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The Truth about Mystery Shopping. Is it Legitimate?

I've heard a lot of misconceptions about mystery shopping lately, so I've decided to write an article about it. Unfortunately, because of all the scams out there, many people believe that all mystery shopping opportunities are scams. However, this just isn't true. There are mystery shopping scams, but there are legitimate mystery shopping jobs as well!

First, let's talk about what a mystery shopper does. Mystery shoppers are sometimes called secret shoppers or shadow shoppers. A mystery shopper will enter a place of business to gather information about service, quality, cleanliness and other issues for the owners of the business. The business owner wants to make sure their business is being run correctly. Usually, the mystery shopper will be directed to purchase something, ask questions, or do other things that are typical of a regular customer. After the visit, the shopper will fill out a report about what happened. Contrary to popular belief, the business owners do not usually want to hear the shopper's opinion about the store, they just want to know exactly what happened during the visit.

Many different types of businesses who operate in the retail environment utilize mystery shoppers. These businesses include retail stores, banks, restaurants, hotels, salons and spas, housing, health care providers, and others. Because so many businesses utilize this service, there are millions of mystery shoppers all over the world. Unfortunately, the interest in this position has tempted scammers. Therefore, when looking for a legitimate mystery shopping job, you must be extremely careful. The easiest way to make sure that you are dealing with a legit company is to visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website. In addition, if a mystery shopping company asks you to pay a fee, it's time to run in the other direction. Real mystery shopping companies won't ask you to do this. Be wary of claims of outrageous pay, such as $50 - $100 or more an hour. This is unrealistic and not indicative of typical pay from a legit company.

Pay for completed shops can vary widely, from a few dollars to $100. Jobs that require a specialized knowledge or skill, take a long time or are difficult to find may pay more than other jobs. Sometimes, the shopper is directed to make a small purchase. When this happens, they are usually reimbursed for the cost.

Most people do mystery shopping as a part-time way to make some extra money. If the shopper lives in a large city, it might be possible to make a living doing mystery shopping only, but it would be difficult and would require a lot of time and a great deal of organization! For a lot of people, it's a great way to obtain free products or services that they would have to purchase otherwise (such as gasoline or food).

The best way to get started is to apply to as many mystery shopping companies on the MSPA website as possible and go from there. You don't need any special skills, as each company will require you to complete their training before you are allowed to complete shops.

Be aware that mystery shopping companies will ask you a lot of questions, and some of them may make you uncomfortable or they may seem senseless. However, remember that these companies are sometimes looking for a shopper who meets a particular profile. You need to answer their questions honestly. In addition, remember that these companies will need to know your social security number. You will be an Independent Contractor, and the mystery shopping companies are required by law to report your income to the IRS. Before entering your social security number on any mystery shopping website, make sure that it is secure by checking that the website address begins with "https" and that you see the image of a lock at the bottom of your browser window. Remember to NEVER pay a fee to get a mystery shopping job, or to gain access to a "list" of legitimate mystery shopping companies. Keep your wallet closed!

Be wary of the "overpayment" scam utilized by many scammers. In this scam, they send you a hot check from which you are supposed to keep your "pay" and wire the rest to another location. If you do this, the check will bounce and you will be responsible to your bank for the entire amount of the check.

Recently, I received this email from a visitor: " I received a check in the mail, it was sent priority mail with a TRCKING #. It has HILTON WORLDWIDE at the left top followed by MEMPHIS SHARED SERVICES. It was mailed from GALSON LABOFATORIES in NEW YORK They said they wanted me to be a mistry shopper. The check looks real, but I don't see a bank name on it.They want me to deposit it in my bank and let them know when I do, and they will send me a information packet on my job shopping at WALMART. How do I find out if this is real."

This is definitely a scam, and I will tell you how I know. First of all, legitimate mystery shopping companies will never pay you up front. Secondly, I can tell you exactly what the "company" wants the victim to do. The reason they want him/her to notify them when the check has been deposited is because they are going to tell them to go to Wal-Mart right away and wire a portion of the money to the "company". The claim is that the victim will be evaluating the money transfer service at Wal-Mart. This is completely untrue. In reality, the check was fake, and it will bounce in a few days which is why they want you to wire the money right away, before your bank figures out it was a bad check. Whatever money you wire to the "company" will be lost and gone forever.

If you have any additional questions about mystery shopping, please email me at sarah@homejobsformom.com.

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