Not all mystery shopping companies are legitimate.
Where there's money, there's often a scam.
This post will give you a checklist of red flags to watch out for.
First things first, trust your gut. If you feel uneasy about a company, if it doesn't look right, pass. If you feel strange about it, others will too, including potential stores looking to hire shoppers.
If you see these red flags, do not sign up:
- If they send you a huge check. If they send you a $2,500 check and tell you to deposit it, run away. I recently had someone email about a mystery shop where they got a check for $2,000+ from someone pretending to be from About Face. The bank routing number on the check (the 9-digit ABA code) was for the Bank of Oklahoma but the check said Jordan Credit Union. I'm 99.99999% sure that was a scam. No one sends huge checks! See how these scams work and how to protect yourself!
- If they require you to pay them anything. If they require you to pay an application fee or a certification fee or take a paid class, it's a scam. If they require you to pay a membership fee to access a special list or pay extra to get priority access, it's a scam. You will never pay a legitimate company.
- If they contacted you through an online posting. This happens a lot if you post your resume online and they scan your email. It's likely a scam because mystery shopping companies often have more shoppers than opportunities.
- If they ask for sensitive personal information. They don't need more than your name and address to send you a check (or email for Paypal). They don't need your social security number, that's a big red flag.
- If they have you handle money. This will never happen. If there is every any mention of cash, it's a scam. Run away.
- If they make seemingly unreasonable promises. Do you get to keep a ton of merchandise? Will you be inundated with jobs? Will you make a fortune? Will it only take a few minutes a day? All lies and usually these promises are there to get you to pay the fee. The reality is you'll get about $15-20 a task. It's nice extra cash but you will not get rich.
- They're not in the Mystery Shopper Providers Association. There are enough legitimate mystery shopping companies in the MSPA that I'm confident saying you should skip the ones not in it. Do yourself a favor and start with those first.
Here are some reputable companies (all are in the MSPA) that we know about:
- Secret Shopper
- About Face
- Best Mark
- See Level Shoppers
- Second to None
- Service Intelligence
Trust your gut, it's the best scam detector in the universe. Then follow this checklist of red flags, run if you see one.