Protect Yourself and Report the Latest Frauds, Scams, Spams, Fakes, Identify Theft Hacks and Hoaxes
Have you heard that you can get paid to shop, as a mystery shopper or secret shopper? If you have received unsolicited emails or seen newspaper ads that claim you can earn a living as a secret or mystery shopper by dining at elegant restaurants, shopping at pricey stores, or checking into luxurious hotels, beware! The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, is warning consumers about scams in this area.
It is true that some retailers hire marketing research companies to evaluate the quality of service in their stores and these companies often use "mystery shoppers" to get the information anonymously. They assign a mystery shopper to make a particular purchase in a store or restaurant, for example, and then report on the experience. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed, and can keep the product or service.
However, many of the professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best. But scammers are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they have lucrative mystery shopper jobs to offer with reputable companies. These ads usually promote a website where consumers can "register" to become mystery shoppers. You become the mystery shopper after you pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.
The truth is there is no real "shopping certification" and the list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free. Legitimate mystery shopper jobs are posted on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs are almost always out of luck. Either the business doesn't return the phone calls, or if it does, it's to try another scam.
Becoming a legitimate mystery shopper for a legitimate company doesn't cost anything. Here's how to do it:
In the meantime, the FTC says consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
If you think you have encountered a mystery shopping scam, file a complaint with
Here are some news articles regarding this issue:
- This CNN article is a nice summary of mystery shopping.
- Montrose Daily Press - 'Secret Shoppers Beware'