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How To Spot Mystery Shopping Scams

Aug 17, 2007
Have you ever heard of a professional shopper? Perhaps you would like to be one. Simply put, a secret shopper gets paid to work when they want, however often they want and where they want. For many, getting paid to shop for a living is nothing short of a dream come true. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), however, not all mystery shopping opportunities provide the dream job that they promise. The truth is that there are legitimate companies that hire secret shoppers to evaluate their business while posing as a customer, but it's important to realize how to spot the real deal versus a real ripoff.

In most instances, a mystery shopper will be assigned a specific task within a business and will then provide the company with a written evaluation of their experience. Generally, the secret shopper will be reimbursed for their purchase, which means the product is theirs to keep at no charge. In addition, secret shoppers are paid for their time. The actual rate of pay will depend on the job, the time spent and the company's policy.

Due to the popularity of the mystery shopping industry, scams are a growing problem. Because mystery shopping does not require any type of special certification, it is recommended that consumers remain cautious of any company that charges a fee in exchange for information relating to a certification program. A few of the most common places for these scams to appear include newspaper advertisements and in unsolicited e-mail. The FTC warns that, "The shopping certification offered in advertising or unsolicited e-mail is almost always worthless".

As is the case with any industry, it's nearly impossible to guarantee someone a job. The same is true with mystery shopping and consumers should be mindful of any business that promotes a guarantee of a job or a specific income amount. Every mystery shopping job is unique, along with its rate of pay, which is why it is especially beneficial for anyone interested in becoming a secret shopper to be familiar with realistic and legitimate advertising practices.

There is an old saying that says, "If something sounds to good to be true, it probably is". Today, that saying rings true in almost every aspect of life, including business. If a mystery shopping opportunity sounds to good and promises to much, it would be wise to research the company before becoming a member. You can conduct your own, independent investigation by checking with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for any potential complaints lodged against the company and/or to determine whether or not their record is satisfactory.

With the internet being a wealth of information relating to almost any topic, mystery shopping opportunities are easy to find. Legitimate companies looking to hire a secret shopper can easily be found with a few clicks of the mouse and, best of all, most accept applications via the internet. One of the best ways to learn about valuable mystery shopping opportunities is, much like the industry itself, through a third-party independent evaluation. If you have the opportunity to read one or more reviews about a particular mystery shopping company, this may provide you with the information needed to begin your career in professional and profitable shopping.
About the Author
Brian Dolezal is a contributing editor for TopConsumerReviews.com, a leading provider of independent reviews and rankings for hundreds of consumer products. You can find out how top mystery shopping programs compare by visiting TopConsumerReviews.com today.
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