As you start applying to mystery shopping companies to be a secret shopper, they will require sensitive personal details so that they can pay you and report your earnings correctly. The most often requested way to do this is by requiring your social security number, (or equivalent for other countries).
With the rise of identity theft, many people are understandably reluctant to divulge their social security number. One way of handling this dilemma is to apply for and receive a Tax ID number. This is very similar to a social security number, but is for business purposes. Contact the IRS to get a tax ID number by calling them or visiting their website.
The IRS website contains information about how you can get a tax ID number, often referred to as a TIN, and you can apply for and receive a new TIN on their website for free.
In cases where you use your credit card or debit card for secret shopping purchases, make sure that you keep possession or keep your card in your view at all times when possible. (In restaurants, they usually take your card and process it away from your table).
Check all amounts carefully and ensure that you receive your card after the transaction has been processed. There have been reports of customers receiving other customer’s cards, after paying, so make sure that you check that the card returned to you is yours, and that you check your receipt carefully.
If your secret shopping assignment requires you to complete an application for credit, a job, or a loan, find out how the company disposes of your application, and that it is either shredded or stored in secure locked files. When entering sensitive personal information online, be sure that the information is secure through the use of secure transmission and storage methods, as indicated by a locked padlock symbol on the bottom of the page.
In cases where you submit written reports to the secret shopping company, do not leave the envelopes containing your invoice to be paid in your mailbox tor the postal carrier to pick up, or in easily accessible containers at the reception area at your workplace. Place these types of mail with sensitive information inside the post office rather than in neighborhood mail boxes, and place them there before the last mail pickup of the day.
Taking accountability for protecting your identity one step further, under Federal law, you are entitled to receive a free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus. Request your free report each year and review it to make sure there is no unauthorized activity or inquiries.
Staying vigilant in protecting your private information can go a long way in helping you to enjoy your secret shopping experience. Remember, have fun as you get paid to shop.
Myrna Marshall is a professional MSPA Gold Certified Shopper and author of Mystery Shopping Secrets – The complete manual and toolkit for mystery shopping success. Get an overview on mystery shopping by requesting the free report at http://www.mysteryshoppingsecrets.com