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4 Tips to Avoid Mystery Shopping Scams

4 Tips to Avoid Mystery Shopping Scams

Being a mystery shopper is fun and a great way to make some extra cash.  However as much as we do as an industry to thwart criminals from taking advantage of shoppers, scams have been stealing money from unsuspecting victims for years. We have posted about this before, but we want to be sure you know what a scam might look like and give you a few pointers to help you avoid becoming a victim.

Here’s the typical scam we are seeing recently.

You receive a check in the mail or an email stating they will be receiving one upon reply. These messages often look like they are coming from legitimate companies, like Goodwin Hospitality. The amount might be large sum – from $500 to $2500 is what we’ve seen. You are then requested to deposit the check, and wire a portion of the money to a third party (under the guise of ‘part of the assignment’). The balance of the money is your fee. Sounds great, right? Until your bank figures out the check is fake and comes to you to not only pay back the amount, but possibly charge you for cashing a fraudulent check. Now you’re not only out of money, but might have legal troubles to boot.

Here are a few tips to help identify scams quickly and avoid being a victim. 

  1. You are never asked to pay to become a mystery shopper

    You want to make money being a mystery shopper, not pay it out. Legit companies will never ask you for a fee to register or upfront money to “find you the best shops”. The job is for you to provide a service, then get paid or reimbursed for your time and effort – like most any other job.

  2. You will be paid AFTER, not before your assignment

    Fees and reimbursements are paid out after you’ve completed your assignment, not before you’ve even accepted a gig. So be aware of those offering to send you money up front.

  3. Reputable companies will never bully or pressure you to take assignments

    Many of the emails we have seen often try to push a sense of urgency on the would-be-shopper.  They are pushing you to start right away, or even threaten prosecuting you for not completing your assignment. This kind of tone and bullying will never happen with a legit company really wanting to work with you.

  4. Reputable companies require you to register in their system prior to taking assignments

    Keep in mind, mystery shoppers are providing a service to a program provided by a company like Goodwin Hospitality, but it is on behalf of the store, restaurant, hotel, or whatever establishment who signed up to be mystery shopped. We pre-screen shoppers to ensure they are able and willing to conduct assignments on our behalf for the client. Thus, we require a registration process to be completed prior to any shops being assigned. If you haven’t registered, you most likely are a target of a scam.

If that all isn’t enough for you to heed the warning signs, the MSPA and Consumer Federation of America created this video PSA for you. Enjoy.

If you think you have already been a victim of a scam, here are a few things you can do.

Be diligent and do your research prior to making any decisions on being a mystery shopper. Check out our Shopper FAQ for more information.