Mystery Shopping Scams & Ethics

While the presence of mystery shopping online has ultimately improved and streamlined the industry it has also left the industry subject to secret shopper scams and frauds. Conversely, the use of the Internet has allowed people to warn one another about scams that exist. The information and existence on how to avoid these scams is becoming more prevalent. As someone who is curious about becoming a mystery shopper, it is important to be aware of the types of scams that exist, in order to successfully avoid them.

There are several popular scams that potential mystery shoppers should be aware of. The most popular is a scam involving a money transfer via companies such as Western Union. The scam works like this: a company claims to be a mystery shopping provider looking for new shoppers. After you express interest they mail you a packet which has information on mystery shopping, training materials and other resources for shoppers. Among these materials is a check that you are instructed to cash into your bank account. After cashing the check you are then instructed to send via wire transfer, a portion of that check, to another account in Canada. The company claims that in order to be considered you must complete this transaction within 48 hours of receiving the packet. The scam lies in the fact that the check is fake. Upon wiring money you end up transferring funds that never make it into your account, essentially giving away your own money to an unknown person. You also end up being liable for the fraudulent check.

This scam is widely discussed and is less prevalent than it was years ago however, versions of this scam still exist and people are still being fooled by these fraudulent practices. The best way to avoid being scammed as a mystery shopper is to be aware that scams like this exist, and to know some facts about legitimate mystery shopping providers in order to keep your self safe from fraud.

As a mystery shopper be wary of companies that:

Guarantee you work without a screening process

Most mystery shopping providers screen their shoppers. While it is true that jobs as a mystery shopper are readily available, most providers are looking for something special and thus, screen applicants. For a closer look at what providers are looking for in applicants see our section on Qualities of a Good Candidate. Be wary of a company that promises or guarantees money without further questions. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

Sends you money without having worked

As a business owner, would you send someone you’ve never met, money for work they haven’t yet completed? While it may seem great on the receiving end, no mystery shopping providers will send you money before you have completed an assignment. Be skeptical of companies that do, or promise this.

Demand money for signing up as a shopper

While there are some legitimate secret shopping companies that require a fee for training services be wary of sending money to companies you know little about. As a general rule, very few mystery shopping companies charge a fee for information. It is always a good idea to research the company you are considering as an employer. Look for testimonials, companies with a long history and companies that are listed in the Better Business Bureau.

Companies that advertise in unreliable locations

Companies that advertise for jobs via classifieds or unsolicited emails should be thoroughly researched. This is an uncommon way for mystery shopping providers to find new employees.

Companies that are located outside of the country

Mystery shopping is popular all over the world, but is well established enough that a provider should be located within your own country. Be wary of companies that only offer foreign mailing addresses and phone numbers.

The best way to avoid scams when looking for work such as mystery shopping is to think carefully about your choices and research your options thoroughly. Do not accept money or send money without having worked and look at your options with a scrupulous eye. There are many legitimate mystery shopping companies out there who are in need of good employees. Take the time to find one.

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