The times in my life where, for one reason or another, I was looking for a job, I always found the lure of work at home jobs tempting. The work at home jobs that were most readily available were either scams or they cost more to do than you could make. The best work at home jobs were hard to find or they required skills that I just did not have.
My true passion and calling is church ministry, which in my case has moved me across the country a couple of times. It also, until recently, did not pay at all. That meant I had to find some regular paying job that was flexible enough to let me do my church ministry.
My last move was from California back to my home state of Missouri. That left me in a position where I was not yet being paid by the church, and I still didn’t have a secular job. After a short time of filling out applications, I got tired of it and just looked up the city’s business directory and started calling. I didn’t get very far down the list before I was asked to come in for an interview. After the interview process I was hired. The job I landed was a hourly position at a mystery shopping company.
I have learned a lot about the mystery shopping industry and the problems they face with fake mystery shopping companies. These fake mystery shopping companies will often use the real mystery shopping companies name. They ofter refer to the real companies website to enhance their legitimacy. They sometimes even use the names of the employees at the real mystery shopping company.
This article’s purpose is to teach you how to avoid the fakes and take advantage of the finds by; showing you what to look for in the fakes, where to look for the finds, and the best way to make the real deal profitable. This article should give the person looking for a work at home job with flexible hours the information they need to make mystery shopping a profitable venture.
Beware of checks in the mail! If you receive checks in the mail from a mystery shopping company before you have done anything, chances are they are a fake. They may email you or even call, but if they send you money that has not yet been earned, be afraid. Be very afraid! Some unsuspecting people have called our office asking where their money is. They followed the instructions carefully. They deposited the checks and wired the money, but now their bank account is overdrawn and they are demanding answers. My only answer is they have been duped and we had nothing to do with it. It breaks my heart to tell them that they will probably never see any of that money again. If you have lost money due to one of these scams, you should contact any companies involved and the FBI as well as alert local authorities. Don’t expect any of them to be too reasuring though. Your money is probably in another country right now.
If the checks or money orders are fake, why doesn’t the bank catch them right away? The evil doers that make these fakes are really good at what they do. The only way the banks can know for sure that the checks or money order are real, is to run the transaction. That takes a couple days. Meanwhile your bank account if full of imaginary money. When you pay for something or use money out of your bank account, that money is real. If you wired money to these people or where ever they told you to wire it, that money was real as well. When the imaginary money disappears, the bank holds you responsible for the difference.
There are a plethora of other schemes out there designed to make money off anyone who might be a little to trusting. The general rule is, you don’t give or use money that you couldn’t afford to lose. If you are given money in the form of a check, money order, or even cash, give the bank time to verify it is real. Do not spend the money or send the money until it is verified. Open a separate account so as not to mix the potentially fake money with your real money. Be very careful about giving out personal information.
You might be thinking that you should just avoid everything that comes along with the words “mystery shopping” attached. Please don’t come to the conclusion that mystery shopping is always illegitimate. There are opportunities out there for those that want to shop businesses for money. Businesses rely on mystery shopping to make sure their front line employees are meeting their standard of customer service. Sometimes they do the shops internally, sending in upper management undercover. Sometimes they ask their regular customers to evaluate their service. The most common and most effective mystery shopping programs are done by third party businesses.
Mystery shopping by its very nature is secretive. Companies do not want people or other companies to know about their mystery shopping program and shoppers do not want people to know that they are mystery shoppers. Mystery shopping companies have to be very careful about how they promote their business. They can’t go around saying, “we have shops at McDonalds” to the whole world. They have to be somewhat generic. “We have fast food shops in this city” they might say. These generic advertisements rouse suspicion among those who mystery shopping companies would most like to reach. It is a catch 22.
People who are looking to become shoppers can find a few places where they can be sure the opportunities they are getting are real. One of those places in the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). The MSPA is like the Better Business Bureau, except they deal exclusively with mystery shoppers and mystery shopping companies. Their website is mysteryshop.org. They help connect shoppers with legitimate companies.
You can also find mystery shopping forums where shoppers talk to each other about what companies are the best and worse. Most mystery shopping companies will have somebody out there calling them a scam on these forums, but take those comments with a grain of salt. These shoppers probably did not complete the shop according to the client details specified before they accepted the opportunity. There are always bitter people out there who’s goal in life is to destroy the reputation of businesses they feel cheated them out of a couple dollars. Check and see if everybody is complaining or if it is just one voice in a thousand.
You can also check out the webpage of the company and any of their social media pages. Look specifically for others who have posted on the companies blog or Facebook page. You can tell a lot by how many friends a company has on their social media platforms and how active they are. Keep in mind that shoppers are pretty private people, so you won’t a whole lot of comments on public forums. You will see enough to verify there is some life though.
Legitimate mystery shopping companies will have some sort of sign up process. Some are long and somewhat laborsome. Other companies sign up process is as simple as using a Facebook automatic sign up button. A sample of your writing might be required and other information you. It is not unusual for a mystery shopping company to ask for your Social Security number or EIN. They need this for tax purposes. If you make over $599.00, the company will have to send you a 1099 form. They may also require a W9. If the company does direct deposits they will need some bank information. Asking for any of these thing should not make you think that the company is illigitament. All these things are a necessary part of doing business with you as a independent contractor.