The Federal Trade Commission has filed charges against Mystery Shop Link, LLC (a.k.a. MysteryShopLink.com) and others, claiming that they deceived consumers who were led to believe that paying a $99.95 fee would give them access to mystery shopping jobs available through the company. In fact, consumers received a worthless certification and access to re-postings of other mystery shopping assignments posted by other companies, who were unrelated to Mystery Shop Link.
Many of us in the industry have been warning others about this company for a long time. However, their aggressive marketing campaign drew customers who knew nothing about the mystery shopping industry. You may have heard their advertisements on radio and television stations across the U.S., or in your local newspaper.
The MSPA has issued a press release voicing support for the actions of the FTC. It reads, in part:
The Mystery Shopping Providers Association, the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources, supports the Federal Trade Commission’s recent action against Mystery Shop Link and the Tangent Group.
Mystery Shop Link is not and has never been affiliated with the MSPA, and the MSPA does not support the practices of which the company has been accused.
The MSPA has cooperated with the FTC in its investigation of Mystery Shop Link and encourages the FTC to continue investigating all mystery shopping-related scams.
The MSPA believes mystery shoppers should not have to pay to find mystery shopping assignments. The association’s 200 member companies around the globe are required to follow a strict code of ethics that prohibits them from charging mystery shoppers a fee or misleading applicants on actual mystery shopping assignment opportunities.
The MSPA has taken steps to warn consumers about this and other mystery shopping scams.
“The MSPA is committed to maintaining the integrity of the mystery shopping industry and will continue to denounce the practices of fraudulent and deceptive companies that use mystery shopping as a cover to take advantage of people,” said John Swinburn, Executive Director, MSPA. “The MSPA is also taking action to combat other mystery shopping scams, particularly scams involving an unsolicited cashier’s check.”
If you are interested in becoming a mystery shopper, here is some advice to keep in mind:
Do not pay to register with any company. Legitimate mystery shopping companies do not charge you to apply.
Deal only with reputable mystery shopping companies, such as those who are members of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.
Remember that just because you read something on the internet does not mean it is true. There are sites that claim to provide “reviews” of mystery shopping sites. In fact, they are simply trying to sell you what is usually a worthless program. Do research. Ask questions of other shoppers.
Educate yourself about mystery shopping. It is an interesting and enjoyable way to make extra money, but do not fall for the scams that will separate you from your money.
Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual, the popular book about mystery shopping that shows you how to get started and get ahead without getting scammed.