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This item originally appeared in the October 28, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

The real mystery to the "mystery shopper" job offer many students received in their Tech e-mail is whether or not this is an Internet scam.

An e-mail was recently sent to various students on campus from the company, stating it has many new jobs available for students to receive $10 to $40 per hour to be "mystery shoppers."

According to the e-mail, which the company's recruiting manager supposedly sent, average workers receive $600 a week, and students get to enjoy the benefits of tasting the newest foods and sampling the latest clothes, all on the company's budget.

But before students can sample all of these luxuries, they must first pay a $10 membership fee.

"See, students have to think about these things logically," Linda Smith, an information agent for the Better Business Bureau, said. "When you are hired for a regular job, there is no fee. So ask yourself 'Why should I be paying a fee for this job?'"

The company not only requires the $10 fee to be paid either by putting in a credit card number or through an e-check, but they also have no telephone number or address where people can contact them.

"No telephone number and no address should really put up a red flag to students," Smith said. "Normally, a legitimate company will give you their number, address and even people who you can contact when you call."

Smith said the Better Business Bureau gets complaints all the time from college students who have been victimized by Internet scams, because they do not know what signs to look for.

These are some other warning signs Smith said student should look for: deals that sound much better than any being advertised by firms that are known to be legitimate, a promoter who is not based locally and uses a P.O. Box or a mail drop rather than an address.

She also advised to look for a promoter name and/or logo that closely resemble that of a respected brand or company and an immediate demand for a check, money order or cash.

"I always look for the big letters and the exclamation points on an e-mail," Deborah McQueen, a freshman speech pathology major, said.

"That pretty much makes me think that it's a scam."

But some students said they already look for certain signs when they are scanning their e-mails looking for opportunities.

"If they don't give me an address or tell me a phone number, then I wouldn't give them my credit card number or anything like that," Megan Attebery, a freshman mathematics education major, said.

Though Smith could not verify if is a scam or not, she did say the Web site did not show up as being registered under all of their credible business listings.

She said, "I can't tell you if the company is a scam for sure, but it certainly sounds like it could be."

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