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How To Make Money As A Mystery Shopper

I can't tell you how many times I have come close to writing an article on the topic of mystery shopping and then decided not to. It is unfortunate, but the concept of mystery shopping has been co-opted by scam artists. It has gotten to the point that the words 'mystery shopper' and scam have become almost one and the same.  

Last week while I was simply minding my own business I heard my college aged son on the phone arranging for a pair of free tickets to go to an Orlando theme park for the day. Yes, he is also named Jim Paris and seems to be carrying on the tradition of getting free stuff very well.  I asked him what he was up to and he explained that he was taking a 'mystery shopping gig' at one of the large Orlando theme parks.  He was not getting paid but was receiving two free tickets to the park for the day.  So, mystery shopping is back on my radar screen.  I remind myself that I should not write an article since there are so many scams out there and then I see the following video on YouTube -


So, here are my warnings -

1.  The most common mystery shopping scam and how it works.  Here is another breakdown on mystery shopping scams from the FTC.

2.  Any service that wants your credit card number or to charge you a fee upfront is most likely a scam.

3.  Before doing any work as a mystery shopper, do a little bit of homework and check out the company's reputation online.


After a few hours of research, we found one website in particular that is considered the place to go for legitimate information on this opportunity.   I was able to interview by phone Dan Denston, the Executive Director of The Mystery Shopping Providers Association.   With a little help from Dan, I was able to do a basic search to find available mystery shopping opportunities for my area (see below screenshot).

Denston explained to me that my son's free theme park tickets in exchange for the mystery shopper assignment was actually a bit unusual.  It turns out that most mystery shopping gigs pay a fee and also reimburse you for the items that you are required to purchase.   After the assignment is completed, mystery shoppers are paid within usually 30 days.  It should be noted that this should be viewed as a part-time opportunity, but there are no limits on the number of assignments you can take on.

Is There A Fee To Be Trained As A Mystery Shopper?

Denston explained that there is no requirement to go through training but his organization offers two training classes, one for $15 and another for $75. The trainings are designed to prepare you on how to complete your mystery shopping assignments based on industry standards.  One of the benefits of taking the training is raising your chances of getting hired again after your complete an assignment.   There is a lot more to mystery shopping than just giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to a business.  In reviewing several opportunities I made note of 15 question or more detailed surveys that are required to be completed, etc...  Taking the training is probably a good idea if you are serious about doing this as an ongoing source of income.

I was pleasantly surprised at what I learned about mystery shopping.  This seems like a very interesting and fun way to earn some additional part time income.

If you have worked as a mystery shopper, please use the comments section below to share your experience.

Helping you make the most of God’s money!

James L. Paris
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