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…you can find assistance through your local office.

Good luck, and happy shopping!


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 don’t want to lose their clients.  If they didn’t have the confidentially rule, we’d be able Read More…

Can I bring my kids on a Mystery Shop?

Dear WAHFAQ, I was recently assigned a movie theater shop, and 2 restaurants. I’m so excited to get started!  The only thing is that my baby sitter cancelled on me, and I have to get these shops done TODAY!  What should I do?  Can I bring the kids with me? Ok, first of all, RELAX. Then, call your scheduler!  They are your life-line to help you when situations like these arise.  I cannot specifically speak for your scheduler or company, but most restaurant shops allow you to take a few people with you.  In fact, Mystery Shopping companies LIKE you Read More…

Do I need a separate email address for Mystery Shopping?

Dear WAHFAQ, I just started Mystery Shopping…got your training program…love it! And I was wondering if I really need a separate email address to do mystery shopping with.  I already have so many, it just seems like a hassle! Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad you liked the Mystery Shopper Training Program 🙂 Y’know, it’s totally up to you if you want to use another email address specifically for mystery shopping.  I guess it depends on what you use the others for. For me, personally, I like to keep it separate from even my business account simply because I Read More…

What is an Apartment Shop?

Dear WAHFAQ, I heard that apartment buildings get shopped.  Is that true?  Would I actually have to rent an apartment?  That just seems weird, plus I don’t have the best credit, so I would probably be denied anyway.  I don’t really understand how they would work.   Apartment shops are actually my favourite shops to do!  You do NOT need to rent an apartment, fill out an application, or leave a deposit to do an apartment shop.  It’s pretty simple: You call up the apartment building and talk to a leasing agent over the phone, setting an appointment to view Read More…

What is a Retail Mystery Shop?

Dear WAHFAQ, What is a retail shop?  Do you have to buy something?  Do you have to spend your money, or will they give you some?  Are you supposed to keep the merchandise or send it to the company? Retail shops vary by company and assignment.  Here are the main points you need to know: 1)   You generally will NOT receive money from the mystery shopping company to buy anything.  You’ll have to use your own if a purchase is required. 2)   If a purchase is required, they may have something specific for you to buy. 3)   If a purchase Read More…

What is a Financial Mystery Shop?

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Mystery Shopping FAQ

Interested in Mystery Shopping? Great! Here’s a list of common FAQ’s compiled to save my poor hands from carpal tunnel in answering questions one at a time: (If you’re looking for other random jobs, check out the Work at Home FAQ) What is Mystery Shopping? 
Mystery Shopping is an aspect of Market Research. Mystery Shoppers are needed to go into establishments to give honest and objective evaluations on products and services they receive. The businesses then use this information to improve productivity, gauge competition, provide training, and reward employees. Who hires Mystery Shoppers? 
Mystery Shopping Companies hire shoppers. Don’t bother Read More…