COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Do you love to shop? If so, you may be tempted to be a mystery shopper this holiday season. You can dine in extravagant restaurants and shop at expensive stores -- and get paid to do it.
One Colorado Springs resident, who asked not to be identified, contacted Target 13 Investigates after she saw an advertisement in a local newspaper asking for secret shoppers. The company is called Second to None Inc.
She was excited at the prospect of a job involving shopping and interacting with people. Since the ad targeted candidates who are 55 years of age or older, she felt she was the perfect match.
After filling out her basic information in the online application, she was asked to enter her bank account information or a PayPal account for payment. She tells Target 13 that since she had not been officially hired by the company, she found it strange that she would have to enter that sensitive information.
"I didn't want to do that. So I thought this is probably one of those scams where they scam older people and then take them for everything they have in their bank account," she said.
Second To None seems like a reputable business. It touts an "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and is a member of the Mystery Shopping Provider's Association (MSPA). There are virtually no complaints about the business online and their Facebook page is filled with comments from happy shoppers.
I contacted Second To None to ask why it requires bank account information during the application process. Jeff Hall, President of Second To None, responded, in part:
"A consumer applying to become an independent contractor mystery shopper is indeed asked to indicate their preferred method of payment for work completed. This is considered a standard process among professional mystery shopping service providers. In the case of Direct Deposit, we do ask for their account number and bank routing number, both of which are automatically encrypted on our side. Should the shopper choose Direct Deposit, we are only authorized to make deposits into their account."
Hall went on to say that once an application is submitted, the person is considered an active mystery shopper. On Second To None's Facebook page, I posed the same question and was told the company will be adding a "skip until later" option for bank account information in the application process.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises mystery shopper candidates to be skeptical of advertisements in newspapers and to look out for these warning signs:
- Require that you pay for "certification."
- Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
- Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
- Sell directories of companies that employ mystery shoppers.
- Ask you to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to someone.
Visit the FTC mystery shopper fact sheet for more information.