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Holiday Season Online Scams & Mystery/Secret Shopper Scams

Mystery/Secret Shopper Scams

Students often need to make money outside a regular job- meaning they're prime targets for the Secret or Mystery Shopper scam. Several students at Hunter have fallen victim.

Secret/Mystery Shopper scam:

  • A secret shopper employment opportunity is received- sometimes from a fellow student's compromised email account. It may name a CUNY or Hunter office. See the following examples:

Secret Shopper Scam Email Example 1


Secret Shopper Scam Email Example 2

  • If a student responds, they will typically be asked to purchase gift cards and provide the card codes with the promise of reimbursement/payment.
  • The gotcha: the student never receives reimbursement, or is responsible for a bad check received from the scammer!

What to do:

  • Treat unsolicited or unexpected job offers with suspicion. Don't reply, verify (in person or by looking up a phone number separately)
  • Never deposit a check from a stranger, no matter how good the deal seems
  • If you want to sign up to be a mystery shopper, the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America has a list of legitimate companies here
  • If a company ever wants you to buy gift cards in exchange for money, that's a big red flag

For more information on mystery/secret shopping scams, please visit the follow website:


Gift card and Holiday season scams and malware campaigns

The scam:

  • Offering free or discounts on stuff. But if it's free or 'too good to be true' it probably is.
  • Helping you 'connect' with people. The attachments and links can hack your device in a single click.
  • Appeals to our sympathy. Looks like a simple, easy way to feel good or helpful, but it can result in hacks to your device or accounts.
  • All of these can be a front for scams or malware

What to do:

  • Don't reply- verify (in person or offline)
  • Ask yourself: is that link legit? Verify links and sources independently or offline.
  • View online shopping safety tips by the Department of Homeland Security, the National Cyber Security Alliance PDF and the Federal Trade Commission
  • Sign up for Hunter IT security notices. In the Hunter website, search for 'IT security notices'

If you reply or click on the link, contact the ICIT Help Desk‚Äč.Consider the following actions:

  • Change your CUNYfirst password to update your myHunter email password.
  • Advise your bank or credit card company immediately if you disclosed any information. Watch for unexplained charges to your account
  • If you used the same password for multiple websites make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that same password in the future


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