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Mystery Shopping Scams And How To Avoid Them

by ethosplc | October 19th, 2017

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Mystery shopping is a tool that’s commonly used in the retail industry to help companies improve their customer service. “Shoppers” perform a range of tasks from giving feedback on staff behaviour and presentation to reviewing new products. It’s usually something that people do to fit in around other commitments and it’s rare to find a company who employs mystery shoppers full time, but some scammers would like us to believe otherwise.

Cashing in on businesses trying to improve their services and those looking to earn a little extra money, some dishonest parties have been trying to lure people with fake mystery shopping opportunities. It’s now becoming increasingly common to see adverts online or in newspapers guaranteeing work and asking applicants to pay a registration fee to cover the cost of a certificate. Unsuspecting shoppers send off their money and wait for a certificate that never arrives- and the promoters disappear without a trace.

The first thing to remember here is that mystery shopping is about doing companies a favour, so you should never be asked to hand over any money in order to be considered. Secondly, nobody needs any certification to demonstrate their skill as a mystery shopper. If any company is asking for an upfront fee, it will almost certainly be a scam.

Another way scammers earn money through mystery shopping is by advertising for people to evaluate money transfer services. The shopper will receive a check in the post (or occasionally via email), which they will then be asked to exchange for cash and then wire the funds through to a third party. Unsurprisingly, the check will be fake, but since many people just go ahead and wire money across before attempting to cash it or waiting for it to clear, they too fall prey to scammers.

It may seem obvious that you should never wire money to anyone without being totally certain of their trustworthiness, but scammers are often very smart people who hook people in by using what seem like genuine logos and addresses. The important thing to understand is that companies who do use mystery shoppers always do so through their own websites and recruitment teams. If in doubt, always double check first- half an hour of your time making a phone call or sending an email can save you money and embarrassment further down the line.

If you’re thinking about becoming a mystery shopper, here are a few tips:

  • Research online job sites for genuine opportunities or approach companies you’d like to work for direct
  • Search the internet for reviews of companies who claim to provide mystery shopping opportunities- if it’s a scam, it’s very likely that numerous other people have already been caught out and felt compelled to warn others
  • Always remember that nobody will ever ask you to pay to be a mystery shopper- the whole point is that they’ll pay you for your service!
  • Never wire any money to anyone as part of a mystery shopping job
  • Avoid any promoters you send you emails asking for mystery shoppers or place ads in the “help wanted” section of your newspaper, or guarantee a job to anyone who applies

If you think you have been approached by a scammer, contact your local police department and trading standards. It’s also worth reporting it to the company they claim to be representing- it will help them, and they might have a genuine opportunity for you to get involved with!

For more information about mystery shopping, contact us today.