I often hear from people who want to become mystery shoppers, but do not know how to begin. It is actually simple, especially with all of the resources available through the Internet that enable you to easily find mystery shopping companies, complete applications and locate assignments.
The problem for many of these potential secret shoppers is that they are having trouble finding legitimate companies that do not charge shoppers to apply. Even many of the sites that claim that they will protect you from the scams are themselves scams. How do you know which companies and sites can be trusted?
Let’s start right at the beginning. One way to find mystery shopping companies is to go to Google or another search engine and do a search for a term such as “mystery shopping company.” That will bring up a number of sites that are actual mystery shopping companies, as well as some sites that list such companies.
There is a list of legitimate mystery shopping companies on this site at http://www.MysteryShoppersManual.com/mystery-shopping-companies.
The companies that belong to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association go through a review and approval process before they are allowed to join, and must uphold ethical standards to be members. You can find a list of MSPA member companies at http://mysteryshop.org/shoppers/membercos.php.
You can also find free mystery shopper job opportunities at http://www.Jobslinger.com/.
When you are looking at a shopping company web site, watch for danger signs that warn you the company may not be legitimate or at least not a place you want to apply. Number one is charging you to apply. Never pay a fee to apply.
Is there contact information on the site? Legitimate mystery shopping companies not only need to sign up shoppers, they also need to get clients. Is there a way for clients to contact them, such as a telephone number? Do they list an address?
Does the site appear to be professionally written and designed? If there are tons of spelling errors, they are probably not a real mystery shopping company (or at least a very good one).
Remember that scammers can fake things to make themselves look legitimate. Many of the letters sent in the certified check scam include the logos of major companies such as WalMart, Starbucks, Western Union and other recognizable companies. Although the scammers try to make it appear that they are affiliated with these companies, they are not.
Use your best judgment when applying. If you have any doubt about a company, check them out before applying, or just move on to the next company.
Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.