There are a lot of scams out there, and in order to be able to spot them, you need to be aware of the signs that will alert you to a job posting not being what it seems. Sometimes these things will be obvious, and other times they may be more subtle. While red flags can vary, stay away from anything that seems too good to be true, or is requesting too much of you. Here are some additional things to look out for when searching for mystery shopping jobs:
"You will often be compensated for your service as a mystery shopper in the form of a reimbursement."
Anything that charges a fee
Fees scream scam. If a job posting says that you need to pay a fee before you're allowed to do the mystery shopping job, look elsewhere. Reimbursements, however, are different. You will often be compensated for your service as a mystery shopper in the form of a reimbursement. This is common for a number of jobs but especially for restaurant jobs, because you have to go and eat to actually perform the shop. When it comes to reimbursements you can usually use any form of payment, but in some cases the job posting will specify how you should pay. If they do, be sure to follow their directions to ensure you'll be compensated the right amount.
Jobs offering ridiculous compensation
Avoid any job that offers a compensation amount that just doesn't seem right. This can be tough because you got into mystery shopping to make money, right? Well if you choose to do these jobs, chances are you won't ever see any compensation at all. The high proposed payout is just the bait on the end of the scammer's line. As soon as you bite, they will have you one step closer to whatever it is they want. Look for jobs that offer reasonable compensation and offer regular options for you to receive payment.
Jobs that require you to handle large amounts of money
Anything that requires you to handle large amounts of money in any form is something you should stay away from. Most often these "jobs" want you to take a check and wire it somewhere. This is all fake. The check is forgery and the job won't get you anything. Most mystery shopping jobs will not require you to handle any money but your own. You should never ever wire money or accept money wired to you for any mystery shopping job.
"If you notice something out of place that's usually a good sign that you should look elsewhere."
Anything that somehow feels wrong
Most of the time you can just tell when a website is disingenuous. It might be the formatting of the text, it might be the obnoxious graphics, or it could be the outdated website that tips you off. If you notice something out of place, that's usually a good sign that you should look elsewhere.
Find good jobs through reputable sources and do your research
The only way to be sure the mystery shopping jobs you're finding are real is to go through reputable job posting sites. These sites work directly with the companies who want mystery shoppers. Be wary of any site the requires you to pay to access their job posting. No reputable source will make you pay. Also, watch out for any thing that guarantees you'll get a job. There are no guarantees. You'll still have to apply for the mystery shopping job.