Mystery Shopper Scams

Posted by Art Gross, Trust Secure Now

Today, many people are working more than one job, and with the flexible options of contractor work, or work as needed opportunities, you can likely find something that fits your schedule and financial needs.  Maybe you are looking for a little bit of extra work to make ends meet, or a way to save up for that summer vacation.  If you work full-time and have errands to run already mystery shopping, or as it’s sometimes called, secret shopping can be a perfect solution.

Retailers hire mystery shoppers to make a purchase and evaluate the process so that they can gauge their quality standards authentically.  That shopper is then compensated in wages and often products are allowed to be kept.  If legitimate, it’s a winning combination for both parties, and again, you get paid for running those errands.

There are many great mystery shopping jobs out there, but equal to that are the people looking to take advantage of unsuspecting job seekers.

Scammers get your interest in mystery shopping positions through social and newspaper ads, emails, or telemarketing.  Often, the promise of full-time employment with the “reputable company” is offered after so many mystery shopping trips have been completed.  They will create entire websites devoted to outlining this process. These scammers may also ask for a deposit to join their group and gain access to the jobs available. These illegitimate companies are angling to make you think that you are being admitted into an “exclusive group” requiring payment for that right.

Before you sign anything or register with what you think is a legitimate agency, do your research.

Here are some tips for spotting mystery shopping scams:


  1. If the “initial job” is to evaluate a money transfer service, use caution right from the start. This alleged mystery shopper position will likely involve you receiving a check and depositing it into your own personal bank account. Next, you’ll be asked to make a withdrawal, and then wire it to a third-party. The reality is that this is a fake check, and you are now responsible for covering funds that will never be recovered -including bank fees!
  2. Watch out for positions requiring a membership fee to join the program, or requiring you to deposit a check or wire money to an account. You should never have to pay to join a mystery shopping program.
  3. Be aware that there is no certification program that will make you an accredited mystery shopper.

If you want to pursue this stream of income, research the company by looking at online reviews and comments.  Be sure to check out multiple sites in your research, and never provide them with any funds – even after you complete a job for them. There are accredited associations like the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) who maintain a database of assignments that can help you to find secure and viable jobs, as well as reputable companies to work for.  And remember, you are the only one who should be getting paid in this relationship, and you should never have to provide funds to the agency.

Back to blog home page

Join our Newsletter

Get updates and the latest scoop in your inbox