Mystery Shoppers and Fraud: Some May Be Guilty Without Knowing It

Many mystery shoppers dutifully complete their assignment requirements as written, and they strive to please their providers by following all requests that providers make. Some providers will simply accept a well-written report that is submitted to them. Others, however, may make periodic or even frequent requests of mystery shoppers to make specific revisions to their reports. If you are the type of mystery shopper who aims to please and believe that doing what your provider asks cannot hurt, you may want to think again. Some of the things they may be asking you to do may actually be considered fraud.

What Is Mystery Shopping Fraud?

As a mystery shopper, your main task is to complete assignment requirements and to submit a truthful and accurate accounting of your findings in the form of a mystery shopping report. When done correctly, a report will answer all of the questions required in a truthful and unbiased way. Fraud, however, occurs when you knowingly or intentional provide misleading or inaccurate information in the report. You may think that the provider is your client, and you aren’t committing fraud if the provider asks you to make a change. In reality, however, the provider is simply a go-between or middle-man. Your true client is the company that ordered the report from the provider.

Why Changes Are Requested

In some cases, mystery shoppers are asked to make changes to their report because the provider believes the report contradicts itself or is not perfectly clear. Some requests may appear to ask you to slant your answers in one way, but this is not always the case. Before you jump to conclusions and assume that you are being asked to submit a fraudulent report, you may want to shoot off a quick email and state what the correct response should be. Verify that it is acceptable before you resubmit the report. If nothing else, the provider could provide you with some insight regarding preferred wording based on your actual experience.

Is It Fraud?

You may be wondering if a specific response of yours would constitute fraud. This is something that you will need to determine on your own in each situation. Read the question, and read your own response. Did your response answer the question, and does it accurately depict what happened or what you observed? If you can say yes to both, you should be good. If the provider is asking you to submit something that you know is false, you will have to make the determination about how to respond. Keep in mind that there generally is not a mystery shopping police department policing these reports. However, it is your name on the report, and you may not feel comfortable being unethical in your efforts or taking on the liability associated with knowingly submitting inaccurate information.

If you find that a provider repeatedly asks you to make changes that are not quite accurate, this may be a good sign that this is not a provider who you want to work with. Clients are paying you for your observations rather than made-up answers to the questions.