Who to turn to for Mystery Shopping business advice

Becoming a mystery shopper for a legitimate mystery shopping company doesn’t cost anything. Here’s how you can do it:
• Research mystery shopping. Check libraries, bookstores, or online sites for tips on how to find legitimate companies hiring mystery shoppers, as well as how to do the job effectively.
• Search the internet for reviews and comments about mystery shopping companies that are accepting applications online. Dig deeper. Shills may be paid to post positive reviews.
• Remember that legitimate companies don’t charge people to work for them – they pay people to work for them.
• Never wire money as part of a mystery shopping assignment.

You can visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at mysteryshop.org to search a database of mystery shopper assignments and learn how to apply for them. The MSPA offers certification programs for a fee, but you don’t need “certification” to look – or apply – for assignments in its database.

Dishonest promoters use newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that mystery shopping jobs are a gateway to a high-paying job with reputable companies. They often create websites where you can “register” to become a mystery shopper, but first you have to pay a fee — for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.

It’s unnecessary to pay anyone to get into the mystery shopper business. The certification offered is almost always worthless. A list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free, and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are listed on the internet for free. If you try to get a refund from the promoters, you will be out of luck. Either the business won’t return your phone calls, or if it does, it’s to try another pitch

In the meantime, don’t do business with mystery shopping promoters who:
• Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email.
• Require that you pay for “certification.”
• Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
• Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
• Sell directories of companies that hire mystery shoppers.
• Ask you to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to someone.

If you think you’ve seen a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or Your State Attorney General.