3 red flags retirees need to look for when considering mystery shopping

Retirees need to do some research to find out which organizations are legitimate and aren't looking to take advantage of people looking to make some extra cash.

For many people, retirement is a long-awaited opportunity to relax and kick up their heels after a long career. But, not everyone is so quick to settle down once their retirement begins, and many look for a supplemental income or an activity to occupy their free time. However, mystery shopping's not an enterprise that you should simply rush into without due consideration of all the aspects of the job. Retirees need to do some research to find out which organizations are legitimate and aren't trying to take advantage of people looking to make some extra cash.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are a couple of red flags that retired individuals new to secret shopping should keep an eye out for:

1. Monthly and training fees
The FTC recently shut down a company that enticed people to establish their own mystery shopper business and charged participants about $3 for training, as well as a roughly $50 monthly fee. At the same time, those interested in providing mystery shopping services to retailers were told they would earn $50 for every mystery shopping assignment completed. What's more, the mystery shopping service claimed participants would be able to freely choose as many assignments as they'd like. However, it turned out there were few mystery shopping jobs available, and earnings often resulted in less than the $50 mentioned previously. In short, you shouldn't have to pay to be a mystery shopper.

2. Hidden expenses
The company involved with the FTC proceedings also signed up interested individuals for a personal webstore, which the mystery shopping organization claimed would be another outlet to generate revenue by selling products. The webstore cost an additional $3.95 for a two-week trial, and culminated in a $49.95 monthly fee. Individuals who signed up to operate their own mystery shopping business and subsequently cancelled found they were still charged with the fee for operating the webstore. According to the FTC, most people weren't aware they had signed up for an e-commerce site and shutting it down often required multiple phone calls. If the mystery shopper company hurries you through the finer details at the end of your agreement, pay close attention to hidden services you might be required to pay for.

3. Eye-popping payouts
According to the Detroit Free Press, any secret shopper service provider guaranteeing upwards of $200 for an assignment is likely not telling you the truth. In most cases - and especially for retirees - mystery shopping is a part-time job that will provide them with a steady cash flow but will never replace the paycheck they had earned while working full-time.