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Mystery Shopping Scammer Caught by FBI

mystery shoppingMystery Shopping


If you are like many people, you have come across some sort of mystery shopping scams while you were searching for more information about mystery shopping or other jobs that you can do working from home. Many people have been taken in by a very common type of mystery shopping scam. A person receives an email from a mystery shopping company that says that they will send a check to deposit into your bank account. You keep a portion of the check for your “mystery shopper fee”, and a portion of the check you have to wire to a certain account. What happens is that the person who deposits the check and cashes it will have to pay their bank back when the check is determined to be worthless. These checks can sometimes be written for thousands of dollars.

In 2011 there was a man who was sentenced to six years in a Federal prison because of his mystery shopping job scam. This man took in more than six million dollars from thousands of victims across the United States.

Stevan P. Todorovic, received the sentence for causing a loss of hope, as well as a loss of opportunity. He was convicted of wire fraud as well as three counts of mail fraud. He made false promises to people who were looking for work. Todorovic set up companies and marketed training programs which led to certifications that were worthless. He placed ads in newspapers around the country that offered bartending and mystery shopping jobs. When people would call in about the jobs, they were told that they needed to purchase Todorovic’s certification program to get referrals to bars and retail establishments that were looking for mystery shoppers. However, Todorovic didn’t have jobs to offer and the certifications were of no value at all.

It was found that more than 87,000 people around the U.S. fell victim to this scheme. The scheme ran from 2001 to 2004 and there were more than six million dollars in losses caused by the scheme.

It is not always easy to find mystery shopping jobs that are legit. I remember when I was first looking for mystery shopping jobs. I did lots of different searches for information about mystery shopping and came across a lot of different sites that claimed to have mystery shopping jobs. However, many of them wanted you to pay for the jobs and just felt scammy. I wouldn’t mind paying for something if I knew that it would work but I was so afraid that I would be taken in by some sort of scam. I finally came across a site about mystery shopping and got my first mystery shopping job. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I have been doing mystery shops for a few years now. I have learned a lot about mystery shopping from experience. I wrote a book about mystery shopping as well that tells about the things I learned over the years. The book is not necessary to make money as a mystery shopper but it can likely help people make the most money mystery shopping possible. Here is a link for you to check out.

If you have thought about making money as a mystery shopper, consider buying this book. The cost is less than you would probably make doing just one mystery shop. You can make your money back with just one shop when you buy this book. You could do mystery shopping on your own but if you have a little guidance from my book you don’t have to figure things out on your own. This will give you the ability to make the most money that you can make so you can enjoy spending more time with your family and less time working as a mystery shopper.

Mystery shopping is a job that just about anyone can do. It does not take specialized skills or any kind of special degree. You can do this job if you are an eighteen year old or an eighty year old. You don’t have to do any physical activity and you don’t have to be super intelligent. It is a job that the average person with average skills can really do. In order to be a mystery shopper, you should be able to follow directions and pay attention to detail. That’s all. It is not an expensive job to do. If you follow the guidelines in my book you can make more money as a mystery shopper with less time.

Time is money. You have to put a value to your time so if you can simply buy a book that helps you to use less of your time in learning, it is worth it. Again, here is the link to read more about my mystery shopping book. I hope you will check it out and find that it was well worth the small investment that you made to have more free time with your family and friends.

Mystery Shopping

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy for more information.

{ 83 comments… add one }
  • Lori@Mothering Matters 03/01/2012, 9:45 am

    I have heard about mystery shopping before – years ago – but didn’t know if anyone ever really made any money from it. It definitely didn’t fit into my life at the time (or now really). So glad to hear someone has figured out some of the do’s and don’ts of it all and how to avoid getting scammed. We need people like you who have tested and figured out what’s legit.

    Thanks for posting!
    ps – visiting from the Blogelina event

  • Chelle 03/01/2012, 10:12 am

    This is very informative; I’ve always wondered if mystery shopping was at all legit; I guess I’ll be reading more from you.
    Peace and good,

  • Brenda 03/01/2012, 11:16 am

    Nice post. I have always thought most of mystery shopping was a scam. I would have liked you to list a few reputable companies, so if people were interested, they could check ’em out. Guess maybe that’s in your book? Good luck with your blog.

  • Colette 03/01/2012, 11:29 am

    I fell for a mystery shopping scam years ago and now I’m VERY leery of anything that has to do with mystery shopping. I’m glad to hear there are actual legit mystery shopping jobs out there. Have a great day!

  • Amanda 03/01/2012, 12:38 pm

    I’ve only done mystery shopping once. It was a good experience, but I live in a rural area, where there are very few stores and little need for shoppers. I think it’s great when people can do it, though!

  • Gina Woods 03/01/2012, 1:36 pm

    I’ve known many who have been Mystery Shoppers, and each one had a great experience. I’m thinking it’s because they read your book!

    Praying you much success!


  • Lisa 03/01/2012, 1:51 pm

    So sad to see that innocent people are taken advantage of. I definitely think Mystery Shopping is something that should be considered by people looking for work from home.

  • connie 03/01/2012, 2:07 pm

    I did not know there was such fraud in mystery shopping. It almost seems like you cannot trust anyone anymore. Thanks for the great information!!

  • Deanna 03/01/2012, 2:07 pm

    I was once sent a check for over $400 and was told to cash it, then use so much of it at Walmart, then wire the remaining amount back to the sender with a report on my shopping experience. Luckily, we were smart enough to realize the scam, and we knew the check was fake. The sad thing is, many people may have just seen the check and gone through with it for the money.. IF they could find a bank that would cash the fake check.

  • Dakotapam 03/01/2012, 2:19 pm

    I have spent a lot of time mystery shopping in the past, but I have pretty much stopped. There are a few reasons. The first was that the pay has hardly been worth my time in this area. The second was the shops I could get would refuse any negative shops. So I would be out my time spent shopping. No joke, one place required that I flag down an associate to ask for more information on sweatpants. Hello, I might as well wear a flashing mystery shopper pin! The third annoying thing is mystery shops that really want market research. Shop questions such as “have you seen our ads on tv?” “Did you like them? Etc.” I’ve been on focus groups. They pay much better than Mystery shopping, so I would get annoyed that I was asked to be a focus group on Mystery Shopping pay.

    • Nirra 03/01/2012, 4:47 pm

      Wow! I’ve never had a shop refused. That is terrible!

  • Jenny 03/01/2012, 3:43 pm

    Wow, that is crazy that someone would actually do that to innocent people looking for a means of income to support themselves or their family. People, ugh!

    I have been a part of this legit mystery shopping network, but I never go through with actually doing it since it seems to be too much of a chore for me.

    Thanks for the information though.

  • Ashley L 03/01/2012, 6:39 pm

    I’ve always been curious about myster shoppers. I knew they existed because I used to work in retail and our manager always seemed to be able to point them out- usually she was right. We also received individual reviews from mystery shoppers that were hired by corporate. If I enjoyed shopping more, I would definitely want to know more about how to mystery shop successfully! This blog post does a great job directing the reader to a resource that would provide that success! Great job and thanks for the information!

    • Nirra 03/01/2012, 7:19 pm

      Thanks for the comment! I guess if you’re not a fan of shopping this might not be something you’d enjoy too much. But if you like shopping it’s fun 🙂

  • janis meredith 03/01/2012, 7:05 pm

    informative stuff! I’ve always thought it would be fun to be a mystery shopper!

  • Shopping Tips and Tricks 03/01/2012, 7:19 pm

    I wish I had the time to do Mystery Shopping, but feel I have a lot on my plate right now as it is. Thanks for the great article!

  • Mommy's Money Saving Obsession 03/01/2012, 7:20 pm

    I am so glad that the scammer was caught! Thanks for the info!

  • Paula Baker 03/01/2012, 7:32 pm

    I’ve always been intrigued by mystery shopping, so I found your blog post informative. Thanks so much for sharing your insider info!

  • Tracey 03/01/2012, 7:33 pm

    I have heard about mystery shopper and found your post so informative. It sounds like it would be fun to do.

  • Eric 03/01/2012, 8:06 pm

    This is a great article. I have always heard of these types of scams and feel as though they probably happen more often than reported. Thanks for the information and I will certainly be on the watch out.

  • Lisa 03/01/2012, 8:39 pm

    Ive actually never heard of mystery shopping before. Will have to explore it and your site when I’m not browsing on my phone

  • successfully saving 03/01/2012, 9:11 pm

    I honestly don’t have time to do any mystery shopping right now but I’ll be sure to add this page to my favorites in case I ever decide to try it.

  • Leslie 03/01/2012, 9:39 pm

    I have come accross a few Mystery Shoppers that requested money before they would tell me any information about the shop. So needless to say I didn’t go any further with them. I signed up with Best Mark but I haven’t done any shops yet. I hope Best Mark Is Legitimate because I would like to do a few Mystery Shops seems like fun.

    • Michelle R 03/27/2012, 10:51 pm

      I have worked for Best Mark, they are legitimate. 🙂

  • shelly 03/01/2012, 9:41 pm

    I’ve always thot it would be fun to be a mystery shopper, but like others, wasn’t sure how to make sure it was a legitimate company/job. Thanks for the information!

  • Lanell aka New Jack Sweetie 03/01/2012, 10:03 pm

    I’ve also been the unfortunate victim of a mystery shopping scam. It’s good to know that there are some legitimate mystery shopping opportunities out there. Thank you for sharing the info!

  • Mandi 03/01/2012, 10:16 pm

    I’ve heard about mystery shopping. But never tried it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Deborah Owen 03/01/2012, 10:26 pm

    This is something I’ve wondered about for years. I know there are legitimate mystery shoppers but have never known one. Thank you for the information. Guess I’ll have to buy your book! Deb

  • Jennie@my3ringcircus.org 03/01/2012, 11:14 pm

    I have done a few mystery shops in the past and most were a hastle and not worth my time. I did do a Greyhound Bus one that paid great! So glad you have found good mystery shops to do and help others figure out how to do it.

    • Nirra 03/01/2012, 11:16 pm

      Thanks. I have found that while some mystery shops don’t pay too well, there are many others that do. I just don’t do the ones that aren’t worth it or I negotiate :).

  • Quida 03/01/2012, 11:31 pm

    Great information for mystery shopping because there are so many scams out there.

  • Lynden Blossom 03/02/2012, 2:57 am

    Interesting concept – Thank You for sharing your views on it – Will return to explore it more at a later time – I DO love to shop!


  • MJ 03/02/2012, 4:24 am

    Thanks for sharing some great information and your perspective. I do some mystery shopping off and on, with a couple of companies that are reliable. My dilemma is that I either can’t fit a shop into my schedule or it is too far away (lots of shops for towns nearby). I’ve been looking for some other companies to shop for, thanks for giving me some additional information to consider.

  • Angi 03/02/2012, 6:58 am

    I’ve signed up for a few mystery shop programs and haven’t had much luck with it. I blame it on living out in the middle of nowhere. But I wouldn’t change living out in the country for anything!

  • Kelsey 03/02/2012, 8:55 am

    I’ve heard of Mystery Shopping before and it sounds like it could be a lot of fun. I haven’t tried doing it, just because all of the ads I’ve found in the newspapers seem to be scams. I’ve never found one that sounds legitimate enough to try, but then I haven’t really set myself out on a mission to find one. Thank you for the information!

  • Donna McDine 03/02/2012, 9:33 am

    I looked into mystery shopping years ago but never followed through. It didn’t seem quite right. Like anything the bad eggs give the good ones a bad name.

    Best regards,
    The Golden Pathway Story book Blog
    Write What Inspires You Blog

  • Stacy King 03/02/2012, 9:53 am

    How awful to steal that much money from people who are looking for work. It is true, though, that “buyer beware” and you offer some good advice on the topic. I have done a few mystery shopping things and it was fun! Thanks for the post!

  • Susan 03/02/2012, 10:37 am

    The way I see it, the best is to only join legit companies that conducts mystery shopping by doing your homework and getting referrals. Scam are everywhere these days and it pays to be more cautious.

  • Sparta Savings 03/02/2012, 10:59 am

    Mystery shopping always seems scammy to me, but it’s nice to know that someone has not only succeeded at it, but helps others too!

  • Nekky 03/02/2012, 1:40 pm

    I’ve always wanted to do this just for the experience. A friend of mine has been doing it for a long time and she can’t trade it with something else.

  • Tonia Sanders @TheChattyMomma 03/02/2012, 1:47 pm

    This is crazy. People are so crooked sometimes. I’m glad all of my shops have been successful and I have found some great companies to work with

  • Cambria 03/02/2012, 4:25 pm

    Wow, it’s good to learn about another way to bring in cash that I never knew about! Your book sounds great, especially if you can help others avoid being scammed. What a great service!

  • Michelle 03/02/2012, 4:57 pm

    I feel like a dummy. I’ve never even heard of mystery shopping before. It sounds intriguing. Thanks for the info.

  • Jessie 03/02/2012, 7:05 pm

    I have done some mystery shopping in the past, but I find that there are not many jobs available in my area. Thank you for sharing this information – I will be checking out your book!

  • Junebug 03/02/2012, 7:53 pm

    I knew there were mystery shoppers. Having worked in retail and being the victim of mystery shoppers before I always thought it would be a great job. However, every ad I ever saw looked very scammy. Good to know there are legit ways to find mystery shopper gigs.

  • Amy 03/02/2012, 8:26 pm

    Never heard of a mystery shopping book! I’ve worked for one company for the past few years. It’s fun!

  • Cindy 03/02/2012, 10:49 pm

    I have wanted to do this for a long time but always wondered. What swindlers people can be, hu.

  • Christy Kramer 03/02/2012, 11:22 pm

    I looked into mystery shopping a long time ago but like you, I had a hard time differentiating the good from the bad. I never heard of this scam you’re speaking of–such a shame! From what I saw when I looked into it, there’s an awful lot of work and detail involved and if you didn’t pay attention to every single detail to fill out in your report, you might not get paid. That scared me away. Maybe when my kids get a little older I’ll take a look at your book and check it out again. Thanks for making it easier for the rest of us!

  • Women Are Gamechangers 03/02/2012, 11:49 pm

    I am very weary of just giving my financial information to people I do not know yet alone have never met. I’m so glad he is behind bars. They really need to start making these scammers pay for the damage they do to a person’s life and/or finanaces.

  • Jess 03/03/2012, 12:25 am

    How wonderful to hear a mystery shopping success story!

  • Pamela 03/03/2012, 1:43 am

    Great post! Scams are everywhere so we must be careful and do our due diligence in checking out these companies.

    I am currently a mystery shopper for two legitimate companies. I enjoy shopping so being able to evaluate customer service is right up my alley.

    Still Dating My Spouse

    Stopping by via the 100 comment blog hop!

  • Tanya 03/03/2012, 9:05 am

    A few years back I had wanted to try my hand at mystery shopping. I city at the time. didn’t live near a big city at the time. Maybe Ill try it again some day.

  • esther 03/03/2012, 10:05 am

    How interesting! I’ve thought a little bit about mystery shopping but been deterred by the illegitimate ones.

  • Staci 03/03/2012, 10:49 am

    So sad that people take advantage of folks who are trying to make money. Many times these folks don’t have money themselves. Thanks for the info

  • Libby's Library 03/03/2012, 11:14 am

    Luckily, I didn’t get scammed when I received some “checks” in the mail. I am overly suspicious of “it’s too good to be true’ situations. I promptly sent everything that was sent to me, to the FBI – envelope and all. I also forward all the emails that I get that are threatening in nature. LOL, one of these days I expect a local FBI agent to show up at my door, for spamming the FBI!

    I do belong to one of the legitimate mystery shopper companies, but dang, I rely on my husband for transportation, and so many of the “shops” are for weekday opps.

  • Julie@teachinggoodeaters 03/03/2012, 3:26 pm

    Just yesterday my husband saw a job posting for a mystery shopper and asked me what it was. I wasn’t really sure how it worked but knew that many times it was a scam. It’s nice to hear from a “real person,” that there are legit ways to do it. I’m not sure that I have time for it right now, but I think it would be fun!

  • Stacy 03/03/2012, 4:30 pm

    I’ve always wished there was a way to know if the work at home jobs and mystery shopping jobs were legit.

  • Stacy 03/03/2012, 4:36 pm

    Too bad it’s not easier to figure out the legit versus the fraudulent programs.

  • Rory at The Tourist Baby 03/03/2012, 5:37 pm

    It is so great that you could translate your mystery shopping into a book! What a great resource for people interested in mystery shopping!

  • Rachel 03/03/2012, 8:11 pm

    Thanks for the tips… I used to do Mystery Shopping, but it didn’t pay enough for the time that I put into it, but I am sure that there are better companies for that. Stopping by from Blogelina! xoxo-Rachel

  • Emily @ Simple Little Home 03/03/2012, 8:29 pm

    Who knew that mystery shopping could be legit? I suppose I always assumed that companies paid their own employees to conduct mystery shops, but perhaps hiring that out makes more sense. Good for you that you’ve found a way to make some extra cash!

  • Michelle Pegram 03/04/2012, 10:59 am

    Thanks for the tips. I have always been interested in the idea of Mystery Shopping ,but have heard so many horror stories of people getting scammed or it not being what they expected to ever try it.

  • Tami @ ThisMomsDelight.com 03/04/2012, 4:56 pm

    If someone tells me I have to pay to get paid or pay something out of what I receive, that’s a huge red flag not to fall for it!

  • Prodigals Mom 03/04/2012, 7:12 pm

    Thanks for this informative post!

  • marina 03/04/2012, 8:43 pm

    I’ve always wanted to try mysetery shopping out but have always been wary of all the “agencies”out there and unless it has been recommended by someone I know who has tried out the “ropes” I would not sign up at all. Will check out your book. Thanks!

  • Angela 03/04/2012, 11:57 pm

    I have heard of mystery shopping but I really am not sure how it works. I was going to say “I can’t believe a person would scam people with Mystery Shopping job”. I can believe it though, nothing surprises me these day. Thank you for the information!

    • Nirra 03/06/2012, 5:25 pm

      It is sad that people will scam someone who needs to make extra money 🙁

  • Bonni 03/05/2012, 8:12 am

    So interesting! My children have had experience with secret shoppers in their places of employment, but I never really understood it1 I’m participating in the Blogalina event and finding great blogs like yours!

  • Kari Cu 03/05/2012, 11:04 am

    I do mystery shopping and like it. You definitely have to decide how much you time is worth because a lot of shops pay very little. I tend to do ones that are on my usual route anyway or somewhere I am going anyway so that it is not out of my way.

  • Byn 03/05/2012, 4:13 pm

    OMG, my husband is a mail man and has had several elderly customers tell him about scams like this. It is just heartbreaking that people are so selfish and greedy to be willing to ruin other’s for their own gain. Thank you for the tips on how to do it right. I’m not sure if its something I’d want to do as I rarely leave the house, but I think I may look into it!

  • Lisa @ Fat Chick Fed Up 03/06/2012, 9:16 am

    I have looked into mystery shopping before but have just never really followed through on it. Sounds like you are veru successful at it though-good for you! Have you ever thought about offering an e-course or a class at a church or something to teach others what you have learned?

    • Nirra 03/06/2012, 5:22 pm

      I have thought about it before. My husband says that I should do it but I guess I never seriously thought about it 🙂

  • isis 03/06/2012, 4:30 pm

    I’ve always been curious about mystery shopping and I’ve actually signed up for 2 companies but have not really taken the time to actually do it.

    • Nirra 03/06/2012, 5:23 pm

      You should give it a try! You might actually enjoy it 🙂

  • Nirra 03/06/2012, 5:23 pm

    Thanks for your kind words! I’ve always wanted to write a picture book. That is awesome that you’ve actually done it. Congrats!

  • Nirra 03/06/2012, 5:24 pm

    Thanks for stopping by! It is a great way to make extra money but you definitely should not pay for listings to mystery shopping sites.

  • Caroline 03/06/2012, 8:58 pm

    I have done a few mystery shops and am signed up with 2 different companies. I just wish I had more time to actually do the shops. With 2 little ones and #3 almost here, I just haven’t been able to make it work since most I can’t bring kids with me for. I just try and only go with companies that have been recommended to me. good information!

  • Single Gal 03/07/2012, 11:01 am

    Glad to know a scammer was caught and put away! I did one mystery shopping assignment years ago, and enjoyed it but haven’t really found much in my area since then. There are also two very valuable forums, Volition.com and MysteryShopForum.com that have a wealth of information for anyone who is seriously interested in this kind of work. Both are free to join.

  • Paris 03/07/2012, 12:41 pm

    I have never even heard of that so thanks for the warning!

  • callie 03/07/2012, 4:47 pm

    Every mystery shopping opportunity I have come across has been a scam so it is great you have written a book on how to navigate this!

  • Deanna 03/07/2012, 8:35 pm

    I have thought about doing mystery shopping but never have. Thanks for the tips on how to do it. I may look into it more.

  • Nicole H. 03/08/2012, 8:30 am

    Wow! I work shops for a professional marketing and social media group, but it’s far from your run of the mill “mystery shopper” opportunity. I make an excellent income and it’s rewarding since I am provided a stipend for products I need to buy – that are my decision to purchase and ALWAYS things we need anyway.

    I’ve always been very weary about those mystery shopper opportunities. I’ve been Internet savvy and knowledgeable about the in’s and out’s of identifying a SCAM (“If it walks like a duck..”), but I wish EVERYONE knew. There are so many innocent people that have lost entire retirement funds, homes, and marriages ruined because of Internet related scams. Such a shame! Thanks for the post!!!

    ~ Nicole @ MamaNYC 🙂

  • Elizabeth 03/08/2012, 1:47 pm

    There seem to be a lot of pros and cons about mystery shopping, but you seem very successful doing it. Thanks for all the great information.

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