Mystery Shopper Scams and How to Identify and Beware of It?

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
"Is mystery shopping legit? What are mystery shopper scams, and how to identify/beware of it?" are the topics discussed at this article. Unless you are aware of the facts and scams about mystery shopping, you cannot search or find out the legit companie

"Is mystery shopping legit? What are mystery shopper scams, and how to identify/beware of it?" are the topics discussed at this article. Unless you are aware of the facts and scams about mystery shopping, you cannot search or find out the legit companies to work with. Like mllions of fake or scam sites or services around the world wide web, you have number of links and sites which offer useful information, tips and advice for how to look for honest comapnies and beware of the scams. So go ahead and make use of the information to earn online in legit way while having fun doing mystery shopping jobs.

Can you really make money doing shopping or eating at restaurants for free and get paid for it?

Have you heard it that "you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at pricey stores, or checking into luxurious hotels" ?

YES! It is true that some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores and these companies often use "mystery shoppers" to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service.

Mystery shopping can be used in any industry, with the most common venues being retail stores, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, fast food chains, banks, gas stations, car dealerships, apartments, health clubs and health care facilities.

BUT------- BEWARE OF SCAMS

Anyone interested in mystery shopping should use caution when considering a mystery shopping opportunity, and only deal with legitimate mystery shopping companies.

Mystery shoppers posing as normal customers perform specific tasks—such as purchasing a product, asking questions, registering complaints or behaving in a certain way—and then provide detailed reports or feedback about their experiences.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests:

Fraudulent mystery shopping promoters are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they’re a gateway to lucrative mystery shopper jobs with reputable companies. These solicitations usually promote a website where consumers can “register” to become mystery shoppers — after they pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.

The truth is that it is unnecessary to pay money to anyone to get into the mystery shopper business. The shopping certification offered in advertising or unsolicited email is almost always worthless. A list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free; and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs usually are out of luck. Either the business doesn’t return the phone calls, or if it does, it’s to try another pitch.

In another version of the scam, consumers are “hired” to be mystery shoppers and told that their first assignment is to evaluate a money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram. The shopper receives a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account, withdraw the amount in cash, and wire it to a third party. By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. Individuals are responsible for the checks they deposit, so if a check turns out to be a fake, they are responsible for paying the bank back. It’s a good idea never to deposit a check from someone you don’t know, especially if the stranger asks you to wire money.

The Facts of Mystery Shopping

Becoming a legitimate mystery shopper for a legitimate company doesn’t cost anything. Here’s how to do it:

  • Do your homework about mystery shopping. Check libraries, bookstores, or online sites for tips on how to find legitimate companies hiring mystery shoppers, as well as how to do the job effectively.
  • Search the Internet for reviews and comments about mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications online.
  • Don’t pay a fee to become a mystery shopper. Legitimate companies don’t charge people to work for them – they pay people to work for them.
  • Never wire money as part of a mystery shopping assignment.
  • You can visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at mysteryshop.org to search a database of mystery shopper assignments and learn how to apply for them. The MSPA offers certification programs for a fee, but you don't need "certification" to look – or apply – for assignments in its database.
  • In the meantime, the FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
  • Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it’s much more likely that they’re pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping “services.”
  • Require that you pay for “certification.”
  • Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
  • Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
  • Sell directories of companies that employ mystery shoppers.
  • Ask you to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to someone.
  • If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with your local consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau, your state Attorney General, or the FTC.

 JobMonkey suggests:

People who are curious about becoming  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 un-known person. You also end up being liable for the fraudulent check.

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.

How to Identify Mystery Shopper Scams?

FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:

  • Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it’s much more likely that they’re pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping “services.”
  • Sell “certification.” Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.
  • Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper. It is usually sporadic work.
  • Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
  • Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.

What to do, if you think you have been scammed?

If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with

* BetterBusinessBureau (click on "file a complaint".)

your State Attorney General, or your state consumer protection agency,

FTC - (click on file a complaint)

 Useful links:

* The Truth About Becoming a Mystery Shopper

* Secret Shopper Scam

* Mystery Shopper Scam Alert at Money Watch

Useful sites:

Scam Warners warns, advises, and increases awareness about internet fraud.

* Scam.com an online forum for information about all kind of internet scams.

* Open Directory link list about Mystery Shopping

3 comments

lucia anna
0
Posted on Mar 2, 2011
thestickman
0
Posted on Feb 28, 2011
carol roach
0
Posted on Feb 28, 2011