Educational Consumer Tips

Mystery Shopper/Secret Shopper

Author: Better Business Bureau

This report is general in nature and does not describe any particular company. 

People from across the country are contacting Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York about employment as a “mystery shopper.” 

Those who are looking for extra income can be tempted by ads to recruit "mystery shoppers." It is true that businesses nationwide use mystery shopping, also known as secret shopping, performance evaluations, service monitoring, and quality auditing as a means to monitor service quality. 

Market research firms, training companies, merchandisers, temporary agencies, and others specialize in recruiting mystery shoppers. Unfortunately, sometimes so do scammers. People with the right talents (attention to detail, skilled in communications and completing paperwork) can become paid mystery shoppers if they avoid the "too good to be true" offers.

BBB advises job seekers to research any "mystery shopper" business carefully. Understand whether the company wants to employ you directly. If you are asked instead to purchase training materials, cash a check and send the rest back, or pay for a list of mystery shopping opportunities, be wary. 

To steer clear mystery shopping scams, BBB offers the following advice: 

•Ignore claims that you will make a lot of money.  Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income. 

•Avoid falling for claims that "guarantee" a position, without training. 

•Be cautious of unsolicited emails offering "work from home." 

•Never pay money up front. A legitimate mystery shopping service will not charge money for materials, training, or recruiting. 

•Find out the name of the company and check the business out with BBB and the state attorney general.

•Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with an MSPA member company, a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general. 

BBB's Scam Tracker received reports of mystery shoppers being asked to cash large checks, and keep a portion of the money for themselves to "shop" and send the rest back. Remember: 

•There is no reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back.

•Just because you can withdraw the money from the bank does not mean the check is good, even if it is a cashier's check.

For more information, contact: 

Better Business Bureau
(800) 828-5000

This report is general in nature and is not intended as a Business Review on any company, service or product.