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Mystery Shopping – Top 10 FAQ’s

by Nicole on August 18, 2010

Lots of the reader questions I get via email have to do with mystery shopping and so I decided to put together a post  highlighting some of these FAQ’s!

Question #1:  Do you have to pay to sign up for mystery shopping?

Answer: No, NEVER.  Do not pay to sign up with a company, they should be paying you!

Question #2: I got an email asking me to accept an assignment to cash a large check and then wire the money out of the country.  Is this a scam?

Answer: YES, this is a scam.  I stay away from any check cashing shops as most are scams, especially if the assignment is received in an email from a company you are not signed up with.  If it sounds too good to be true (i.e. you earn $500 for just cashing a check) then it probably is!

Question #3: I’ve never mystery shopped before but I want a free cruise as my first shop.  Is this feasible?

Answer: NO! You’ll need to become an experienced shopper and really prove yourself to the companies you work with before they will give you the more lucrative paying assignments.

Question #4: Do I have to pay anything OOP (out of pocket) when I mystery shop?

Answer: It depends on the assignment.  For a restaurant or retail store where you are being reimbursed for purchases then most likely yes.  There are some shops that are fee only like a car dealership and those you wouldn’t have to pay OOP.  Read your shop assignment carefully before accepting the assignment if this concerns you.

Question #5: Do I have to claim the money I make mystery shopping on my taxes?

Answer: I am not a tax expert so you’ll need to consult one to answer this question. Generally, ANY money you earn, regardless of the source is taxable, no matter how much money it is.

Question #6: How do I find out which companies have shops in my areas?

Answer: You won’t know until you sign up.  You sign a confidentiality agreement with each company so you can’t tell people who they shop for.  You’ll need to sign up with as many companies as possible to have the best selection of shops.

Question #7: Why do they need my social security number?

Answer: Because they need to report your earnings to the government just like any employer.  If they didn’t collect this information then they wouldn’t be legit.

Question #8Where do you find the companies you sign up with and how do you know they are legit?

Answer:  I use the forums at Volition and also look for companies who are members of the Mystery Shoppers Providers Association.  I also google the name of the company to see what people are saying.

Question #9: How do you know when shops are available in your area?

Answer: I check many companies job boards online every day to make sure I don’t miss any shops.  Some companies release shops once a month and you get to know when the release date is.  Other companies send emails when shops are available, it depends on the company.

Question #10: What do you think are 3 necessary traits for a mystery shopper?

Answer: Responsible, discreet and flexible

Check out my posts on mystery shopping for more information!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jackie September 23, 2010 at 1:44 am

I look up Second to none on the bbb website and their rating was an F. I filled out the app, but when I got to the direct deposit part I stopped. I am iffy about giving up my bank info, I don’t have a PayPal.

2 nicolesnickels September 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I have a paypal account – it’s free and so easy to use. My experience with Second to None was positive, that’s why I posted about them!

3 Jackie Griebel February 26, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I have thought about mystery shopping but always figured it was pretty much a scam. You have some great tips here and I might just try and get into mystery shopping.

4 Carolsue May 20, 2012 at 11:19 pm

I’ve been Mystery Shopping for about five years and love it! is an excellent resource. That’s how I found all the companies that I work for, including Second to None. I don’t get many jobs with them, unfortunately, but they are seem fine to work for! It depends on where you live as to what companies are “the best” as far as getting lots of work. It’s all trial and error. I’ve never had any trouble with Paypal, Direct Deposit or Checks. I get paid all three ways.

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