10 Online Scams That Target Small Businesses

Mystery Shopper
Legitimate mystery shoppers act as anonymous quality control for companies, but scammers try to recruit people for a fee. © Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Corbis

The mystery shopper con is a very common offshoot of the work-from-home scam. There are folks who'd love nothing more than to earn their keep by stuffing envelopes on the couch or sending chain letters from their home office, and some of us are just born to shop. Who wouldn't want to spend their days in the mall and make money doing it? Unfortunately, this can be yet another case of "too good to be true."

The good news is that mystery shopping is an actual job — there are many reputable mystery shopping companies who employ people to anonymously evaluate stores, restaurants and other businesses by acting as a customer. You just have to weed out the scammers, of which there are many. Luckily, this is pretty easy to do. All scams have the same basic ploys, so you probably have a good radar for them. Rule No. 1: Stop in your tracks if you're asked to pay an application fee. Also be wary of companies that claim to pay by the hour (mystery shoppers get paid by the job) or advertise full-time positions (it's always a part-time job). Or, better yet, skip the guesswork and check them out with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.