On the home page of a local chapter of the Better Business Bureau, the BBB itself says that mystery shopping is one of the biggest scams targeting people who want to work from home today. Clicking their link, you find an article that lists mystery shopping as a whole as a scam rather than the scam artists targeting mystery shopping. This unfortunate and erroneous article posted by one of the most reputable business organizations in the country is indicative of how scam artists are giving the industry as a whole a bad name, and are causing more and more would-be mystery shoppers to shy away from mystery shopping as a job.
The fact is that, as so many mystery shoppers are aware, there are dozens of excellent providers you can work for, but there are quite a few scams that target mystery shoppers, too. As mystery shoppers, we must do what we can to protect ourselves and keep these scams from further damaging the reputation our industry has with the general public. So what do you need to know about scams?
Pay to Work? As a mystery shopper, you should absolutely never have to pay money to find work. You should be able to sign up to join a provider without paying a few, search job boards without paying a fee, and select and perform those assignments. The only thing you should have to pay out of pocket for is a (possible) required purchase that is required of each assignment. As a mystery shopper, you are tasked with commenting on all aspects of service you receive, and this includes throughout the entire purchase transaction. However, most providers will reimburse you for your purchase or will allow you to return your purchase for a refund.
Research Your Providers. If you every have any doubts about the legitimacy of a company you are considering working with, you have the absolute ability to hop online and get feedback straight from the den. You simply have to post a quick question on the online mystery shopping forum, and you can get back dozens of results from other mystery shoppers. They can tell if you a provider is legitimate or not, as well as other valuable information such as how quickly they pay, if they are easy or hard on reports, and so forth. The forums are a great resource for ensuring that you work with not just legitimate providers but also great providers who are worth your time and effort.
Email Requests. If you get an email request from an unknown company to do an amazing job, chances are that is probably scam. Many scammers are sending emails directly to mystery shoppers, and they are using company names that sound similar to the names of real providers. If you get one of these emails and aren’t sure about the offer, go to the company website (not through the link in the email, but through your own internet query), and locate the phone number of that company. Then call the company up and ask to speak with the person sending the email to you. Keep in mind that the email itself may have a fake phone number and a phony email address or website link, too. Most importantly, if you ever recieve a large check in the mail as part of an assignment, the check is fake! Do not deposit it! Do not wire any money!
As with anything in life, if you find yourself traveling down a route that you are not comfortable with or are getting a bad feeling about it, chances are there is a good reason for this. Follow your instincts and listen to your gut. There are enough legitimate providers and great assignments out there that you should not feel obligated to do any work that you aren’t getting a good feeling about.