How to Avoid the Mystery Shopper Scam

All too often an opportunity such as one like “mystery shopper” can be an exciting, off the beaten path type of job that will be very upbeat and fun to do.  It is also a learning experience on investigation and reporting in a somewhat more formal manner than most people are used to doing. Then again, an opportunity for what seems to be an exciting, upbeat, and fun job can all too often be tainted by those who would take unfair and vicious advantage of a job hunter who is likely young and naïve.  There are just too many ways for a dishonest person to lure an unsuspecting victim into a bad situation where the victim ends up with no profit, and sometimes with less money, depending on the scam used.  But, as the saying goes, one who is forewarned is forearmed.  Knowing how the legitimate companies that hire the mystery shoppers work will give an interested person a lot of defense against the scammers and cheaters.

The biggest, most obvious and easiest warning flag is from a company or site or person who wants the interested person to give them money upfront, to buy their way into being a mystery shopper.  No honest users of mystery shoppers ever ask for any money at all.  The only time a mystery shopper would be using any of his or her own money would be to buy an item the shopper is investigating at a particular store or restaurant.  The honest users of mystery shoppers reimburse and pay its mystery shoppers, never the other way around.  If a company does not need another mystery shopper right at that time, it may allow the interested person to register on a waiting list, but never asks or allows an interested person to “buy” his or her way in.  The honest users of mystery shoppers will also screen each of the interested people that contact the company.  These users will want to know about a person’s back ground, interests, ability to investigate, even asking for a writing sample and asking questions about product knowledge.  Many of the mystery shopper companies are even registered members of an association for mystery shopper companies called the “Mystery Shopper Providers Association” (MSPA).  Ask about this from the company rep with whom one might be talking.  Check with the local Better Business Bureau on the BBB website.  One can also call the BBB to ask about the company.  Also check the phone numbers and addresses of companies that are seeking shoppers.

Another key that many experts said was that honest mystery shopper users do not advertise via email; they do not need to.  Legitimate companies do not ask for a person’s credit card number … ever.  These companies, if doing work online, will have verified payment methods with legitimate payment companies like PayPal.  Always be careful with giving out personal information.  No legit company will ever ask about a person’s finances or accounts or debt.  All of these are caution flags that are saying, “Run away from this one … it is a scam!!”

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