Calling all mystery shoppers

I always thought that it was something of a scam to become a mystery shopper, where you pretend you are a real customer on behalf of a survey or customer experience vendor. Turns out that I was almost right, and lately a number of “opportunities” have turned out to be scams. The New York State Attorney General recently shut down several of them who attempt to pay you in advance with a bogus check. After you deposit their check, you are asked to wire a portion of the funds to someplace else. Guess what? The check bounces, and your payday turns into mayday when the bank now wants to collect the funds that you thought you had.

True mystery shoppers do exist, but they typically handle smaller jobs, and don’t get paid in advance: indeed, it can take 45 or 60 days before they collect their “wages.” That isn’t a way to get rich quick. But there are a number of legit opportunities out there, and if you browse on over at this website, you can search for dozens of them in your particular area from reputable companies.

Yes, they have a trade association, and a conference next month in San Diego, and certification for those legit vendors that are out there. Plus a great video too that highlight the key points from the association and the NYS AG too. (That is where the pic of our bad guy above is taken from.)

You should be suspicious of any checks or work-at-home opportunities that come to you unsolicited via mail or email. Promises of easy money are almost certainly scams. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it generally is.

If you are asked to pay a fee to join one of these programs, run in the other direction. The legit operations all have you sign up for free.

There is virtually no legitimate reason for anyone to give you a check or money order and in turn ask you to transfer funds via Western Union, MoneyGram or any other wire service. No legitimate company conducts business in this manner. They are playing the float game and taking advantage of you.

Mystery shoppers set up through legitimate companies are generally paid after completing their assignments and returning their evaluations to the companies that hired them. They do not receive checks up front.

Individuals hired as mystery shoppers are often provided gift cards to the specific retail locations they are being asked to review. Any out-of-pocket expenses are nominal, and reimbursed by the employer. The payments that I saw on the association’s jobs board were around $10 for each assignment. Some were for $20. Again, you are not going to get rich doing this.

A familiar name does not guarantee legitimacy. The website above lists their certified vendors. Use it.

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