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Mystery Shopper Advice

Companies all over the world hire secret or mystery shoppers to gather information anonymously on corporate concerns like customer service, employee integrity and operations, among others. But this legitimate marketing tool is being used by fraudulent mystery shopper promoters who have plagued the Internet with false promises of easy cash to consumers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), marketers who promise lucrative jobs as mystery shoppers often donít deliver bona fide opportunities. Professionals in the field consider this job a part-time activity that, although it pays well, is not going to make anybody rich, like some of those con ads suggest.

There are, indeed, many reputable companies that employ mystery shoppers, and those opportunities are usually posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies.

AP9 Privacy Matters , a leading security membership program, urges consumers to be more vigilant when responding to enticing ads or emails that promise a bundle of riches just for becoming a secret shopper.

To help you take good care of your finances, credit status and personal information, AP9 PrivacyMatters has put together a list of things to consider when one of those secret-shoppers emails reaches your email inbox:

--Donít register. If the ad or banner you see or click on asks you to register and pay a fee to get more information or to get a certificate to become a secret shopper, itís definitely a hoax.

Legitimate companies donít charge any application fee. They accept applications online, like they would for any other regular job, and wonít charge you anything for that application.

--Do your research. Donít believe everything you see. Carefully read the email, and look for more information about the solicitor online or through the Better Business Bureau, your local consumer protection agency and/or the State Attorney General office.

--Learn about it. If you are interested in becoming a secret shopper, read as much as you can about the industry, so you can learn how to identify the scam artists when they approach you.

A legitimate company should offer you training to perform specific evaluations, and the tools required to do so. Visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website for all sorts of information about the industry.

--Know before you click. Scam artists use a variety of names in the emails and ads they create, so stay alert if you get an email offering opportunities for Spotters, Mystery Customers, Virtual Customers, Telephone Checks, Performance Audits or Anonymous Audits.

--No guarantee. Genuine companies wonít ďguaranteeĒ a position without training. Avoid falling for offers like those, as well as those that ask you to purchase any training materials or a directory of companies that hire secret shoppers.

--Donít spend money. Donít trust any newspaper ads that allow you to ďwork-from-homeĒ and purchase something upfront with the promise of reimbursement.

Many Americans who have fallen for the hoax never get their money back, and when they call to complain and somebody answers the phone, itís often to receive another pitch, not to discuss the reimbursement.

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