For some people, the idea of getting paid to shop sounds like a dream job. All too often, ads for mystery shoppers are misleading. There are some tips on how to spot the real thing.

Undercover groups of shoppers can be lurking on any aisle of your favorite store or at the most popular restaurants.

Mystery shopping is a big business and hundreds of thousands of people get trained to do it.

The lure of getting paid to shop is bait for scam artists.

“I got a letter in the mail saying I was selected as a mystery shopper, and there was a check in the mail,” said one victim who asked not to be identified.

The woman said she followed instructions, took the $5,000 check to the bank, cashed it and then sent most of it to a third party.

The check and the job offer ended up being bogus and the woman was left owing the bank thousands.

“When I realized what had happened, I was angry, upset, disappointed. That’s not the way it’s done out there,” said the woman.

A woman, who asked to go by the name of Claudia, is an accredited secret shopper. Claudia heads up a professional group for secret shoppers that educates them on how to get into the often misunderstood business.

“It took me two hours for the first $10 shop we did. No it’s not easy,” said Claudia.

Mystery shoppers are required to fill out pages of questionnaires and write detailed narratives evaluating their experience.

“Don’t come into this business thinking you are going to make a thousand dollars a week. That’s a rarity, not the rule,” Claudia said.

Banks, car dealers, home builders and hospitals all uses mystery shoppers and the shoppers are told what to buy and what questions to ask. Each response is fair game for evaluation.

“The higher the pay on the shop, the more sophisticated the report is,” Claudia said.

Most legitimate opportunities go through the Mystery Shopping Professionals Association, which is a trade group. The group trains and certifies secret shoppers. Many involved in secret shopping warn that while many shoppers get to keep their purchases, they have a duty to perform.

“There are no free lunches in mystery shopping, because you still have to write that report,” warned Claudia. “Be careful especially now because everyone’s having a hard time right now, and everyone’s doing whatever they can to get money.”

For more information on mystery shopping, go to

By: Amanda Davis
Edited By: Leigha Baugham