How to Become a Mystery Shopper

Woman tries on necklace with shop keeper's help
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Mystery shopping might sound like a great job, and sometimes it can be. However, there are many mystery shopping scams that you need to watch out for.

Read below for information on what a mystery shopper is, how to identify mystery shopping scams, and how to find a legitimate mystery shopping job.

What Is a Mystery Shopper?

Also known as a secret shopper or mystery consumer, a mystery shopper is someone who visits or contacts a business pretending to be a regular customer.

He or she might purchase a product, ask a question, return an item, or register a complaint. The mystery shopper then provides feedback to his or her employer on the experience.

Mystery shoppers are typically hired by market research companies, or they might be hired by a business itself. Many industries, including retail, food service, and even medical institutions use mystery shoppers to learn more about the quality of their customers’ experiences. Mystery shoppers give companies insight into various aspects of their businesses, from the cleanliness of the stores to the quality of their customer service.

The mystery shopper is either paid a set fee, an hourly rate, or is reimbursed for purchases made in the store. Sometimes, a mystery shopper receives a combination of these kinds of payments.

This type of job is typically a part-time position – few people make enough money as a mystery shopper to make it a full-time job.

How to Avoid Mystery Shopper Scams

Unfortunately, there are many scams in which people try to steal money from others interested in being mystery shoppers. Read below for tips on how to identify and avoid these scams.

  • Don’t pay to be a shopper. You should never pay money to see a list of companies hiring mystery shoppers, or pay money to get a job. Some websites offer certificates in mystery shopping for a fee. These certificates are not necessary to find a job, so don’t pay the money.
  • Don’t wire anyone money. A common mystery shopping scam is that someone sends you a check, and asks you to deposit it. They then ask you to wire some of that money to someone else – sometimes called a “mystery shopping agent” or “training agent.” Typically, the check sent to you is fake, and then you have to pay the bank back. Never send anyone else money as part of your job as a mystery shopper.
  • Research each company. One way to avoid a scam is to thoroughly research any job. Look up the company online, and read any reviews of the job by people who have worked for the company. See if the company is a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), which lists companies that hire mystery shoppers.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it is. Any job listings that offer you lots and lots of money, send you money before you begin work, or guarantee you a job before you apply, are scams. Anything that sounds too good is likely not real.
  • Tell someone. If you think you were the victim of a mystery shopping scam, report it with the Federal Trade Commission. This will help other people avoid becoming victims of the same scam.

How to Find a Legitimate Mystery Shopper Job

One way to learn more about the industry and find mystery shopping jobs is to do some online research.

Check out online mystery shopping message boards and websites. To locate a few, Google “mystery shopping message board” or “mystery shopping jobs.”

If you find a company that is hiring mystery shoppers, do some online research on the company. Read reviews and comments about the company from people who have worked for them.

Check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association to see a list of mystery shopper jobs, and companies that hire mystery shoppers.

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