Today, more than ever, people are looking for ways to make extra money. As the price on virtually everything continues to rise, families are feeling the pinch and trying to ease the pain by taking on part-time jobs, cutting spending or looking for more inventive ways to earn a few bucks. Mystery shopping is just one of the ways families are expanding their wallets- and there are legitimate opportunities out there. However, mystery shopping scams are common, and many are getting burned by seemingly too-good-to-be-true offers.
What Is Mystery Shopping?
One of the best ways for companies and retailers to know how their customers are being treated is to send in an “undercover” shopper. Mystery shoppers go to their clients’ establishments to shop or receive services in an effort to gather information regarding customer service, quality of merchandise, atmosphere and overall impressions about how customers are being treated.
Store managers and employees are blind participants and have no knowledge of mystery shopper programs, which makes mystery shopping a great way to get real information. Employees always put on their best behavior for regional managers and corporate officers, but they might act a bit differently when they think they’re not being watched. This allows companies to get the whole picture once the mystery shopper reports back to them.
How to Avoid Scams
There are hundreds of scams regarding mystery shopping, but there are legitimate opportunities as well. Avoid scams by asking questions and doing research. If you experience any of the following, run in the opposite direction.
- Requests for money, your account information or other questionable information.
- A check in the mail along with requests to wire a part of the money elsewhere.
- Flimsy application process or the feeling that any “body” will do.
- Contact initiated by the mystery shopping company.
Offers that seem too good to be true usually are. If you experience any doubts, it’s better to walk away. Legitimate companies care about who they hire; they will not hire just anybody. Legitimate companies will not mail out checks to you, “trusting” you to be honest. A real company will interview you; it will feel like a job because it will be a real job.
How to Find Legitimate Opportunities
Finding legitimate opportunities takes some research. First, contact The Mystery Shopper Providers Association (MSPA) for opportunities in your area. If you come across a company, look to see if they are a member of MSPA or the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If these endorsements are not present, look for a different company.
Perform a Google search on any company you’re interested in working with. If someone’s been scammed by them, you will find it. You should also check to make sure that the address and phone number for the company matches up. If there are multiple companies operating under the same address, it’s a sure sign of a scam. Bottom line: take time to investigate. Scams are cleverly disguised, but easily avoidable if you know what to look for.