For women (and some men too) everywhere, mystery shopping sounds like a dream job. You actually get paid to shop and report back on how the store or restaurant did while you went undercover to test them.
So exactly what is mystery/secret shopping and is it a scam? Can you really get paid for providing this type of service?
You certainly can, as long as you know how to avoid the scams.
Secret shopping services are usually provided by companies that do market research. They hire average consumers to visit a store or restaurant and then report back to them about the experience they had.
In most cases, you are reimbursed for the money you spent while shopping a particular business, and you get to keep whatever you bought. So there are certainly perks for these “mystery consumers”, but unfortunately it is also very easy to be scammed in this field.
Unfortunately the large numbers of secret shopping jobs that are actually scams have given the industry as a whole a bad name. However, there are enough legitimate jobs that make this type of part time work worth it, especially for those trying to learn about making money from home.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, there are two main scams that consumers should watch out for when considering to offer this sort of shopping service. The most common one involves visiting a website, registering to work with mystery shopping companies, and then paying a fee for information.
You should never have to pay someone to work for them. There is no magic list of secret shopper companies that’s worth paying for. If they ask for money, then it’s a scam.
The other common mystery consumer scam involves a so-called test of money transfer services. Consumers who fall for this scam typically receive a fraudulent check along with instructions to deposit it into their bank account, withdraw it in cash, and then wire it to someone.
Unfortunately, it can take weeks for your bank to discover that the check you deposited was fraudulent. By the time they do, your money will be long gone without any hope of getting it back.
If you’re interested in working at home and you think secret shopping is for you, it’s easy to get started. Look online for legitimate secret shopper posts and avoid the scams we’ve listed.
Check out reviews of various mystery consumer companies to learn more about them before signing up. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association is also an excellent source for finding jobs and learning how to apply.