Thousands of people in the UK work as Mystery Shoppers, some as their full-time income, some part-time, some an ‘as and when’ hobby or ‘side hustle’. It continues to be a growing industry in the digital age, as businesses find increasing needs to evaluate how they’re performing across multiple channels, and in comparison with their competitors.
It’s easy, however, to come across scams online that pretend to be Mystery Shopping Companies – how can you tell which ones are legit?
Luckily, there are some really easy things to look for so that you can sort the real from the minority of fakes.
Are they a member of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Professionals Association)?
There are strict criteria that Mystery Shopping Providers must meet in order to become an MSPA member, including their longevity in the industry and references from clients. Members must adhere to the MSPA Code of Professional Standards and Ethics, which gives you the confidence that you can hold member companies to the standards they have agreed to.
If there’s a Mystery Shopping Provider that you’re thinking of registering with, you can check here whether they are MSPA members.
Does it seem too good to be true?
Any advert you see online that offers huge rewards for just doing your shopping (“Make £500 from telling us about your grocery shop!”) or similar is a red flag, and usually a data harvesting exercise. We’d highly recommend not engaging with these.
Are they asking you for money?
Some assignments might have a purchase involved during the mystery shop, which the individual company will detail to you at the time of you agreeing to do the shop, and is usually reimbursed or forms part of the fee. However, no legitimate Mystery Shopping Provider will charge you money to register with them or to be assigned mystery shops.
Do they have a UK Company Number and a VAT Number?
Any legitimate UK Mystery Shopping Provider will have both a UK Company Number and a VAT number. You can find a provider’s Company Number at the top of their page on the UK Government’s Companies House Service (CHS) website by searching for them here.
Every company’s VAT number should be available on their own website.
What does the trading history of their director(s) look like?
You obviously want to be sure that you’ll be paid for any work you carry out, so it’s always a good idea to check out the trading history of the Company Directors so that you can have this reassurance. You can, again, do this on the Companies House Service by searching for the company and then clicking on the ‘People’ tab, from where you can then click through to each Director’s history.
What do other Mystery Shoppers have to say about them?
The Mystery Shopper community is a font of experience and knowledge, and there are lots of active mystery shopping Facebook groups that are a great idea to join, not only from the perspective of seeing updates about what Mystery Shopping Providers are doing/what work they have available, but also for getting a feel for experienced shoppers’ views on the companies they do work for. Of course, what works for some might not work for others, and everyone will find the companies they gel with and they like working for and those they don’t, but a quick search of the group’s posts will often give you some really helpful insights into whether a company you’re considering signing up with is legit.
One of the biggest UK Mystery Shopper community groups is Mystery Shoppers UK Forum on Facebook, which not only has both Mystery Shoppers and Mystery Shopping Providers posting regularly, but also has a wealth of information in their files to help you along your way. Their sister group, Video Mystery Shoppers UK Forum, is also hugely useful for those considering going into covert video work.
So there you have it – if you follow these six simple steps and the Mystery Shopping Provider you’re looking at checks out, it’s a fair bet that they’re a safe one to sign up with.
Of course, we’d always recommend signing up with us at Customerwise as one of your first points of call, but we also recommend signing up with as many companies as possible to start with so that you can find the ones that work for you. We’re always happy to have a chat to talk about Mystery Shopping and how it might work for you, so do get in touch if you’d like a call.
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If you’d like to find out more about being a mystery shopper and helping businesses to refine and elevate their customer experience, you can do that here.