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Mystery shopper scam strikes again

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picture of shopping bagsIt sounds pretty good: you walk into a store like any other customer. Then 20 minutes later, you’re done, ready to write a report that will earn you $50. And then you can do it again.

If Shopper Systems and some companies like it were to be believed, mystery shopping jobs like this were not only widely available, but could generate “insane profit.” All for just $2.95 for training and a week’s trial, then $49.95 a month after that for an up-to-date list of interested retailers — and you’d be free to cancel any time.

But they couldn’t be believed, the FTC says. According to the FTC’s complaint, people who paid to be mystery shoppers found there were few, if any, jobs in their area. And the jobs that did exist paid a lot less than $50. People who tried to cancel found they were still charged $49.95 a month, not knowing they were also enrolled in a second “opportunity” running their own webstore.

The companies and people behind the alleged scam have agreed to settlements with the FTC that ban them from selling business or work-at-home opportunities and require them to surrender assets to the FTC.

Legitimate mystery shopping opportunities are out there, but so are plenty of scams. Don’t pay to be a mystery shopper — information about mystery shopping jobs should be free, and certifications offered are often of little value. Many professionals in the field consider mystery shopping a part-time activity, at best, and opportunities generally are posted online by marketing research or merchandising companies.

Want to learn more about these kinds of scams and get tips on finding legitimate mystery shopping jobs? Read Mystery Shopper Scams at ftc.gov/bizopps.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Comments

It’s never a good idea to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back.

In a mystery shopper scam, the shopper gets a check. The instructions say, deposit the check in your personal bank account, withdraw some cash, and send the cash to to a third person. But the check is a fake.

By law, the bank has to give you some of the money from a check you deposit within a few days. It can take more than a few days to uncover a fake check. It may seem like the check you deposited has cleared,  and the money has posted to your  account, but later on, when the check turns out to be a fake, you will have to pay the bank back for all the money you took out.

What was the outcome?

I got three of the scam checks. I called local police couldn't help, local FBI wouldn't help, filed claim with www.wc3.gov (White Collar Crime Task Force), got a reply too busy, contacted USPS Postal Inspector who said I was wasting her time ( had received all in Priority Mail Envelopes, last one contained USPS Postal Money Order, tried Ohio States Attorney Generals Office who explained, not their area, called Walmart Headquarters in Arkansas and they said they did not care to help. I blame Walmart for letting it happen. The forms one uses to transfer are a joke. MoneyGram and Walmart to Walmart use the same form. The form is dictated by MoneyGram (an overseas company that Walmart has partnered with). Walmart, the All American Store. NOT. The are allowing it to happen by doing absolutely nothing about it!!!!! BOYCOTT WALMART!!!!!! They could stop it if they wanted to. The rep from Headquarters told me they did not care to do anything!!!!!

i just got a check from this yesterday for 18322.22 i took it to wells fargo and of crouse its fraud but they aer doing something about it they call the fedrel fraudulet angencey now hearing aboutall of your comments im worried what if they try to use our names mine came from charlolett it had the watermarks and all it was all to the securtiy finger print on the check and said from walmart so yes walmart should do something since its their name their useing but for all we know walmart just might be apart of it or a worker there

I just got fedExed a check for 2,350.00. They wanted me to deposit it into my bank account, do the walmart shop and then send 2,000 by money gram to a guy in michigan. I knew it was a scam.

I got a check after a dozen emails and it even says certified. It did involve the USPS. I saved everything the check , the letter inside and all emails. Who should I send this information too. They wanted me to deposit it in my account , wait a day, withdraw all but a few hundred and western union back to them. This scam is so old, i cant believe they are still using it

If the scheme involved the U.S. mail, submit a Mail Fraud Complaint Form to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Looks like they have updated their scam a little. I just received a check for 3745.50. 700.00 was for my Evaluation of customer service agents at Vanilla Reload Network and my training. 3000.00 was to buy 6- 500.00 cards. 45.50 was for Service charge and mailing fees. The check was drawn on Northern Trust Bank/Dupage, Oak Brook, Il., which has been inactive since March 1st, 1996!

I just got that check today! I've been researching trying to see if anyone cares since it's from a po box that could be traced if they get enough complaints, i guess.

I just got a check Yesterday.$2950.00

I am to send by western union. 1- Leah Millen..Waco, Tx. $1300.00     2- Jones Guille..Beaumont, Tx. $1300.00    

3 - $50.00 western union fees     4- $250.00 was to be mine for doing the job. This is unreal. People that are looking for work. These scamers jump in the mix, some how. I thought the Shoppers site was a real job.

what website did the scammers use??

the same thing just happened to me but they were postal money orders sent they look real but when they were returned to my bank as altered i had no idea.now my bank account is overdrawn $2,000 i don't know what to do please help if anyone knows where to start thank you.

You are responsible for the checks you deposit — even though you don’t know they’re fake.

Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to you within certain time. But just because funds are available doesn’t mean the check is good. It can take weeks to uncover a forgery. Until the bank confirms that the funds from the check ahave been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check. 

 

This just happened to my son. What is the best recourse? The bank froze his account out of suspension. We are taking the emails and the fedex tracking to the bank on Saturday. How is depositing a check in his account helping them unless they wanted him to send money back. I knew it was a scam when he sent me the emails from a gmail account saying they are from Nike Inc. Contacted Nike Inc who said it sounds like a scam and they just took the information. It seems like they should have something on their website to tell people to beware.

In addition to talking with your bank, you can file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

wow, i lust found this bit of info out about me being responsible for the monies even if the bank released the funds i just got a check & thank goodness i was told, because i dont have that kind of money to be paying back!!

It sounds as though I may have been scammed. After some emails I got a cashiers check from a major bank via usps priority. I presented it at the major bank with 2 forms of ID after it was examined they cashed it. I completed the job. Now I get another assignment from the same people. I am asked to send moneygrams to 3 people in the Phippines. I checked with the bank. Check is fake. Now I wonder if the first assignment was ligit and used as bait. The bank that cashed their own cashier check should know if the check was ligit shouldn't they ?

Banks generally must make funds available to you from U.S. Treasury checks, most other governmental checks, cashier’s checks, certified checks, and teller’s checks a business day after you deposit the check. For other checks, banks must make the first $200 available the day after you deposit the check, and make the remaining funds available on the second business day after the deposit.

But just because funds are available on a check you deposit does not mean the check is good.

It can take weeks to discover and untangle a forgery. Until a bank confirms that funds from a check are deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check.

Hello the same thing just happened to me. Were you able to solve it? I am trying to find a solution.

Unfortunately there doesn't seem like there is much you can do. I deposited 2875 into my U.S. bank account. Fortunately the bank recognized the next morning that it was fraudulent and declined the check. Unfortunately they blamed me for depositing the check into my account. They closed my account and reported to check systems. I called local law enforcement, the F.B.I., the F.T.C, the attorney generals office, you name it I called them. Not one agency had any interest in what I had to say. That's why these people continue to rip innocent people off, because they know they won't get in trouble. If just one of the agencies acted as they are sworn to do. Then it wouldn't be so easy to rob people that are vulnerable and trusting. Best of luck

You can file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

With all due respect. Perception of The federal governments responsiveness to these issues is that they are as effective as a wet paper bag. No follow up with victims, means no trust that anything being done to shut down these thieves.

I received a very similar letter and cashier's check for $2850.32 asking me to send it to two people in different cities.

1250.32 each person My payment is $300 and 50 for fees. I deposited it and I went to send it and seen a warning on walmart money gram form about these mystery shopper scams. I deposited that money back into my acct and informed my bank about the situation. The story changed and they want me to send all of it to one person because one person is in the hospital and the other had another issue. The person is still texting me saying they need me to do the assignment asap and they are waiting for my report. The number they text me on was a txt free app.

I just received the same thing and was scammed of course. I feel like such a Fool. But I did everything right. By checking everything out 1st. But Luke You the check was for $2850.84, check was to be deposited and then sent to 2 separate people from a WAL-MART MONEY GRAM. Nagged me death too. Name on check & email was John E. Turner and the no. They were texting from was Illinois. The money grams were to be sent to Taneshia Nicole Tatum Torrance Ca. For $1220.00 & Ronald Jerome Johnson Torrance, Ca. For $1260.00. And $300 was for Me + $70. For cost of Money Grams. The Letter & Check was sent in a USPS envelope from a Flight School in Addison Texas. I took everything to Band & they've done NOTHING to help & filed with my Local Police Dept. I wonder too if WALMARTS not in on this somehow? Just seems weird to me. I did do the real secret shopper few yrs ago too. Thought I did everything right... Don't really no what to do now?.

You can report this to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. The details you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

You can report this to the money transfer service you used. If the scheme involved the U.S. mail, submit a Mail Fraud Complaint Form to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You also can alert your state Attorney General.

 

That's good advice but it does nothing for the victim who is now out thousands of dollars. Usually these victims are already in a place where they are living paycheck to paycheck. Even worse someone who is facing shut off notices or things of that nature. Now they find themselves in an even worse situation. They/we are looking for law enforcement agencies to protect us and recover our stolen funds.

Just got that one in the email. Funny, the gmail address it was sent from was a "Tom Hackler". Tom HACKER is more like it!!!

What was the email address..i received a lot but not sure which ones are fake

I was defrauded like you, received a genuinely looking check, deposited to the bank was given well written instruction to visit K-mart, Walmart to sue MoneyGram to send 2 people Money Gram and write a report. the 5th day the check bounced and the bank took all my money to repay the fraud. I was flabbergasted

I also got a check claiming to be from Talbots Survey Inc. for $3,757.50 I just don't understand how they would benefit if I cashed this check and do what they're asking.

They benefit by you using your bank to cash the check and buy money orders or send cash by western union. The check bounces, and you owe your bank for the amount while they receive the amount you sent. Since you would use cash they are off the hook and you owe the bank for the bounced check.

My dumb a** went and opened an account with the cashier check, the only thing is that i pulled out $900.00 from the 1400.00 check.And i spent the money .I figured if it turns out to be a scam, i was going to pay my bills. the funny thing is that my bank ran it thu they system and it can back with a passing verify number,so now i got to pay the bank

I just got a cashier check in mail and my name as payer.. Can i cash it an not have bank issue's??

If you got a check from someone you don't know, and they tell you to deposit it and take out money to send them, it could be a scam.

If you deposit a fake check and take money out, and the bank learns that the check is no good, you will have to repay the bank yourself.

I received a check just like this today would you mind telling me what happened after you deposited it and spent the money? Before I do it LOL just in case it is a scam

Right that is what happen to my son bank cashed check and then we had to borrow the money to pay the bank or they was going to prosecute my son Wal mart should have to pay this back and i think the bank should have check the check out before cashing his was for almost 2000.00

I got one today

I just received same letter for amount of $3,755.50

I received the exact letter from these scammers. I was checking the info on the instructions and the Check they sent me for $3,735.50. I knew this was very suspicious. The letter was stating they sent me $3,745.50 but the check had a an amount of $3,735.50 and was dated 06/21/2014. The check was supposed to be drawn from JP Morgan Chase Bank.

I just got a check that's pretty much the same as yours. The 7 vanilla cards and 3,787.00 check too. Check looks totally real. They suck. Get jobs jerks scammers!

I also received a letter from Dream Home Survey, Inc advising me that my pay would be $700 to buy 6 Vanilla Reload Network cards for $500 each - I knew it was a scam as soon as I saw the check of $3786.60 from PNCBANK in Georgia. I am thinking about taking this letter and check to our local newspaper and see if they can publish a scam warning in our local paper.

we just got one in the mail to do the vanilla cards. They gave a 888 number to activate the check first before using it to buy the cards...my husband is going to do some massive research has first

They all write bad checks. Never cash take to police dept

Got the same thing, figured it was fraud but thought i would see what they sent. got a check for $2950.00 routing number was fake.

Never cash a FREE substantial Check. Never ever scratch off any gift card verification codes and send a picture to another person. They steal the cards, your account is charged, and the Free Check bounces........DO NOT DO IT!

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So there may be a new one going around i recieved a text have no clue how they got my number but they said a friend was in need of a nanny i wanted the job the said the days and hours age of the child and said they were moving from australia and would need my honesty and everything this went on for days they just asked for my address to send a check so they could secure my position with them and so i could buy them food for their arrival. They then said i should get the check today deposit in my account and then go get a money pak and give them the numbers and they will have a store manager they hired here do their shopping they sent family photos and all BEWARE !! Pretty sure its a scam

My niece just got the EXACT same offer from the Australian family. Offered $350 per week, "here's your advance and money for food" "jk our estate manager will get the food, just send the pin numbers to him" whole nine yards. Who needs $2,540 worth of groceries? Full on BS.

ONG, I just got the same thing. I think they got my number from care. com I've was looking for dog sitting jobs.

I got the same check, what will happen if you cash it at wal-mart? Please help

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