In an ideal world, those who you spend your valuable time working for would never ask you to do something fraudulent. However, in mystery shopping, it is not unheard of for a mystery shopping provider to ask a mystery shopping to commit fraud on occasion. Of course, not every provider has done this or will do this, but some providers have made a regular habit of asking mystery shoppers to step outside their ethical comfort zone and do things that are either borderline illegal or completely illegal.
Common Types of Mystery Shopping Fraud
As a mystery shopper, you are contracted to provide a fair, truthful and unbiased view of the facts of a site visit to the company who are you shopping for. Your provider is the company who is paying you, and some may argue that your allegiance is with them. However, ultimately it is the vendors like stores and restaurants who are ordering the report in question and who are paying for your services. The provider is simply a conduit or middleman. Some providers have asked their mystery shoppers to write untruthful or incorrect information in their report. The report may have been submitted to the provider truthfully the first time around, but revisions were requested that would make the report false. Some mystery shoppers have also noticed their reports get lower ratings when they make negative comments about store staff, cleanliness of the site and more. While mystery shoppers may not actually be requested to alter their report, they may feel enticed to slant their report more positively than it should be in order to get a higher rating.
What You Can Do
When mystery shoppers are blatantly requested to make fraudulent changes, there is always the option to say no. Mystery shoppers should never feel forced to lie about their observations. By doing so, you may burn bridges or even be banned from working with the provider in the future. However, it is important to ask yourself if this is the type of provider you want to work with. There is a possibility that higher ups in the provider’s company may not be aware that this is going on, so you may wish to bring the matter to the attention of a manager. By doing so, you may once again burn bridges if the request to create a fraudulent report was coming from someone higher up in the organization. However, you may also gain a reputation for being an ethical and dependable mystery shopper by blowing the whistle on someone.
You Do Have Choices
Nobody likes to do work and then not get paid for it. When you fail to make requested revisions, you do run this risk even if those revisions are fraudulent in nature. However, most mystery shopping assignments do not pay an extraordinary amount. Giving up a $10 or $20 paycheck is a small price to pay for holding your ground and sticking by your ethical convictions. Any time such events happen, however, it is important to consider if you want to continue working with an unethical provider. There are many companies you may choose to work with who would not put you in such an ethical quandary.
Fraudulent activity is not highly common in the mystery shopping world, but it does happen. Keep these points in mind if you are asked or encouraged to commit fraud on the job.