How Do I Become a Mystery Shopper?
by John Zaremba
Mystery shopping can be a fun and potentially profitable part-time activity. But it's also a subject of scams online and in other media. Becoming a mystery shopper should be easy and free of fees, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The Federal Trade Commission, a government agency set up to protect consumers, recommends that prospective mystery shoppers begin their search for work with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.
The MSPA website, www.mysteryshop.org, has an assignment finder. Type in your ZIP code for a list of mystery-shopping jobs in your area.
Start with one assignment; choose an uncomplicated job you know you can get to easily. Fast-food shops, for example, are simple--just evaluate the service, food, dining area and restaurant. Typically fast-food shoppers are reimbursed for their purchase and paid a small fee.
Whichever job you choose, you likely will be required to register with the market-research company before you apply. Registration should be free, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Skip The Certification
Some mystery-shopping companies offer certification for a fee. The Federal Trade Commission warns that certification is costly, sometimes fraudulent, and almost always worthless in finding a mystery-shopper job.
Be on Guard
Some mystery-shopping promoters send emails or place newspaper ads guaranteeing lucrative work or access to top mystery-shopping companies for a sign-up fee. According to the Federal Trade Commission, any company making such offers is likely fraudulent.