Secret Shopper / Mystery Shopper Scams:

Beware Of Mystery Shopper Scams

Have you heard that you can get paid to shop, as a mystery shopper or secret shopper is it a mystery shopper scam or a real job? If you have received unsolicited emails or seen newspaper ads that claim you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at pricey stores, or checking into luxurious hotels, beware it could be a mystery shopper scam! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, is warning consumers about mystery shopper scams in this area.

What is Secret or Mystery Shopping?

It is true that some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores and these companies often use "mystery shoppers" to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service.

However, many of the professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best. But scammers are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they have lucrative mystery shopper jobs to offer with reputable companies. These ads usually promote a website where consumers can “register” to become mystery shoppers. You become the mystery shopper after you pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.

The truth is there is no real "shopping certification" and the list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free. Legitimate mystery shopper jobs are posted on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs are almost always out of luck. Either the business doesn’t return the phone calls, or if it does, it’s to try another scam.

How to Find Real Mystery Shopping

Becoming a legitimate mystery shopper for a legitimate company doesn’t cost anything. Here’s how to do it:

For more information visit  or  MysteryShopperScams.Com  for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general.

Sign up with as many companies as you can or want.

Be patient. It's very popular and flooded with new shoppers, so it may take time for you to get your first assignment.

Be responsive. When the assignment hits your e-mail account, reply as soon as you can.

Follow their directions and complete the first assignment as well you can to increase your chances of being assigned a more desirable assignment in the future.

Search the Internet for mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications. Most of the search engine results will be mystery shopper scams - so you will need to evaluate carefully. Here's one that seems legitimate: Legitimate companies don’t charge an application fee. Many accept applications online.

Do some homework about mystery shopping. Check libraries or bookstores for tips on how to find companies hiring mystery shoppers, as well as how to do the job effectively.

How to Identify Mystery Shopper Scams

In the meantime, the FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:

Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it’s much more likely that they’re pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping “services.”

Sell “certification.” Companies that use mystery shoppers generally do not require certification.

Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper. It is usually sporadic work.

Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.

Sell directories of companies that provide mystery shoppers.

You can check the free job list on MysteryshopperScam.Com these are the companies that are hiring mystery shoppers and the job list is free.

What to do, if you think you have been scammed as a mystery shopper.

If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with
  • the BetterBusinessBureau
  • your State Attorney General, or
  • your state consumer protection agency,