Question from a mystery shopper:
Do I have to use my real name when I am doing a mystery shop? I would prefer not to give my true information as I don’t want to be identified as the shopper or get sales calls later. Is it illegal to use a false name?
There may be times when you want to use a name other than your own on a mystery shop, or even when the client requests that you do so. It is perfectly legal, but there are some things to keep in mind when using a name other than your own.
One client requested that I use aliases when I shopped three different locations, because they didn’t want the same name turning up three times in the appointment logs. Some shoppers prefer to use a fictitious name and contact information when they do not want to deal with follow-up contacts from salespersons. Or they may just prefer that the places they shop do not have their real name and contact information.
There is nothing illegal or immoral about using a fake name on a shop. You are not doing it for fraudulent purposes. It can, however, be confusing. If your name is “Mary Smith” but you are using the name “Sally Jones” on an assignment, you have to respond when someone calls you Sally. That can be harder than you might think! You may want to use a name that is similar to yours, or perhaps use your real first name and a fake last name. (Some women use their maiden name as an alias when mystery shopping.) On the shops where I was required to use fake names, they didn’t want the names I used to be too similar. I couldn’t use my real first name more than once or a last name that was similar to another I used.
Unless there is a requirement that you use a different first name, you may want to use your real first name and a different last name. That may be important if, for example, you run into someone you know while doing the shop and they call you by your real first name in front of the person you are shopping.
When you have to give contact information and want to give a fake name, address and phone number, be careful about the information you choose. They may be able to spot instantly that the address or phone number is fake, and ask you about it. You might give them a former address instead of your correct address. As for phone numbers, there are services and apps that will create numbers you can use. Three phone apps (for Apple and/or Android) include Burner, Numflix and Sideline. Google Voice might also work.
Keep in mind that you probably cannot use a false name on shops where you have to show identification (e.g., apartment shops) or where you plan to pay with a credit card. Also, you should not use fictitious contact information if part of the shop involves evaluating their follow-up efforts.
Most of the time it is not necessary to use a false name, but there also should not be a problem doing so.