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How To Easily Spot a Scam April 11, 2013

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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Thanks to technology, scammers are getting better at their craft, making it more difficult for people to spot scams. Below are some tips on determining if that email you just received or advertisement is worth pursuing:

1. You’ve received what appears to be a job posting on an email account you do not use for mystery shopping: many mystery shoppers have dedicated email accounts for work. If you get what appears to be a job posting on another email address, you may want to think twice, especially if it’s from a company you’ve never heard of before.

2. You must pay to shop: be careful with this one. The old adage used to be “never pay to shop” but that comes with disclaimers. When this advice is given, it refers more to claims of “pay us and you will be sure to get more work than you know what to do with!”  There are sites, like ShadowShopper, that you can pay to get help with finding shops in your area. Some shoppers prefer this site as a good starting point, as it can take a lot of up front legwork to get going, and having a service that brings shops to you can be a great help.

3. They contact you because of an online resume you posted: if you’ve seeking a traditional, full time position and have posted your resume online, you may receive mystery shopping offers referencing your resume. Beware of these emails – they are most likely a scam.

4. The promise of making big money: if you’re assured to make hundreds of dollars on a shop, or over $100,00 a year, steer clear! The per shop payment is not in the hundreds by any means, and most shops pay between $5 and $25 per shop. There is no “easy money” in mystery shopping. Any promises of such should make you run in the other direction!

5. The promise of steady work: if a notification assures you that you “will definitely get work”  or you’ll have “more work than you know what to do with”  it’s likely a scam. Mystery shopping jobs are never guaranteed – only you (and your performance) can dictate what volume of work you do. It also depends on where you live and how far you’re willing to travel – the more populated areas you live in, and the wider your travel range is, the more work you can potentially get. You won’t get every assignment you’re interested in, and you won’t be interested in every available assignment. Your work performance also dictates future job assignments – do a great job, and you’ll be offered more work. There are no promises in the industry!

6. You’ll be handling a lot of cash: this is probably the most notable scam circulating at the moment. It’s known as the Western Union scam that asks “shoppers” to deposit a check into their bank account, wire a portion to a designated (out of the country) location, and keep the rest (often times a large sum) as “payment.” Just run away from this. Quickly. Your checking account will thank you.

If none of these apply and you’re just not sure, check out the company that is offering the work. NEVER click on the links in the email posting. Instead, Google the name of the company in a separate browser window. See if there is feedback in the search results, good or bad, as a guide. Check with the MSPA to see if the company is a part of this association, and look at forums related to mystery shopping to see if you can learn more about a company.

Hopefully these tips will help guide you in determining what’s real and what to steer clear of. Shoppers, do you have any other tips to share with the community?

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Bad Advice To New Shoppers April 8, 2013

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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Mystery shopping forums and communities are a wonderful thing – mystery shopping is an isolating industry, and it’s nice to have a place to talk with others, share ideas and tips, and commiserate. In the 11 years I’ve been doing this, I still find that I learn new things from reading forums.

Over time, I have seen some bad advice given to shoppers; it worries me that new shoppers will take some of this advice to heart, and it will only hurt them in the long run. Some examples include:

1. Accept now, worry about doing it later: one tip I saw a while back was about how to get the most shops to make a strong workload. The advice to accept any shop you could find and then, once you were assigned a bunch of shops, then read through everything and “cancel what you don’t want after all.”  I know shop postings move quickly, and applying and being assigned can happen at a rapid pace, but it’s important to review all of the information before applying, and more importantly, being assigned a shop. Don’t apply for shops you may not be able to complete successfully or just plain aren’t interested in. Canceling a bunch of shops, time and time again, will give you a poor reputation in the industry.

2. Fake it til you make it: if you forgot to check a restroom during a shop, or cannot remember the name of the employee you interacted with, just pretend like you did and it’ll be okay – they’ll never know. Please never, never do this! False reporting of details is the quickest way to shut down a mystery shopping program. We’re all human; there are times you will completely miss a part of a shop, or forget a name, or forget to ask about a specific detail. The best advice is to be honest and email your scheduler or editor right away. In some cases, you won’t be able to redo the shop and you cannot be paid, but at least you’ve been honest and saved your reputation.

3. Always ask for more: once I heard a shopper tell a group of shoppers to ALWAYS ask for more money when apply for shops. Doesn’t matter if it’s the beginning of the month, end of the month, or an already well paying shop. Always ask for more. In a traditional job if you were told you would be paid $15/hr for your shift, would you come to work and say, “How about you pay me $20/hr?”  You wouldn’t have a job very long if you did this! Shop fees are what they are – there are times, especially at the end of the month, where bonuses may be possible, or mileage can be offered for traveling distances to help out. In these cases, it is spelled out in the shop posting. The benefit of being an Independent Contractor is that you can pick and choose the work you do. If you don’t like a payment, don’ t take the shop. But please do not play “Let’s Make a Deal” for routine shops…you wouldn’t do it at any other job, right?

4. Cut out the middleman: I’ve heard shoppers talk about shops that they weren’t paid for in cases where the company refused to accept the shop. Typically this happens when the shop was not conducted correctly, or the shopper was identified by the client somehow. Trust me, we hate excluding shops! If this is done, it is with good reason. Do not take the bad advice of calling the client to complain about the mystery shopping company! Please! It breaks the ICA you signed with companies, and the client is likely going to have no clue what you’re talking about. If a shop is excluded, the client never sees it, so they won’t have any knowledge of this situation. Plus, if the client contacts the company asking if they know Mr. XYZ, the company will not be using your services going forward.

Have you heard or gotten bad advice during your time as a shopper? If so, feel free to share your story with us!

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