How do spammers get my email address?

Dear WAHFAQ, I had to finally close an old email account because I was getting too much Spam. How can I prevent this from happening with my new account? I’ve already gotten a few pieces of Spam and I just don’t want it to override my account like last time! Ah yes, the everlasting quest to stay one step ahead of the spammers! Feels like a game of whack-a-mole, no? I’m not really quite sure how “Spam” got its name. Sure there’s the meat, which we’ve all (ahem) enjoyed over the years…some more than others. But Spam in the online Read More…

Seven ways to make $50 quickly

Dear WAHFAQ, I need to make money NOW. Not necessarily a lot, just enough to tide me over until the end of the month. What can I do? If you need to make money quickly, there are many things you can do to bring in extra income. While there is no need to limit yourself to $50, it’s enough to make a difference when you’re strapped for cash. Fifty-dollars can: …get enough food for a single person for a week, or a family for a few days. …be enough of a down-payment on a past-due bill to keep utilities from Read More…

Can I tell my friends that I’m a Mystery Shopper?

Dear WAHFAQ, I loved your mystery shopper book and class and have been shopping for a little over a month now.  The checks are just now starting to come in and I’m so happy!  I’ve been wanting to tell my sister and my friends about mystery shopping, but I know that companies are really strict about their confidentially rules.  Can I actually tell people that I’m a shopper? Or do I have to keep this a secret forever? Thanks!   You absolutely can tell people you’re a mystery shopper. Heck, if we couldn’t do that, I’d be in BIIIIIGGGGG trouble!  Read More…

I know it’s a scam, now what?

Dear WAHFAQ, I just found your website, and I’m writing because I’m a little bit scared. Through Craigslist, I tried to become a mystery shopper, and after a volley of poorly written emails from a guy named “Paul”, I just received a check on my doorstep for $3501.00 and instructions to email this HOTMAIL account for more information on the next step. Obviously, I don’t want to touch this check with a ten foot pole. But, what do I do now? Can I safely shred it and forget the whole thing? Am I liable for anything? I really want to Read More…

Make extra money with Print on Demand (POD) companies

Dear WAHFAQ, Can you explain how those t-shirt printing websites work? I’m an artist and have some designs but I’m not sure how that all works. Thanks! Sometime around 2003, my brother-in-law told me about a company, Cafepress, that would allow him to create his own t-shirts. He runs a political commentary website, and was looking for ways to earn revenue. My sister would help create designs and they would upload the images to the Cafepress site. They chose where they wanted to “sell” the image: t-shirts, bags, or bumper stickers. Cafepress had a base price for the item, and my Read More…

Do I have to buy something?

Dear WAHFAQ, I’m really interested in this mystery shopping thing, but I was wondering if I had to buy stuff when I shopped.  Isn’t that I just would get money back for the money I spent? And what if I spend more than what the assignment paid me?  It doesn’t seem like a good way to actually make money. Each assignment really depends on the mystery shopping company’s guidelines as well as the requirements from the client.  For restaurant shops, yes, you do actually have to purchase a meal.  Sometimes the MS company will reimburse you for the meal as Read More…

The three most evil work at home scams ever

Image courtesy of and Stuart Miles


There are so many scams out there. Are there any ones that are more evil than others?

Granted, I consider most scams to be some kind of “evil” but there are a few in particular that have their own special brand of sinister wretchedness. That is because in these scams, you will actually be paid, but unbeknownst to you, you’re scamming someone else! Keep in mind that these are pretty sophisticated scams, so you may only be one part of the larger puzzle:

Version One: The Payment Processing Clerk

As a “payment processing clerk”, you may be asked to set up a bank account at a specific bank to receive direct deposits or to handle expenses. The company who “hired” you will put money in the bank account, and then you’re supposed to wire that money through Western Union to other employees, vendors, or companies.

In reality, you’re just wiring it to the scammers. When a company requires you to have a specific bank for your direct deposit, keep in mind that the scammers may have hacked into that bank and electronically transferred stolen money into your account. In this scam, you will be paid to perform your duties for as long as the scammers can get away with it. After all, they need you to keep the scam going. However, once the bank realizes what has happened, you will be liable to repay those funds.

If you’re required to use a specific bank for any potential job you have been offered, contact that bank before you do anything, and let the bank know that you suspect the account may have been hacked.

Version Two: The Payroll Clerk

As a “payroll clerk” you may be asked to process checks at home. You’ll be required to purchase checks and a software system, (easily obtained through any office supply store) and the company will mail you the names, addresses, and the amount of money to send to these “employees.”

The amount of money on these checks is fairly significant, usually around $1,000 and up. That is because, unbeknownst to you, the scammers are running a whole different con to the person on the receiving end of the check.

That person, (who receives the check that you send,) may have been hired as a mystery shopper to evaluate a Western Union. They receive your check, cash it, keep $500 for themselves, and wire back $500 to a company overseas, thinking it’s all part of the assignment. What neither of you realize is that the checks are fake, drawn off of a non-existent account (or a hacked account as mentioned in the first scam) and that the money is just going back to the scammers overseas.

The “Mystery Shopper” isn’t aware of this until the check bounces, and you aren’t aware of this until the police come knocking at your door…because, since you’re getting paid, so you think it’s legitimate!

Version Three: The Money Transfer Agent

Scammers post job ads for “Money Transfer Agents,” stating that they need someone in the US to help them receive payments for their company. This scam is actually pretty straightforward: You pick up money at one Western Union (perhaps wired there from a Mystery Shopper) and wire it someone else (either to a hacked bank account, or to the scammers overseas.) In this case, you’re just a mule–and again, you still get paid, because they need you to do their dirty work!

Hopefully, you can see a theme here: companies who are overseas and require the use of Western Union or other wire transfer services. The scammers would never send you a bank-drawn check or use credit card information, because it’s too easy to track. If ever you come across a situation where an overseas company is trying to get a state-side agent: RUN. When the scam is exposed, (and it will be) you could be liable and responsible for the money you have transferred and mailed. After all, technically, you’re the one committing the fraud…the folks overseas just asked you to do it but you’re the one who completed the task.


Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

Are you an independent contractor or employee?

Dear WAHFAQ, I recently started working with a company, and they told me that paying taxes is 100% my responsibility. They said I’m considered an “Independent Contractor.” I’m a bit confused as to what this actually means and what I have to do for taxes. When you enter into the “random job” world, you may find that not only can you get traditional employee work, but you might also score a few “independent contractor” gigs as well. It’s important to know the difference when it comes to keeping track of your business. The IRS website has three different Common Law Read More…

Should you give out your social security number?


It seems like every Mystery Shopping company that I sign up for wants my social security number. I don’t feel comfortable giving it out. What should I do?

I know that Mystery Shopping does sound a little too good to be true, and it can feel like a scam when you’re first getting started, but, believe it or not, this is a job!

Your employer, the mystery shopping company, needs to know that you’re legally authorized to work in the US, (or Canada, or wherever you’re shopping) and because of that, they need your social security number.

Even though you’re an independent contractor, if you make over $599 with any one company, they are legally required to send a 1099 form to the IRS and one to you as well. If they don’t have your social security number, they will not be in compliance with this law and get in BIG TROUBLE.

If you don’t make more than $599 with a Mystery Shopping company, they don’t have to do the extra 1099 paperwork. However, they still claim you as an expense for doing business. The IRS may turn around and come to you to make sure that you claimed the income and paid taxes on it. So, yes, kids, you always need to declare your Mystery Shopping income.

Now, I wouldn’t just go around willy-nilly giving out your SSN to every company out there first, of course make sure that they’re legitimate, and if you’re submitting this information online, make sure it’s a secure site. You can see the little https:// in the address bar before the site’s name. Any company that uses Sassie or Prophet for their scheduling has a secure database, so I’d trust those as well.

I do recommend that if you’re contracting with several companies to get an EIN (Employer’s Identification Number) for your business. I personally have worked for over 150 Mystery Shopping companies and I much prefer to use an EIN instead of my SSN for tax reporting. Getting an EIN is free from, just be sure to use it within 2 years otherwise they’ll take it back! Talk to a local tax advisor if you have questions.

Good luck, and happy shopping!


Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

Is Next Job at Home a Scam?

Dear WAHFAQ, I came across this website for work at home job listings.  Have you heard of it?  Is it real or is it a scam:   NextJobatHome is a site that will send you way too many emails.  Once upon a time I signed up for them because I was curious too.  They stated that they would send legitimate job offers and I was really curious.  Well, it didn’t take too long for me to realize what they were doing! In each email they highlight a different work at home oppourtunity.  Notice, I said “opportunity” not “job“.  When you Read More…

Why I love MLM and Direct Sales

Image courtesy of and Iosphere


I’m really disappointed that you recommend MLM and Direct Sales as a way to earn money. They’re just pyramid scams! What are you thinking?!?!

It sounds like you may have had a negative experience with an MLM company…maybe you were over-promised on what you could earn? Or maybe they didn’t really explain to you what kind of time commitment was required to run your own business? Or maybe you didn’t do your research enough and got swept up into a company that was new, or had founders that went bankrupt?

Whatever it is, I am sorry for your experience. But I do still believe that MLM and Direct Sales companies offer a way for the average person, with little business experience, can buy into an established model to make extra income. Of course, you have to go into it with your eyes wide open!

Let’s say you want to get out of the rat race, you want to have more time to do things that you want to do, be it spending more time with family, traveling, or creating the next great symphony. Whatever. You want to have the freedom of being self-employed, but you don’t know what kind of business you’d be good at, and the whole McFranchise idea hasn’t quite grown on you. Perhaps it’s just too expensive, or maybe you just don’t like the idea of dealing with 16 year old kids who are more concerned about their Instagram stats than your fries.

Enter Network Marketing, stage left.

Some of you have probably already had an experience with MLM, (Multi-level Marketing,) Network Marketing, or Direct Sales. Perhaps your uncle was selling Amway, maybe your neighbor was an insurance salesman…maybe you’ve been involved with it in some form, and it left a bad taste in your mouth. Regardless, we’re going to clear up some of the myths surrounding these types of opportunities.

MLM, Direct Sales, and Network Marketing ARE NOT pyramid schemes! As long as a company has customers outside of the business, it is a legitimate organization. What the FTC warns us about are those “membership” opportunities where you are required to find people to “get in” the business even though there are no products, no services, no nothing to sell.  There are only membership fees, and you earn commission on those fees. The more people recruited, the more money you make. (In theory.)

If you find a company that focuses more on getting people in the business than selling products, just stay away:

It is illegal…it is not good. Don’t do it.

MLM, Direct Sales, and Network Marketing ARE NOT get-rich-quick schemes. It’s more like “get rich slow with lots of effort.” There are a wide array of companies and industries from home products, vitamins, and make-up, to food, jewelry and even, ahem, romance products.

These companies create a system that allows you to find customers to sell their products to. You generally get a wholesale price and your customers pay the retail price. You then get commission off of what they purchase.

Of course, if your customers decide they like the product, they can always join you in business to get the wholesale price. Additionally, they can then find their own customers to sell to. When that happens, you not only get commission off of your own sales, but off of their sales as well.

It’s a brilliant way to leverage time. Think about when you were a kid, and you had to sell stuff for your school. (I’ve sold everything from oranges, to wrapping paper, to candy and nuts.) Did you do it alone? No, of course not. You gave a catalog for your Mom to take to work, your Dad to take to work, and, if you were lucky to have a big family, you enlisted the help of aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, and anyone else who was willing. Sure, one person can sell a certain amount of things, two can sell more, and so on…

You may have heard of some of these companies that follow this model: Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, Ameriplan, Amway, Discovery Toys, etc.

When you’re a business owner, you’ll have to pay a start up cost, and monthly or yearly renewal fees. Generally these are less than $500, depending on the business. You may have minimum quotas to reach. You still have to cover marketing and promotion costs, after all, this is a business and you should treat it as such. The company you work with should have ongoing training sessions and a good support system to help you be successful. It is truly like a mini-franchise.

The income potential is enormous. If you love your product, and believe in it, learn some marketing basics, and have a great “upline” (those who train you) your chances of success are HUGE. For those of you who have the entrepreneurial bug, but don’t know where to start, I highly recommend taking a look at some companies who follow a Direct Sales/MLM/Network Marketing model. Of course, make sure you research and evaluate the company before joining to find the right fit for you.


Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

Who Mystery Shops Walt Disney World Cruise Lines?

Dear WAHFAQ, Can you tell me who shops Walt Disney Cruise Lines?  I’m also interested in doing Panera, or Shell Gas Stations…I can’t seem to find out who shops these companies, and I don’t want to waste any more time! I would tell you if I could…but this is the cardinal sin of Mystery Shopping: revealing “who shops who.”  We can’t do it. Please don’t ask me to violate my confidentially agreements…It just won’t happen! We can’t reveal these things because Mystery Shopping companies like to keep their clients.  If they didn’t have the confidentially rule, we’d be able to Read More…