So I've started mystery shopping as a way to supplement our household budget and have an excuse to eat out every few weeks.
Mystery shoppers are independent contractors who will purchase goods or use services and then report back on their experiences to mystery shopping companies, who in turn have contracts with the stores and restaurants themselves. They are frequently reimbursed for their expenses and paid a fee as well for performing the job.
Some of my favorite jobs so far have been having food delivered to my house, checking gift card displays, and going to fast casual restaurants on somebody else's dime. It's been a way to earn some extra money and have fun.
Many mystery shopping companies also look for auditors, and I have done several audits for different firms. They might include checking a store's inventory or taking pictures of an office space and asking questions of the person who works there.
If this sounds interesting, a few caveats:
Never answer an e-mail from a company that you haven't contacted first.
Never accept any job that sounds like a scam from a Nigerian prince (you'd be surprised).
Before you sign up with a company, check with the BBB.
Another place to find out about worthwhile (and poor) companies is the forum over at Volition.com
Find out whether the website is secure and encrypted before sending any sensitive information.
To avoid giving out your SSN, you can sign up to get an Employee Identification Number from the IRS.
Pay attention to your actual wage per hour. It can be quite low, especially if you read or type slowly.
It can be difficult to make a lot of money mystery shopping, but you can certainly have some fun and get a little extra cash if you want. As with everything in your life, make sure that the time you spend is reaping a worthwhile investment.