There are hundreds of legitimate mystery shopping companies who are always on the lookout for qualified and able-minded new shoppers. Finding legitimate shop assignments is as easy as filling out the mystery shopping companies’ online applications.
While it may take some time to complete the applications, you are typically approved as a shopper immediately and can start requesting shops that same day. It is generally fairly easy to become a shopper, and becoming a shopper requires no up-front money.
Unfortunately, there are also numerous scams that lure shoppers in with the hint of fast cash, or help in finding more shops. People lured into these scams have lost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
There are ways to spot a scam to avoid being duped. Here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Some scams offer certifications for a high fee, promising their certifications will win you top-dollar shops. While it’s true that there are certifications available for mystery shopping, really analyze who you’re getting the certification from. The certifications recognized by the vast majority of legitimate mystery shops are available through the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MPSA). You can find their certification information online at www.mysteryshop.org. However, these certifications are not required to do most shops.
- Likewise, you don’t need to pay to get a list of mystery shop companies. The MPSA also publishes a list of companies for free. If you are questioning whether to sign up with a certain mystery shop company, check with the MPSA first to ensure they are legitimate.
- While some shops require a purchase of a small item, which you generally are permitted to return, you should not need to run checks through your account. For instance, one scam that has been making headlines over the last few years is one in which a company sends you a check to cash, and then you are supposed to write a check for that same amount out of your account immediately. Unfortunately, the check that you deposited will bounce, and the check you mailed out will not. Some people have lost literally thousands of dollars this way. Remember, mystery shopping is a legitimate job. While it is generally a fun job, if the pay sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t legitimate.
If you’ve been a victim to a scam, or if you have been contacted by an illegitimate company, be sure to report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Helping the FTC crack down on these scam artists will prevent your fellow mystery shoppers from falling victim to a scam.