Mystery shopper wants $1,300 back

The Better Business Bureau is investigating after an Edmonton woman alleged she lost $1,300 after she was hired to pose as a mystery shopper.
Lindsey LaFrance responded to a newspaper ad looking for mystery shoppers. ((CBC))
The Better Business Bureau is investigating an Edmonton woman's complaint she lost $1,300 after she was hired to pose as a mystery shopper.

"It's a horrible feeling to be scammed," Lindsey LaFrance said. "My first reaction was I was really angry."

Last week, LaFrance replied to the ad from Regent Research after her husband saw it in an Edmonton newspaper. LaFrance had recently suffered a cut in hours at her job and the couple thought it would be a good way to make some money.

"We figured, a little bit of extra income, help out with rent, with bills," she said.

When LaFrance went to the Regent Research website, she felt reassured seeing the Better Business Bureau logo on the page.

"I filled out the application as I was told and then they mailed me my first assignment," she said.

First assignment was Canada Post

The first assignment was testing the customer service at a Canada Post outlet at a local drugstore. LaFrance said she was given a money order for $1,500, with instructions that she deposit it in her bank account, keep $200 for a payment and service charge, and withdraw the remaining $1,300 to send to a fake cousin in the United Kingdom.

Several days later, LaFrance discovered her bank account was out $1,500.

When she called the company, she was told there had been an accounting error and the matter would be fixed. That was last Wednesday. As of Monday, she hadn't got her money back.

The money order was a fake, LaFrance said. The bank is investigating the matter, and LaFrance's bank account has been frozen.

She filed a complaint with the RCMP, and the Better Business Bureau is also now investigating.

When CBC News called the company Monday about LaFrance's complaint, the person on the other end of the line hung up.

If the Better Business Bureau logo is legitimate on a company's website, it should link to the BBB's home page, says Rayne Fraess. ((CBC))
"The company is not allowed to be using the logo. They are not associated with the Better Business Bureau at all," said Rayne Fraess, who investigates consumer complaints for the Central and Northern Alberta Better Business Bureau.

If the logo is legitimate on a web page, he said, consumers should be able to click on it an be taken to the BBB website.

"Unfortunately, it's a fairly old trick," he said of La France's experience. "It's just a twist on the money order scam where they will ask someone to test a money order service."

The likelihood of a mystery shopper organization placing ads is slim, he added. "It's a high demand business, and they do not need to advertise in that manner."

With files by Trisha Estabrooks