Now that the holiday season is here, people are marking things off their shopping lists and looking for ways to make the season memorable for their loved ones. This year’s challenge is managing the budget, especially with inflation and rising costs.

People of all ages are looking for a little extra cash so they can spend more this holiday season. While there are legitimate opportunities to earn money, avoid common scams. Unfortunately, scammers try to take advantage of people throughout the year, and the holidays bring more potential risks of being scammed.

Even though scammers target people of all ages, seniors looking for part-time work could be especially vulnerable.

Secret Shopping: How the Scam Works

Secret shopping can be a legitimate opportunity to earn extra money, but be aware that scammers also try to take advantage of victims this way. As a secret shopper, you get paid to shop at local businesses to check the quality of service, product availability, and more.

But if a secret shopping opportunity seems too good to be true, it could be a scam. Here is how the scam works:

You get an invitation to be paid to be a secret shopper. They don’t even schedule an interview because they are already confident that you are the perfect person for the job.

The secret shopping company mails you a check to pay for the purchases you make in the stores. Usually, the check is larger than the items that you are buying, allowing you to profit from the leftover cash.

The instruction is to deposit the check, buy prepaid cards immediately, and send the cards to the scammer. There is always a sense of urgency created by the scammer. As a result, the victim spends their own money before the check clears the bank.

Unfortunately, the check is fraudulent, and there is no way to get the money back that was put into the prepaid cards.

How to Avoid These Scams

Be careful to avoid secret shopper scams and other common scams by always researching the opportunity before applying. Check out the Mystery Shopper Professionals Association database if you are wondering whether a secret shopper opportunity is legitimate. Also, never wire money or buy prepaid cards for a stranger.

Our team at Senior Safe and Sound is working hard to keep families educated about how to avoid scams, fraud, and other forms of elder abuse. If you need support or information, contact us by email at or call 858-480-7551.

This information is intended to inform the public at large about this important issue. It is not intended to serve as legal or medical advice.