Avoid a Mystery Shopping Scam


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We discussed in Mystery Shopping Myths that many people are hesitant to get started in the business because they do not want to find themselves in a mystery shopping scam. Where there is a way to make money online, there is also a way to take advantage of those looking for work. Do not let that deter you from getting started. It is better to learn the signs of a scam, and make them know to others, so you can beat them at their own game.

As with most scams, identifying a mystery shopping scam is pretty easy because it just does not seem quite right. Some specific signs of a mystery shopping scam are:

Companies that make you pay to become a shopper. You should not ever be required to pay to start shopping for a company. Some scams might try to charge you for a “list of clients” or “premium certification.” My advice? Run away from these sites. Legitimate companies allow you to sign up for free and do not require a certification.

-Note: Many companies do ask about an MSPA certification. This is not a sign of a scam, as it does not require it.

 Companies that ask you to cash a large sum of money. The tricky part about this one is scammers like to mimic specific mystery shopping companies and those who work for them, so you may feel like it’s legitimate, but if you are being asked to cash or wire a large check as a mystery shop, it is a scam. Do not even take the chance. If you get caught in a scam like this, unfortunately, you are probably going to be the one who is out the money. Be sure to report these types of offers to the company the scammers are claiming to be.

-Note: There are mystery shopping offers available to cash a small check at loan places such as Quick N’ Loans and Speedy Cash. I have never personally done one of these, but I do believe them to be valid mystery shops. The difference is the sum of money ($50 vs $1,000) and way you are cashing the check (loan place vs. western union.) If you are unsure, always verify with the company. Use the contact information on their website, not the information provided in the email.

Companies that promise you will get rich quick. This falls into the too good to be true category. Nobody in their right mind who has involvement in mystery shopping will promise you that you will become wealthy from it. Most mystery shopping companies are small businesses providing part-time income to part-time workers. Any companies promising you this as an incentive to sign up should be viewed with caution or avoided all together.

Companies that ask you for credit card information to sign up. Out of all of the mystery shopping I’ve singed up with, I have never been asked, let alone required, to provide credit card information. If a company asks you for this, I would leave the offer immediately.

-Note: Most companies will ask for a social security or employer identification number when signing up. This is because they are required by law to provide you with tax information if you make over a certain amount, and they need your social security number to properly file that information.

mystery shopping blog

Now that we have covered mystery shopping scams, tomorrow we will go over what legitimate work opportunities are available. You might be surprised to see they go beyond your basic mystery shops!


  1. Chelsea,

    You replied to my comment a couple of days ago. I truly appreciate the prompt reply, and I also very much appreciate this invaluable series on mystery shopping. I’ve been a shopper for three years and shop for approx. 12 different companies. I’ve had to add more as I’ve ‘done the circuit’ with quite a few or else I’m aging out of them (I’m 56). :o So, it’s GREAT to learn of these new companies and your experiences with them. Kudos! :)

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