Mystery shopping programs have become enormously popular in recent years, and even decades. They allow people to make some extra money doing what they love. Many mystery shopper programs reward people for making the purchases they were originally planning to make. But some of these programs are scams. They prey upon vulnerable people who are looking to make ends meet and will take any job they believe they can secure. People lose thousands, even millions, of dollars every year to these scams. While law enforcement and government regulators are helpful in stopping the scourge of mystery shopper scams, it is also up to the public to take sensible steps in order to avoid mystery shopping scams.
1. Work with reputable companies
Anyone looking to become a mystery shopper must perform research into the company before ever setting up a mystery shopping account. Potential users should make sure to read reviews, look into complaints, and gauge the overall trustworthiness of a company before signing up. They should call the contact number for the company and talk to that person for an extended period of time. Users should also look the company up on review websites that often have listings of many fraudulent companies on them.
2. Do not pay money upfront
A person should never pay money upfront to a mystery shopping company. They should make sure to deactivate the account the moment they are asked to pay any money. Jobs involve a person receiving money instead of paying it out. Any job that requests hundreds of dollars to even get started is one of many mystery shopping scams.
3. Keep expectations reasonable
The vast majority of users become mystery shoppers for fun and to make some extra money every month. These jobs are not going to make a person rich. In most cases, they will not replace a full-time job. Keeping this in mind can help a person have a grounded, reasonable response to mystery shopping offers. It can help ensure that they make the right call about which company to work for.
4. Stay near one's house
The proceeds from a mystery shopping program will most likely be low per trip. Shoppers should make sure to stay near one's home in order to minimize expenses and any scam-related losses. They do not need to travel hours away from home in order to pursue this side job.
5. Don’t give out credit card information
A common mystery shopper scam is for a company to request that a person put some money down before they can get started shopping. The company alleges that there is some sort of mixup and then requests more money in order to keep the process going. In some cases, the company then disappears and takes off with a person's money. No legitimate mystery shopping company needs a person's credit card information in order to set up their account.
6. Go to large stores
Large stores can be particularly helpful when one is trying to decide whether or not they are working with the right mystery shopping company. They want to work with a company that already has some sort of a relationship with a considerable department or outlet store. Such a relationship increases the chances that the company is legitimate and will not just take a person's money.
7. Work with a non-personal email
Anyone who is doing any sort of work on the internet needs to set up a non-personal email as quickly as possible. There is always the chance that a company will sell their email information. They may start to receive spam and phishing links. Many people click on these links and believe that they are going into their actual bank account. Instead, a potential mystery shopper should only sign up with an email that they do not use for any other purpose. If the company turns out to be a scam, they can close down the email account and never have to use it again.
8. Get a non-personal phone number
Some mystery shopping scams request that the potential shopper send in a phone number to stay in contact. They may use that number to help break into bank and credit card accounts and steal a person's identity. More commonly, the scammer will sell a cell phone number and a person will be bombarded with calls.
9. Avoid becoming a full-time employee
Some mystery shopper scams persuade a person to quit their full-time job and start working for the company all of the time. This request is common among scammers who want a person to give all of their time and money to the company. Make sure to build a wall separating your mystery shopping job from your other job.
10. Try to personally meet your associates
Personally meeting fellow mystery shoppers is critical to stopping scammers. There is a decent chance that multiple people together will hear about a scam and will warn one another or the Michigan security guards who could possibly stop the scam. Meeting other participants will also ensure that a mystery shopper can make sure that the company is real and not just a scam targeting them.
11. Keep vigilant
Staying vigilant is the top way to avoid mystery shopping scams. People who are interested always need to ask questions and follow up with their coworkers and superiors. Most importantly, they need to learn how to walk away if something does not appear right and talk to an authority figure like Michigan security guards. Walking away is essential for making sure they will be able to avoid a costly mistake related to a mystery shopping scam that could prove ruinous.