I am a relatively new Mystery Shopper (about 3 months) and was wondering if any of the veterans could share their perspectives on the risks I should/may want to protect myself from (or at least be aware of). A few I have thought of:
1. Giving out my SSN to so many different companies
2. Driving to a lot of unknown places
3. Getting "discovered" by an angry target
> I am a relatively new Mystery Shopper (about 3
> months) and was wondering if any of the veterans
> could share their perspectives on the risks I
> should/may want to protect myself from (or at
> least be aware of). A few I have thought of:
> 1. Giving out my SSN to so many different
> 2. Driving to a lot of unknown places
> 3. Getting "discovered" by an angry target
1. I have never had a SS# problem. I provided my SS# to all the companies I've signed up with, I just make sure I am on their website and that I have checked out the company.
2. Google the location before accepting the job to be sure you are comfortable with the location. I've never had a problem.
3. I've never been discovered by a target, angry or not.
IMHO, the biggest risk is the risk of not completing a shop according to the guidelines and not being paid.
When you enter your ssn, make sure you are on the company's https site...the "s" is important, meaning "secured." When you type the numbers they should not appear as 123456789 but as *********, so you should be safe. Some companies do not enforce the SSN validation, and are upfront about it ("if you don't want to enter your ssn enter 000-00-0000" Some companies will not let you sign up for jobs until you give them your ssn, but you can bypass the ssn and see their job board to see if they have jobs in your area.
If you're uncomfortable driving to unknown places, bring someone with you if you can. Invest in a GPS and make sure your cell phone is fully charged. You'll feel safer. Before leaving, check Google maps and look at the street view...you can see what is around the location that you're shopping, and have an idea what you're looking for when you're in that area.
Don't worry about being discovered. If you're on a revealed audit, most of the time they are expecting you. If you're on one of those jobs at a gas station where you need to take pictures, you generally have a letter of authorization with you, and once again, they know that you're coming. If you're on a true mystery shop, if you blend right in you will be fine. And if they do suspect you as a mystery shopper, then what? My girlfriend and I do a lot of convenience stores, and she says whenever she asks for a receipt the clerk gets very nice. We were at a casual dining restaurant recently. This is a shop where you need an interaction with the manager. In most locations, the manager is out on the floor and talks to people during their meals. One particular manager is never on the floor. The first time we were there we had to ask for her and ask her a question. We were there a couple of weeks ago and that manager walked by our table and we said "Hi" and we could tell by the expression on her face that she recognized us. So what happened? We saw her walk over to a male employee who immediately went to the men's room to check it out. We started to see servers assisting other servers. The manager was at the door on our way and she held the door open for us, wished us a nice day and invited us to return.
So, to make a long story short, just be yourself and do what you're comforatable with, and you'll be fine.
I know how you feel about the social security thing. I was so protective of my social security number prior to shopping, that I was really uncomfortable at first with giving it out (to about a thousand companies!!!). One thing I can say, like a few already have-- I've never had a problem. The other thing is, since I did feel a little uncomfortable, I applied for an EIN (employee identification number)-- the whole process was so easy-- and I use that now. I have no problems when it comes to taxes because I prepare a worksheet each quarter using both (my social for those who use it, and my EIN for the others).
For the second, it really depends on how comfortable you feel making trips. For me, I bought a GPS unit (charged as a business expense when I filed my taxes). That really helped me feel more comfortable about taking out-of-the-way shops. Helps with big city shops, too! I have a little ap that allows my husband to see where I'm at, so he can find me anytime, as well. Between that and my cell phone, I feel pretty comfortable. I refuse to go into areas that I know might be a little iffy when it comes to my personal safety. I think a lot of us are that way. You definitely have to take care of number one! =D
Finally, I've never run up against anyone who has been "angry". The worst I've had to deal with is incompetence, but that's all around us, so. =DD
I think the biggest risk I've dealt with has been determining how much money I want to spend in a month (and how long I'm willing to carry that overhead). Hundreds of dollars would definitely make me feel uncomfortable (and would strain my bank account), but a hundred or a hundred and fifty is doable.
I hope you find yourself more comfortable in the future. I'm sure you'll do great!
Sending the best,
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/10/2012 01:31AM by jentodd.
1. When I started out MSing, my credit was crap because we were young and poor and I married into debt. So if anyone stole my SSN, they'd be insisting I took it back. LOL Now that I've gotten it all straightened out, I know I can trust the companies I'm with and I'm not worried about it. Just do a search for any new company here or look on the list to check that they're legit. Once you've been around, you'll get the feel for what is a legit company and what's not. Sign up with all the Prophet, Shopmetrics, and SASSIE companies. The applications are easy and you don't have to worry whether they're legitimate or not.
2. Driving unknown places. Only you can decide if you feel safe or not. Stay within your comfort zone or not too far out of it. That varies from person to person. When you get the hang of things, then you can be more daring.
3. Have fake information ready to give associates so you don't have to worry. If you MUST give a phone number, do what many do and get a Google number. Then it can't be traced to you.
Some things as a newbie you might want to do (not safety-related, though):
When you write what cities or zips you'll shop, give a sample narrative of a store/restaurant/hotel stay, save it to Word so you don't have to write it all over again. It'll save you LOTS of time rewriting everything.
Use the MS Bible or some other program to track your shops, due dates, pay dates, company passwords, etc. Google MS Bible to see what I mean.
It doesn't hurt to save your notes or narrative so if there are questions about a shop, you can refer back to them to ensure you do have the correct information to offer as it'll help refresh your memory.
About 200 MSCs have my ssn and have had for 7 years. No problems whatsoever. By using my credit cards to charge and promptly pay my shopping expenses and reimbuseables, my credit score has risen over 100 points to well north of 700!
I make it my business to learn my city and metro area as if I planned to sell houses in any area I might shop. (Former real estate agent here, lol). There are a few places where I would not go during the day 7 years ago that have changed into highly desireable neighborhoods since then, so it pays to update one's outlook on a regular basis. Since I cannot drive after dark, that is not an issue for me. But, I can attest that you can make very, very good MS fees without ever shopping at night. Besides, video shops, which are the best paid, need to be done in daylight 99 percent of the time.
Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel
Just remember, that just because nothing has happened to your SS doesn't mean something won't. I'm 99% positive that at least one mystery shopping company would suffer if subject to a sophisticated hack or social engineering. I don't want to be a nay sayer, just don't let the lack of an incident make you less cautious!
I personally got an EIN as well and monitor my credit.