internet scams. Someone sent me one the other day that she'd gotten from DirecTv that said they'd lost all her information (including billing) and she needed to click on the link and repost all her personal information. She didn't fall for it but said it looked real. She contacted DirecTv, who of course still had all her information.

BUT, if you find a mystery shopping job that pays $500, please drop me a note. I could SOOOO do that job!

The most amazing thing about the Nigerian scam is that the text has not changed in 25 years. From Aerogrammes to faxes to e-mails to texts, nothing changes. And it still works.

The scam William describes sort of breaks my heart, as the woman scammed was, it seems, motivated by a belief that sending in her money would assist in apprehending the scammers. That's a twist on the Nigerian scam, which is dependent on greed.

I have actually mystery shopped a local restaurant. I was given a list of things I should do, including ordering at the bar before dinner, a list of things to rate, including the valet parking, AND a gift card from the restaurant to use to pay for the meal. I was told not to have the list out when I was at the restaurant so the waitstaff would not know what I was doing. The best part of the whole experience was the restaurant is a really nice 2 facility local chain owned by a friend of mine who truly wanted to make sure her business was as well run like she wanted. I enjoyed the process.

Loved Murder With All The Trimmings. I know you said Emma was based on a friend of yours but I think you must have known my daughter when she was that age! Yikes, it brought back memories of that awful time when young girls are testing their boundaries and discovering their mothers aren't perfect. I'm eagerly awaiting Helen's next job and accompanying story.

Wonderful book signing yesterday! I'm impressed that your hand didn't fall right off your wrist from signing that mountain of books.
The woman from St. Vincent's was so inspiring that we made sure we did more shopping and had more food afterward, to help the cause of course, not at all for selfish enjoyment. Perhaps if there were more people helping youth, there could be fewer problems??
I've forwarded the link to this blog to my friend who is interested in secret shopping.

Hi Mary, The signing last night was nice wasn't it? In spite of the cold wet night.
I had already bought stuff so I went back to the register and had them void out the sale and redo it. They were really nice about doing it too.
Elaine, you are too funny! When I got home the husband was waiting to hear what south city story I had for him and you did not disappoint! He loved the house selling technique. We're thinking of scouting around for a similar family to use the other way-to discourage prissy people from moving in on the block.
Caryn in St.Louis

Wasn't it PT Barnum who said "There's a sucker born every minute"? You do have to remember that the average IQ is something like 95, which explains a lot. But it's really sad when someone loses everything they have to a scam, especially when a little bit of judicious checking would have revealed the seaminess of the supposed "offer".

Elaine, I may have already written this, but if you didn't see it before, Murder with all the Trimmings is excellent! Your books have gotten progressively more complicated and interesting, and it's a pleasure to see how they've evolved from fun reads to fun reads with deep messages and more complicated plot twists. I devoured this book, reading it in less than a day and a half; I could not put it down. And like Jodi I am looking forward to the next Helen book!

Karen, thanks for reminding me of the realty trick! Elaine, that should be a plot point in one of your books sometime -- priceless!

Soooo....it's the Sneaky Pete's Scam is it? My girlfriend's mother used to go to McDuck's and check food stuff out. They paid her to do it and she got free food. (if you consider fast food...well...food)
And NTCTS: If I'm going out to eat I want cloth table clothes & napkins and I do not want to have to peel the butter. And preferably the waiter is named Bruce or Maurice.
Or I want to be a food reviewer for the newspaper or TV station. They can pay for my Chardonnay. I'll eat anything that isn't alive. (STOP IT Margie!) It would be hard to revolt me. Chocolate covered ants. Yum!
But, I got caught up in a really horrible phone scam. Well not really a scam but an out of control magazine subscription set up. I had a house full of kids and the phone rang. Nice enough person. She could tell I was distracted and could I help out and order some magazines? Sure...so then the bill comes and you have three COUNT THEM three days to say no. I was working on a show and when that happens I sometimes (true confessions) don't open my mail for a week or more. Kind of like making a deadline only not in print but on stage.
So now I have this man on the phone telling me I owe them $900.00 for magazine subscriptions. WTF? I tell him he's out of his mind and he says no madam...you ordered these on the phone.
Soooo....I dig up the letter and they have me by the short curlies! I did get them to take some off. I mean really. I was getting 8 years of magazines. And I'm not some poor elderly person who gets confused or taken advantage of. Imagine who these SOURCE people scam!
They still call me claiming I have a balance due looking for a new credit card number or bank account number to charge me for. The last time I asked the very persistent girl what would happen if I died before all my years of magazine subscriptions ended. She had no response.
And I never got the "I want this in writing" paperwork I told her she had to mail me.
The tag line is "Are you receiving your magazines in a timely manner? Are you happy with them?" Hang up immediately! In a timely manner!
Actually... chocolate covered anything is on my "to eat" list!
Just saying.

Elaine, great blog, and interesting info. It's so sad that vulnerable people fall for those scams, particularly the elderly. Hey, but if you hear of any high paying secret shopper jobs, sign me up. I'd be glad to get paid for arguing with a store assistant.

And what IS this realty trick that's so wonderful to sell a house? I would love to give it to my niece and her hubby. They moved to Stuart FL due to his job and still haven't sold their other house in Jackson TN. Paying two mortgages in this economy's not too great, so any suggestions are appreciated.

(And HARLEY, are you in the line of the fires? Be safe...kumbaya, my lord...kumbaya...oh ooooooo...kumbaya)

Uhh, I mean REAL secret shopper jobs...not scams...

Great line, Xena, about peeling the butter. Glad Mary and Caryn enjoyed the book signing.
I had a blast. Yes, my hand hurt from signing, but it was a good hurt, if you know what I mean. I'm pretty toasted from getting up at 4 AM three days in a row to catch planes and be on morning radio.
And thanks for buying extra to help St. Vincent Home. They really do good work.

I don't think that particular trick (maybe Elaine will fill you in) will work right now, and I'm sad to report that the St. Joseph statue isn't doing much either, even though I warned him a few weeks back that he should act quickly as freezing weather was coming -- now here, but then maybe he likes cold weather. I also wish the condo would sell; a second home a mere five miles south just isn't going to do much for me . . .

I swear someone has been peeing in the gene pool again. ; )

So interesting it is, I like it !

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