Getting started is easy! All you have to do is find trusted customer service evaluation companies and apply. Rarely ever is an application denied, however your ability to get selected for "shops" may depend on your experience and background. When you apply, you will become an "independent contractor" for these companies which means, yes, you will need to provide them with your social security number just like any other means of employment. Don't be nervous, if you have vetted the company your data will be just as safe as if you were applying for a part-time gig at Target (except with independent contracting, you decide when you want to work and for whom you want to work!)
An independent contractor is a worker whom the company typically does not withhold any taxes from the amounts paid to them and is not required to pay any taxes for the benefit of the worker. Instead, the independent contractor is responsible for paying both the employee and the employer portion of the federal and state taxes directly to the taxing authorities.
Because of the fact that payments to independent contractors aren’t subject to employee withholding or employer paid taxes. Employers also typically do not pay any "company sponsored" benefits and the contractor controls most aspects of the work (unlike a traditional employee).
The secret/mystery shopping industry is global and the practice of secret shopping is considered a trade. Therefore there is an association that operates to strengthen the industry called MSPA, Mystery Shopping Professionals Association. MSPA has over 450 member companies and operates world wide. If you want more information or would like to join, visit www.mspa-global.org.
Secret/mystery shop assignments can vary and come in all forms. Any company that provides customer service potentially will hire a secret/mystery shopping company to evaluate their operations. Shops that I have personally performed have included, but are not limited to:
You name it, it is probably being evaluated. So trust me, there is something here for everyone!
Real mystery/secret shopping companies DO NOT ASK YOU TO PAY to work for them! That is the number one red flag when making sure they are not a scam company. If any company asks you to pay to sign up, walk away.
Also, in general, unless you are already signed up, most companies will not send you a random email asking you for your personal information (i.e. SSN) to sign up. If you get a email solicitation from any company, visit their website directly (not using any links sent in the email) to ensure they are a real company.
You can also search to see if they are a member of MPSA (see above). However not all companies are members of MSPA, so if you do not see a company in their directory, that does not mean they are not legitimate.
Now do not forget, being an independent contractor requires that you sign up/apply with legitimate companies AND provide your social security number for tax purposes. Just ensure that you research the company your are applying with before providing any of your personal information.
As explained above, you will be an independent contractor for these companies. As an independent contract, companies will not withhold taxes from your pay, so be sure to estimate your tax withholding as you work because at the end of the year you will be asked to pay taxes on what you earned if it is higher than the exemption threshold. You also will be eligible for various expense write-offs which will reduce your tax burden.
I am not a tax professional, so if you have questions or concerns about the tax implications, withholding or write-offs associated with being an independent contractor, please consult a tax professional.
A spreadsheet with a list of companies that have been verified. Also incuded will be a workbook that can be used to track your jobs. Please allow time for the email to be sent to you, but if you do not recieve within 24 hours, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org