One of the biggest concerns of mystery shoppers is falling victim to a scam. There are a number of unique and creative scams out there waiting for you to stumble on them in your search for more jobs and money. On occasion, a scam may even find you and contact you directly.
Scams are becoming more creative in an attempt to disguise themselves and take more of your hard-earned money. So it’s becoming harder and harder for a mystery shopper to tell a legitimate provider from a false provider. If you are concerned you may have run across a scam, there are a number of things you can do.
Ask Around. Word of mouth is strong, and this is especially true in the mystery shopping community. Even if you don’t know any other mystery shoppers, the internet has made great strides in connecting people from across the country and even across the globe. You have access to thousands of mystery shoppers, including their valuable experience and feedback, with the click of a mouse. There are several online communities and forums where you can post a question about a potential job or provider. Or you can search through topics already posted to find the information you are looking for. Either way, the online mystery shopping communities are a great way to find out if other mystery shoppers have had a legitimate mystery shopping experience with the company in question, as well as to get other mystery shoppers’ opinions on if you should do the assignment or run the other way.
Check With the MSPA. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association, or MSPA, is a great resource for mystery shoppers. You can search online for legitimate mystery shopping providers, as well as research the latest scams that are targeting mystery shoppers. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the MSPA prefers that you not contact them by phone with regards to specific providers. So if you can’t find the information you’re looking for about the provider or job in question on the MSPA website, you likely should refer back to the mystery shoppers forums.
With A Shadow Of A Doubt. If you have exhausted all avenues and cannot find any information about the provider or job in question, it’s best to trust your instincts and walk away. In the event that provider is legitimate, you don’t want to burn your bridges. So be sure to end communications with the provider in a professional manner. It’s always better to be safe and cautious than to risk the possibility of losing money or having your identity stolen.
When There’s No Doubt. If you are positive (or even fairly certain) that you’ve been approached by or fallen victim to a scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission, the US Postal Service (if mail has been involved), and your local authorities. Then hop online and notify your fellow mystery shoppers about the scam via the online forums so word can get out in the mystery shopping community about the scam artists on the prowl.
Mystery shopping is a fun and exciting job. As with every part of life, however, it pays to be cautious and discerning with the providers you work with and the assignments you accept.