Quick Tips: Mystery Shopper Ads

March 16, 2009
Times are tough, but three common scams designed to take your money will make them even harder to deal with.  They look like job offers or chances to make some quick money.  Ads for "Mystery Shoppers" promise big money for shopping at stores you already visit or retailers you might never have heard of, but they seldom pay off for those looking for work.  Nearly all of the offers that demand your money up front don't offer a real employment opportunity, and this is another example of the kinds of jobs that generally won't crop up online.  Complicating things is the fact that some large retail chains do employ people who will randomly shop for items to test their stores' efficiency, customer service, pricing and other issues, but those companies hire people directly for those jobs, or use a marketing company that employs the shoppers.  It's not an easy job to get, and in this economy, they might be even rarer.
1.  Where do Mystery Shopper ads appear?
You might see the ad in employment magazines or online, like a pop-up ad or junk e-mail.  Most major chains that do employ mystery shoppers will hire and train their own people, and some do it long distance, but no legitimate advertiser of a job opportunity makes you pay to play.  If there's a price tag, even a little one, run the other way.
2.  There are other mystery shopper scams along this line, right?
There are some that, after you pay a fee, tell you that you'll receive a check for a large amount -- ten or fifteen thousand dollars.  When you get the check, you're supposed to deposit it in your bank and test shop a money wiring service.  Trouble is, the check you deposited is no good, and whatever you wrote against it to do a wire transfer will bounce.  The con man doesn't care -- you wired him your cash as part of the "test," and because wire transfers are notoriously difficult to trace, his chances of getting caught are pretty slim.
3.  What about those mystery shopping jobs from legitimate companies?  Are they difficult to get?
They may be especially difficult to get in this retail market.  If you're looking for work and think that's something you might find interesting, get a job with a retailer and ask if they offer that kind of program.  Worry about getting a job first, then turn it into your dream job as you gain experience with the employer.