There are a large number of benefits associated with mystery shopping, including a flexible schedule, the ability to choose the assignments you want to work on, the option to take your family or a friend “to work” with you, and many more. With a job with so many pros going for it, it’s not surprising to find that the job has a few drawbacks as well. While mystery shoppers may differ as to which is the most bothersome drawback to their job, there is no denying that the increased probability for identity theft ranks highly.
Use Cash. Think about how many more times you swipe your credit card or debit card as a mystery shopper than you would swipe it if you were not a mystery shopper. Each time you use your credit or debit card, you run the risk of your credit card information being stolen. Some thieves are very savvy now, and simply hide an extra machine that steals your information from the credit card under their work station. With an extra swipe of your card through this second machine, your valuable information has been copied and stashed away, just waiting for them to access it later. To combat this problem, use cash over credit or debit cards whenever possible.
Make Your Business Official. Many mystery shoppers worry about providing their social security number to a mystery shopping company when they sign up to work with them. Any legitimate company will require your tax ID number up-front, so the mere fact that the company asks for the information should not set off red flags for you provided you’ve done your homework on the company beforehand. However, with some scammers setting up companies with the same or very similar names as legitimate companies, it will only be to your benefit to protect your valuable social security number and other personal information. One way you can combat this problem is by setting up a separate tax ID number, such as with a corporation or other legal business entity. While truly diligent thieves may be able to find a way around this, the vast majority will consider it too much effort and will shy away from dealing with this extra layer of protection you’ve shielded yourself with.
Keep in mind, however, that there are tax consequences to running your mystery shopping business through legal business entity. Talk to an attorney as well as an accountant beforehand to ensure you know all of the details.
What’s On Your Credit Report? Even if you have taken every step in the book to ensure that you are well-protected from identity theft, there is always a chance that a thief has gotten the best of you. If you haven’t checked your credit report lately, now is the perfect time to do so. You should make it a habit to check your credit report at least once per year, if not more often. Each of the three credit bureaus will provide you with a complimentary copy of your credit report one time per year. After this, a small fee will be charged. Be sure to check with each of the three bureaus, as each one will report your accounts with different companies. Review your reports and make sure that all of the accounts listed are yours and that the balances appear to be accurate. If you find any discrepancies, the credit bureaus will work with you to correct your report.
When you take these extra steps to keep yourself safe from predators, you will reduce the chance that you will become a victim.