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Mystery Shopper Code Costs Air Canada Thousands

A Canadian pilot for Cathay Dragon, a Hong Kong-based airline, has been ordered to repay Air Canada more than $36,000 CDN ($29,181 USD) after leaking a “mystery shopper promo code” to friends and family members.

According to a recent CBC story, Marc Anthony Tacchi pleaded guilty to “fraudulently obtaining transportation” and was ordered to repay the airline after he scammed them out of several discount first class flight tickets.

Tacchi booked four trips for him and his family, as well as helping friends to obtain tickets as well.

Tacchi is a Canadian citizen, but is a permanent resident of Hong Kong, To help locate Tacchi, the RCMP circulated an online “wanted poster” of him, which can still be found online. The judge in the case, Patrick Chen, said that this poster and the repayment of the theft was enough punishment, and that Tacchi would not face any jail time.

Marc Anthony Tacchi was ordered to repay $36,000 CDN to Air Canada after he scammed discounted tickets using a code obtained from a mystery shopper.“In my view, to the extent that denunciation and general deterrence is necessary to be addressed in this sentencing, that need has been satisfied by the damage the accused has already suffered to his reputation,” Chen wrote in his decision. “These postings [RCMP wanted poster] will endure and remain on the internet for the foreseeable future for the world to see and may well have a more general deterrent effect than a conditional sentence order.”

In other words, if you search for Marc Anthony Tacchi on Google, his news story and wanted poster will likely appear at the top of the results. We’ll help ensure that it does. You can see the original poster and information here.

How the Scam Went Down

According to the CBC story, Tacchi obtained his promo code from an unnamed man who had been hired by Sensors Quality Management (SQM), the mystery shopping agency that had been hired to run a quality control shopping program for Air Canada.

The shoppers were not supposed to be given the promo code, but were instead supposed to buy a regular ticket at full price through SQM, who then used the code to book the flights at a discount. After the shoppers turned in their evaluations, SQM reimbursed them 50 percent of the flight cost.

In other words, if you had a trip you wanted to book, you could get it at 50 percent off if you wrote a review for the agency.

David Lipton, SQM’s president, said the shopper was not supposed to have access to the code, but managed to crack it himself and gave the number to Tacchi. Lipton said this whole ordeal has been “a headache for his company.

“We were certainly victims. We had to spend time, effort and money. And we’re a small business,” Lipton told the CBC. “We take it very personally and we work with a high degree of integrity and we’re well respected in the industry.”

The unnamed shopper who leaked the code to Tacchi was also ordered to repay his own fraud costs, which total over $90,000 CDN ($72,954 USD). Tacchi has paid back the entire amount he owed, and he was not convicted. Judge Chen declared that a conditional discharge was in the public’s interest, and so did not convict and sentence Tacchi.

But the unnamed shopper was given a nine month conditional sentence (i.e. house arrest), because his position also involved a breach of trust.

Mystery shopping scams don’t just affect the shoppers who get tricked into providing personal details to crooks, or fall victim to the old “deposit this check and send us some of it back” trick. Mystery shopping scams affect the mystery shopping agencies too.

Companies like SQM and Measure CP are small businesses trying to help their clients as well as their shoppers. Both groups trust us: the clients trust us to provide accurate information, and the shoppers trust us to keep their information safe and to treat them fairly.

That’s why we take precautions to protect our shoppers’ data, and carefully control the information we’re given by our clients. Whether it’s quality checks, customer service, or regulatory compliance, Measure CP works to ensure that our clients’ data is protected and private. If you would like to learn more, you can contact us and ask to speak to one of our mystery shopping experts.