RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you've ever gotten an email asking you to become a secret shopper -- delete it. It doesn't work that way, and they are just phishing for your information.
But mystery shopping is a real thing, and here's how you can get started.
Retailers and their staff didn't know it, but they've been under the watchful eye of Kimberly Roberts for last six years.
"They want to know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong," Roberts says.
Roberts is a mystery shopper.
"It's a great opportunity to one get a lot of free things," said Roberts.
She's paid to test employees on the job.
"Two, it's a great opportunity to discover new places," said Roberts.
Plus she's reimbursed for buying products and services. She recommends starting with the job aggregating site jobslinger.com.
"I did a lot of research, because there are a lot of scams out there," said Roberts.
Before she goes undercover, Kim reviews the specifics the company wants. After completing the task at hand, she writes and delivers her report, along with copies of her receipts.
Free oil changes, groceries, clothes and meals - these are her regular assignments.
"One of my all-time favorites was Cooper's Hawk," said Roberts. "I don't know any job you get paid to go have lunch, do a wine tasting, have to go back and sit at the bar - and the whole afternoon was paid for."
But she's also profiled places like theme parks. Upper management wanted specifics about their concessions and staff - that meant free admission to the park and reimbursement for her meal.
"They just want basic observations - 'What was your impression?'" said Roberts.
Once you get a few shops under your belt and the companies are comfortable with your work, "the better scores you have, the better shops you get, the more they'll share your name," said Roberts.
Some shops you'll be perfect for, others you won't qualify. Roberts is doing three to four shops a week, getting paid and scoring freebies for her opinion.
If you want to be a secret shopper, Kimberly suggests getting an EIN number so you don't have to give out your Social Security Number.
This is important: mystery shopping companies will NOT contact you to sign up, and you should never have to pay a fee to join. Beware of those kinds of offers.
Copyright 2017 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved