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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​.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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