How To Spot A Mystery Shopping Scam

As a mystery shopper, you can go weeks and even months without verbally speaking with someone about your assignments. You request your assignments online, you complete your assignment, and then file your report online. A check comes in the mail or funds are sent via PayPal, and the assignment cycle is complete without speaking to a single person.

The very nature of mystery shopping, where you work and get paid without seeing or talking to a live person, sets the job up as a perfect target of scam artists. Anyone can set up a misleading website with false information on it and prey on  mystery shoppers. There are a few things you can keep in mind as you go about your job as a mystery shopper to help you reduce your chances of falling victim to a scam.

Cash Should Flow In. As a mystery shopper, there are literally hundreds of companies you can work for who will happily throw assignments your way. Most mystery shoppers are always looking for a few new provider companies to work for, in the hopes of finding a great provider who pays promptly, has stellar assignments, and easy reports. There are a number of scam artists that prey on this desire of mystery shoppers. Some companies will offer to sell you a list of all of the mystery shopping providers out there, while other “providers” collect a fee from you for the honor of letting you work with them.

First, the list of mystery shoppers is freely available, and you should never pay for this information. Head over to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s (MSPA) website at The MSPA publishes a regularly updated list of reputable providers. Second, a reputable and legitimate provider will never require you to pay them. If you have a question about a specific provider, use the on-line mystery shopping forums to post questions and get fast responses from your fellow mystery shopping providers.

If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is. Mystery shopping assignments rarely ever yield a large paycheck. Often the work seems to take a long time and yield smallish paychecks. If you’re looking at an assignment that will give you $100 for an hour of work, or if the work that you’re being asked to do is questionable or even illegal, turn the other way. One popular scam is for a provider to mail you a large check. You simply have to deposit the check and immediately write another check out of your account. The issue arises when the first check bounces, and your own personal check clears, leaving you out hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

If You Run Into A Scam. Whether you fall victim to a scam or you have merely run into a questionable company, you should take a few steps to ensure others don’t fall victim as well. First, contact the authorities with your suspicions so they can take the proper steps to shut the shop in question  down if necessary. Second, make a post on the mystery shopping community’s online forums so other mystery shoppers can immediately become aware of the issue.

The unfortunate fact is that there are people out there who prey on mystery shoppers, and chances are you will run into a few of them over the course of your mystery shopping career. When you know what to look out for, you can keep yourself and your pocketbook safe from these scam artists.