August 18, 2020

How to Spot a Mystery Shopping Scam

Mystery Shopping is a dynamic, fast-paced and fun industry, which we love. Unfortunately, it also attracts scammers because it’s primarily arranged online, often involves the outlay of money to a third party, and payments are made direct to the shopper’s bank accounts. So many scams use mystery shopping the whole industry’s reputation has been tainted and some people don’t even think mystery shopping is real. 

Here are a few ways to identify the scams:  

1. Paying for the privilege 

You are working for the mystery shopping provider, so they pay you, not the other way around. Mystery shopping can be fun and interesting work, but work it most definitely is, so don’t pay to do it.  If a mystery shopping company asks for an application processing fee or any other kind of payment, lose their number.


2. Laundering

Some scammers set up fake mystery shopping assignments in order to launder ill-gotten gains. If a purchase is required for a job, it should be made with your own money and then reimbursed with your survey payment. If you remember that, the only money laundering you will be doing is when you accidentally leave a $5 note in your jeans pocket. 


3. Too good to be true

“You’ll give me a $200 voucher to just visit the store? I’m in!” No, they may tell you that to get your attention, but it’s most likely only one in a hundred who actually get a voucher, if even that; the rest get spammed relentlessly by email and phone. The target here is your contact details, which they sell to all and sundry. Regret will set in after about the tenth penis enlargement email on the first day or the call asking if you’ve been in an accident recently. 


4. Ghosts 

A real mystery shopping company will have a presence. They will have client and mystery shopper testimonials, be active on social media platforms, be available to talk to, etc. You will know there are real people behind the company. 


5. Monopoly money

Mystery shopping providers pay through bank deposit and Paypal. Run if you hear Western Union, cheque, or Bitcoin. It’s not that any of these themselves are scams, it’s just not how MSPs do business. Bank deposit and Paypal are safe ways to receive your pay.


6. Information for a price

There are many lists of companies and other sorts of information about mystery shopping that people are trying to sell in various forms, from ebooks to hard copy. However, mystery shopping providers don’t play hard to get, we want to be found because we are always looking for more mystery shoppers. It is in our best interest to be as informative, transparent, and available as possible, so please don’t pay to find out about us. Armed with this list of what to avoid you can just do some educated Googling. 


So what should you be looking out for when you select a mystery shopping provider? Here are 6 tips: 


1. Make sure the company is a member of the MSPA, the Mystery Shopping Professional’s Association. The association strengthens and unites the mystery shopping industry through a focus on standards, ethics, and quality. Being a member of the MSPA provides more credibility to a Mystery Shopping Provider.

However, it doesn’t automatically mean the MSP isn’t legitimate if they are NOT an MSPA member. They may just not meet the MSPA’s Code of Ethics. This could mean they’ve had several complaints, haven’t been paying Mystery Shoppers or they just don’t see the value in joining the Association (warning bells of another kind!)  


2. The Mystery Shopping Provider’s website should look professional and complete, with multiple pages. Their contact details should be clearly visible. In this digital age they will more than likely have links for Clients and Mystery Shoppers to log in. If they’re working from a Facebook page only, run! If you see numerous spelling errors in their copy, run! 


3. A consistent digital presence is critical to Mystery Shopping Providers. They should be active on Social Media and have both Google and Facebook reviews. Their website should contain social media links and Client testimonials from companies and brands you are familiar with.


4. The pay cycle should be transparent. Above Benchmark pay every Friday, like clockwork. You should never wonder when, or if, you’re getting paid. Sometimes there may be an issue with a report or outstanding forms, but this should be clearly communicated to you. Even reputable companies get behind, so if they are no longer keeping their end of the bargain, don’t enable them, stop accepting assignments. 


5. Which brings me to communication. Good Mystery Shopping Provider’s communicate with their Shoppers. They should provide comprehensive introductory information, thorough guidelines, a thoughtfully constructed survey form, then follow it up afterwards with feedback, and answer any queries promptly. If emails are going unanswered, that’s not a good sign and you should focus your efforts on companies that do want to hear from you. 

6. A presence on The Australian Mystery Shoppers’ Forum is also a great indicator that the MSP is legit. It’s also chock full of professional shoppers with more awesome advice. Most countries around the world have at least one Mystery Shopper Forum, so join up and ask some questions.


Although there are a lot of professional scammers out there who want to take your money, steal your identity or sell your personal details, there are a lot of genuine Mystery Shopping Providers too. Some are better than others, the key is to do thorough research before you sign up for anything and be very careful with giving out your personal information.


Take action

Here at Above Benchmark, we make Mystery Shopping simple. We help our clients design their ideal customer service experience. Then we have our professional Mystery Shoppers evaluate their customer service so we can compare it to their benchmark.

We live and breathe customer service and have been designing unique Mystery Shopping programs for almost 2 decades.

If you want to grow your business through better service and experiences, contact us today.

Simply call 1300 400 716 and let us help you achieve above your benchmark.

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