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Do Mystery Shoppers Pay Taxes?


Yes, mystery shoppers pay taxes like everyone else! When mystery shopping, you will most often work as an independent contractor. That means that the companies paying you don’t withhold income taxes, Social Security taxes or Medicare taxes. You are responsible for making sure your taxes are paid. In general, the fees you receive for mystery shopping are taxable as ordinary income, and are subject to federal income taxes, state and local income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes.

The good news is that when you are a contractor you are treated as a small business and you can deduct certain expenses. These may include postage, mileage and car expenses, travel, office equipment, computer and Internet fees, and perhaps even some purchases made while you are mystery shopping. You might qualify to deduct some of your housing expenses if you have a home office.
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What Are Your Mystery Shopping Goals?

What are you goals?Is mystery shopping just a hobby to you, or is it a business? If you shop now and then as a lark, then having and meeting goals may not be important to you. However, if you consider mystery shopping a business (even if it is part-time), then you should have goals for what you expect to accomplish.
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Bad Reporting = More Scam Victims


Every week there are stories on television and radio and in newspapers about mystery shopper scams. The worst thing you can say about most of these stories are that they are repetitive. After all, how many times have we heard that someone got a big check, cashed it and wired the money to someone, then learned the check was a fraud and they must repay the money to the bank?

Even though I have seen literally thousands of these stories, people keep falling for the scam, proving that many have not heard about them. That means that these stories serve a purpose in warning people about the scam and showing them how to avoid being victims.

Well, a few days ago I saw a new kind of scam story. New because it was completely wrong about how to avoid getting scammed. This was a story on the website of a television station, and represented a story they had run on their newscast. I am not going to link to the story, because I don’t want them to get views and clicks on ads in their bogus story; however, here are the two things they said to do to protect yourself from the scam.
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Staying Organized


There are lots of ways to organize your mystery shopping business, and the best way will depend on how you like to work. Some shoppers use a paper filing system or calendar, others use spreadsheets or other computer programs, and some use apps on a phone or tablet. Include mystery shopping tasks in your daily routine, so that you are checking job boards and applying for shop assignments regularly.Continue Reading

Deposit Slip Scam

Scammers are nothing if not creative. We all know about the fake check scam, but scammers are including in-person bank transactions to make their fraud seem more legitimate. So far, I have not seen reports of this associated with the mystery shopper scam; however, it is just a variation on the typical check scam, so I won’t be surprised to see it happen. Here’s how this new twist on an old scam works:Continue Reading

Did a Legitimate Mystery Shopping Company Tell You to Steal?


After my recent post on the “mystery shoplifter” scam, I heard from several shoppers who said that they had been offered assignments from reputable companies that required them to steal. Some said that they refused the assignments because they were afraid that they would be caught and might be arrested—or at least embarrassed.

These assignments have varying requirements, but many of them involve shopping at a grocery store, placing an item on the bottom of the cart and waiting to see if the cashier rings it up. In some scenarios shoppers are told to leave the store with the item, even if they haven’t paid for it.

So is it stealing? Continue Reading

Using Fake Names on Mystery Shops

Question from a mystery shopper:
Do I have to use my real name when I am doing a mystery shop? I would prefer not to give my true information as I don’t want to be identified as the shopper or get sales calls later. Is it illegal to use a false name?

There may be times when you want to use a name other than your own on a mystery shop, or even when the client requests that you do so. It is perfectly legal, but there are some things to keep in mind when using a name other than your own.
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How Long Should My Mystery Shop Report Be?


Do mystery shopping companies expect that your reports will be a certain length? Do they want you to include every detail, or just the most important things? How much to they want you to write anyway?

There is always an expected length for comments and narratives, but the expectations vary by mystery shopping company and client. Many report forms will give a minimum or maximum number of characters, or will suggest a minimum number of sentences for each section of the report.

Some clients want reports that are short and to-the-point. They will limit how many words or characters you may include. How much you can tighten your writing will depend on the expectations of the mystery shopping company and their client. It may be acceptable to use contractions. Some companies may allow you to remove articles (e.g., ‘the’), but most will not as that results in sentence fragments. Continue Reading