Spotting Those Scams: It Needn't be a Mystery

Mystery shopping can be an interesting and rewarding experience; but wherever there is cash involved, there is the likelihood of scam operations. If you're thinking about becoming a mystery shopper, knowing what to look for will keep you alert to potential scams. But what exactly are those scams and how do you spot them?


Common Scams You Can Easily Recognize

Not all mystery shopping scams are sophisticated operations run by clever organizations. Scams are often so simplistic, it's easy to see why some people can be lured into the trap of parting with their money. Some of the easiest ones to spot are:

Recruitment Through Email

Few people can dodge spam emails nowadays, but it's often baffling how some spam finds its way into your email account at all. Emails inviting you to sign up for mystery shopping jobs should be carefully considered before you click on any links or take the invitation any further. These emails will often come from web mail addresses, so are easily picked out as bogus. Scams like this are designed to take cash or personal information from you with nothing in return, so stick to signing up via a reputable mystery shopping website only.

A Fake On The Make

In your search for legitimate mystery shopping sites, you'll come across some easy to spot fakes, such as offers to find you mystery shopping work for a fee, or providing you with a directory of the best mystery shopping organizations. At best, you'll receive a list of sites that you could easily find yourself. At worst, you'll receive nothing in return for your money. Offers to certify you as a mystery shopper for a fee are also bogus as legitimate mystery shopping organizations provide their own training for panel members.

Money for Nothing?

Stumbling across a 'too good to be true' offer can be exciting, but think carefully about what it actually is before you sign up. Anyone offering to make you money by using your bank account to cash checks is definitely a fraud. This scam operates by asking you to bank a check under the guise of carrying out a mystery shopping exercise; you will then be required to withdraw a sum of money - often much less than the amount you've deposited - and send the withdrawal amount to the scam company. The time constraints of these types of 'jobs' means that you will have sent the cash on before you hear from your bank manager that the check has bounced. This is a particularly ugly scam, with no come back whatsoever.

These scams are everywhere on the internet and they are nothing to do with legitimate mystery shopping organizations. A reputable mystery shopping website will not offer to make you lots of money quickly, nor will they ask you to pay any money upfront for being part of their panel.

If you're still not sure about any of the mystery shopping websites you visit, check out the following tips to reassure yourself before you sign up:


Does the website look professional? Does it contain a list of frequently asked questions? If yes, then you're on the right track. A professional mystery shopping website will not have any spelling or grammatically incorrect statements, but scam websites will be littered with poor spelling and bad grammar.

Contact details

Legitimate mystery shopping websites will have a clear link to their contact details, such as full company name, address and telephone number. If you are in any doubt at all, call the company or check out the address.


Does the website contain testimonials? Good mystery shopping sites will make a point of adding testimonials from big brands they've worked with. Go beyond what the website is saying by searching for reviews about the company on the internet and find out what other mystery shoppers are saying about them. It's also advisable to check any accreditation on the website carefully and know what each one stands for, and how you can make a complaint, if necessary.


If no training for mystery shopping is provided, then this doesn't look like a good avenue to go down. Professional mystery shopping sites will always offer their own training prior to confirming you as a member of their panel and tests will often be part of the signing up arrangement.

You Can Be A Successful Mystery Shopper

Nobody likes to be scammed or have their valuable time wasted on dead end activities. But it's important to keep a balanced view about how to spot the scams, and how you can be successful by carrying out mystery shopping assignments. There are many reputable companies out there, but stay alert and don't ignore any warning signs.