How to Tell Between Real Mystery Shopping Opportunities and Scams

Mystery shopping is fun as long as you look for red flags that could signal mystery shopping scams.  There are more reasons to mystery shop than to miss out on it – so don’t let a few bad apples make you feel leery about the mystery shopping industry as a whole.

Red Flags of Mystery Shopping Scams5 Ways to Tell Real Mystery Shopping Opportunities from Mystery Shopping Scams

You are going to run across a mystery shopping scam at some point. It’s just a matter of time. When you are searching for real mystery shopping opportunities, make sure the red flags below are not present.

 # 1 Pay to Join

If you are asked to pay to be a part of a mystery shopping company, do not join.  Most mystery shopping companies do not ask you to pay to join their database or to be able to get shop contracts from them.

A legitimate company may ask for you to make a purchase as part of a shop contract, but you would be reimbursed or will be allowed to return the item.

# 2 Pay to Play

If a mystery shopping company offers recommended guidelines, quizzes, etc. in order to be able to do shops for them, that should be free to you as a shopper. Don’t expect to see monthly fees or membership fees in order to view and accept mystery shop contracts.

#3  Guaranteed Mystery Shopping Jobs

There is never a guarantee with real mystery shopping opportunities.  Most mystery shopping companies have a database where they hold available mystery shop contracts.  They are listed by area and on a “first come first served” basis.  This is assuming you are eligible to complete the particular shop contract.

#4 Third Party Only Jobs

If a third party company attempts to sign you up for an affiliated mystery shopping company, this could be a red flag. You need to research both companies, and if possible reach out to the actual company who is supposedly looking for shoppers. Legitimate mystery shopping companies can be contacted directly by shoppers, in addition to going through a third party company.

#5 Wiring Cash

This is another red flag that signals a mystery shopping scam.  Do not ever wire money or send a check as part of a mystery shop contract.  These are not real mystery shopping opportunities!

Real Mystery Shopping OpportunitiesBottom Line… Always Do Your Homework

  • Look for companies who will work directly with you.
  • Check them out with the Better Business Bureau.

If any one of these red flags that signal mystery shopping scams pops up in a shop opportunity you receive, think twice. There are many legitimate mystery shopping companies out there.

There are also organizations who support mystery shoppers, and they may offer free – or paid – memberships, certification courses, or conferences. (That’s not the same thing as paying to apply to be a mystery shopper!)

Mystery shopping is definitely an enjoyable and great way to make a little extra cash from time to time.  Do not let mystery shopping scams deter you from the real mystery shopping opportunities out there.


-Stacy M