It’s no secret that “mystery shopping” has become a favorite of con artists, luring people into spending their own money to shop and to enroll in  training programs, for example. An article from points out that the scams are extending into email invitations to unsuspecting people, and the prevalence of these scams is giving all legitimate companies like Customer Perspectives a bad rap. There are plenty of legitimate companies that offer customer evaluation services to businesses using mystery shoppers—people who go into the store or business to interact with the employees and report on their experiences. The goal of legitimate mystery shopping services is to provide information to the management of that company to help them improve employee training and the overall customer experience, by getting a glimpse at what a “real” customer experiences.

1. Payment is requested
You should not be asked to pay any money upfront for training or membership fees. Legitimate mystery shoppers are contracted employees working for the agency. An employee never has to pay to go to work.

2. Unsolicited e-mails
Unless you have registered with a mystery shopping firm such as Customer  Perspectives (see how we do it here), you should not be receiving unsolicited emails inviting you to become a mystery shopper. You should make  the first contact with an agency.

3. It sounds too good to be true
If you read something that sounds too good to be true, such as promises of a very large income for a few hours of your time, it probably isn’t true. In general, mystery shopping can be a fun to earn a bit of extra cash. A mystery shopper’s earnings will vary from week to week, depending upon the type of shopping jobs available and other factors. It is rare to make a full-time salary as a mystery shopper.

4.  Any transfer of money
Any request to transfer your own money into any account is a scam. This includes services things like Western Union and MoneyGram. Again, you should not pay money to do a job for which you are contracted.