Find Legitimate Secret Shopping Companies

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

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

You can also find free mystery shopper job opportunities at

If you want to learn more about a company before applying, you can do a search for the company name on the forums at and

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.


  1. Cathy Stucker says

    It is not typical for a mystery shopping company to have an affiliate program. I have, however, seen companies offer to pay shoppers for referring other shoppers. This usually happens when they are having difficulty filling shops in a particular area or demographic.

    If a company is paying for referring other shoppers, they will notify shoppers in their data base.

  2. Katrina says

    Hi Cathy,

    We’ve launched a mystery shopping program in the UK, do you have any advice for potential shoppers about evaluating a UK based mystery shopping agency?

    We’re an agency that specialises in retail consultancy services – so mystery shopping is an important part of the business – but not core.

    Mystery shopping is an industry that’s more advanced and highly regulated in the US, but it’s still quite a new thing in the UK.

    I’d also be interested if you had any thoughts about additional information that we should offer on our website to shoppers and clients.



  3. Ana says

    I have a question. I would like to become a mystery shopper but I am tired of finding that these companies charge for joining their services. If possible I would like a larger list of legitimate companies. Thank you .
    Ana G.

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