The problem is that they are asking the wrong question. If the only thing you look at is whether the person who contacted you is using the name of a legitimate company, you are setting yourself up to be scammed.
The truth is that people who will steal thousands of dollars from you will also lie to you. Many scammers use the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies and even the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.
Never assume that someone who approaches you unsolicited and offers money is for real. Always check them out. And check them out properly. Here are the questions you should be asking.
First of all, if they sent you a large check and want you to wire money somewhere, you can stop checking right now. It is a scam. Guaranteed. No mystery shopping company will ask you to do this, but lots of scammers will. Never wire money to anyone you do not know.
How did they contact you? Mystery shopping companies typically do not send spam emails saying that you have been selected to be a mystery shopper. They have tens of thousands of shoppers in their data bases and do not have to resort to spamming to find more shoppers.
There are times when you may receive emails asking you to apply to a particular company. These usually come from a mystery shopping company with which you are currently registered, or from the MSPA if you are a certified shopper. They will not ask you to send all of your personal information in an email, but will suggest that you go to the company’s website to complete an application.
You will also, of course, get notices of available assignments from mystery shopping companies to which you have applied. In some cases they will ask you to reply to the email to be considered for the assignment, but usually they will ask you to go to the shopper area of their website to request the mystery shopper job. If they ask you to reply to the email, then ask the next question:
What email address are they using? Usually, the scammers use free email services, such as Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Real mystery shopping companies will typically use an email address at their company domain. So, if the company name is MysteryShoppers4U and their website is MysteryShoppers4U.com, the email address they ask you to reply to should say @mysteryshoppers4u.com, not @hotmail.com or something else.
Does the information in the job offer match the real company information? Look up the real company on the internet. Check their address, web URL and phone numbers. If they are located in Indianapolis, IN and the communication you got says Bayonne, NJ, be suspicious.
Still not sure? Use the real company information to contact the company and ask if they sent the communication you received. Or just ignore it and move on.
If something gets your spidey-senses tingling, pay attention. It may be that there is something wrong with the offer, even if you can not put your finger on exactly what it is. When you research it, do not rely on anything sent to you by someone you think may be trying to scam you. Independently research the company or other identifying information they gave you, then compare what you find to what they told you.