Many mystery shoppers will enjoy working for years in the business without running into a scam at all. Others, however, seem to spot them with every turn of the head. Mystery shoppers, unfortunately, are targeted by scam artists in large part because of the virtual nature of the business. You may never meet your providers face to face, and many mystery shoppers correspond with them only via email as needed. This leaves plenty of opportunity for a scam artist to pose as a provider and try to lure your hard-earned cash from you.
While scams in the business are somewhat rare, the fact is that a scam artist can steal hundreds and even thousands of dollars from you. So you definitely need to keep your eyes open and your wits about you to prevent yourself from falling victim to a scheme. Here are some signs that your mystery shopping assignment may be a scam:
Don’t Pay To Work. Mystery shopping providers abound, and dozens of great companies are eager for you to sign up and work for them as a mystery shopper. Legitimate companies are easy to locate. You simply need to look at the Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s website for a list of legitimate providers. These providers will not require you to pay money to work for them, although some may make you take a test beforehand. Likewise, you should not have to pay for a of providers either.
Keep in mind, however, that some actual assignments may require you to make a small purchase with a minimum dollar amount, but largely there will be a reimbursement for such a purchase included in your shopper’s pay. The assignment details will provide you with this information, and if you aren’t comfortable with a certain required purchase, simply pass that assignment up and keep looking for another one.
Trust Your Instincts. Mystery shopping is fairly unskilled job. Just about anyone can do it, and there really isn’t an education requirement to work with most providers, provided you can write complete sentences and read the assignment requirements. Many shoppers love this job because you can earn money around your other professional and personal obligations, but they don’t expect to get rich being a mystery shopper. So that being said, if you run across an assignment that promises to pay you hundreds of dollars for very little time and effort, you have to trust your instincts that something is wrong. Mystery shopping isn’t brain surgery, and you can’t expect a real assignment to offer such a high pay.
There are some assignments that offer pay in the $100 range, but these may require you to open a new bank or credit card account, or something similar. These more involved assignments will pay more for your effort.
The bottom line is that if you aren’t comfortable with an assignment or feel something is just off about it, pass it up. With hundreds or thousands of your own dollars at risk, it just isn’t worth it to pursue an assignment you aren’t sure about. Then take some time to warn other mystery shoppers about this potential scam by posting on the forums. You should also alert authorities to the possibility of a new scam so they can look into the matter from a legal angle.