Question from a mystery shopper:
I want to be a mystery shopper, but I am concerned because I hear about a lot of scams associated with secret shopping. How do I find legitimate companies, and how can I tell if a company is legitimate or not?
I get this question a lot. Many people write that every company they find wants to charge them to apply. Not only are those not legitimate mystery shopping companies, they are probably not mystery shopping companies at all. If they ask you to pay, do not apply.
A simple Internet search will turn up lots of legitimate companies, as well as several companies that are less than trustworthy. Many of the companies that rank well in the search engines are established, quality companies, but not all are. Search engine placement is not enough to go on.
You can access my free list of about 150 legitimate mystery shopping companies here. None of those companies charge.
Companies that belong to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association go through a screening process. Violations of the ethics and standards established by the MSPA can result in membership being revoked. If a company belongs to the MSPA, they are legitimate. Although many MSPA member companies display the MSPA logo on their sites, do not assume that a logo means the company is a member. If they are scammers, they would have no problem in lying about MSPA membership. You can verify MSPA membership at the MSPA web site.
See what other shoppers are saying about them. Many forums have feedback about mystery shopping companies. Visit the mystery shopper forum at Volition.com or MysteryShopForum and search for the company name. If there is no feedback on the company, ask. It is generally not a violation of confidentiality agreements to factually state your experience with a company. If you find that one or two shoppers had bad experiences, but most like working for them, you can assume that the bad experiences are not typical. However, if you see a lot of shoppers complaining about the company, you would be wise to avoid them.
Does something just not seem right? The mystery shopper check scam is a good example of this. Why would a company you do not have a contract with send you a check for $3000, tell you to wire most of it to Canada, and keep $300? So many things about this should cause you to question it. (Why do you have to wire so much money? Why are they paying you $300 for something they say takes about an hour? Why would they send you a valid check with no contract?) Trust your instincts.
If you have any doubts, move on to the next company. There are hundreds of legitimate mystery shopping providers, so there is no reason to take a chance on any company that is at all questionable.
Have questions? I’ve got answers. Submit your mystery shopping questions to me at cathy (at) idealady (dot) com.