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Beware of mystery shopper scams

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I confess… I once was a mystery shopper. Decades ago, I shopped at stores to see what they were charging for certain products and visited restaurant chains to evaluate the food and service. I wrote up a report, sent it in, and received a check for my work. Nothing I could make a living from, but it helped fill the gas tank.

Back then, it didn’t occur to me that responding to a mystery or secret shopper ad could set me up for a scam. Now I know – if you’re looking to make extra money as a mystery shopper, it pays to do some homework to make sure the job is real.

Recently, we’ve heard about a scam that begins when you get an email offering “secret shopper” jobs with retailers like Wal-Mart, Kmart, Best Buy or Home Depot. If you click through to the website, it looks like you’re on a retailer’s site – but you’re not. You’re asked to provide some personal information to get started, and told you’ll soon get a cashier’s check for around $1,500. You’re instructed to deposit the check into your account to “activate” your employment, keep $300 of that money as “advance payment” to cover initial expenses, and wire back the rest.

Problem is, the “job” isn’t real and it’s not associated with any actual stores. You’re dealing with a scammer. That check is a fake. If you deposit it, you’re on the hook to pay the bank back.

Following these tips can help you avoid a mystery shopping scam:

  • Do your research. Most legitimate secret shopper jobs are posted online by reputable marketing research or merchandising companies. A quick internet search can help you verify the company’s reputation, legitimacy, or flag any complaints. Scammers like to use the names of well-known companies like Home Depot or Wal-Mart to gain your trust.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Wiring money is the same as sending cash – once you send it, you can’t get it back.
  • Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know. If the check turns out to be fake, it will eventually bounce. And since you are responsible for any deposited checks to your account, you will owe the bank the money you withdrew.
  • Never give your personal or financial information out online. Guard your personal information, and treat it as if it were cash. Refrain from entering your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers online or by phone to someone who gets in touch with you.

You don’t have to pay to get into the mystery shopper business. We have more advice on finding legitimate mystery shopping jobs. If you suspect a scam, report it to the FTC.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Comments

Dont do it its a scam

I just received the paperwork and a cashier's Check for $2,483.50 supposedly from Fort Worth Community Credit Union about an "Assignment" to buy iTunes cards in the mail yesterday after a few email correspondences with a person that called Himself Brette B. Griffin phone# 904-748-3782 and the contact email changed from wlcovie11@ gmx.com with the headliner of National Shopping Service Networks to barbara.griffin667@ gmail.com the check seemed was a little off so I emailed the Credit Union with pictures of the check and got the response this morning that it is counterfeit, I've contacted USPS and am going to contact the FBI and get all contact info to them. I seriously thought they were legit when they first contacted me, but live and learn and always verify before taking action!! Hope this info helps others avoid being scammed!!

Beware of this mystery shopper company called performa insight 222 West 6th Street Suite 400 San Pedro California 90731 phone number 213-929-8051 email info@ performa insight.com Using the names Carolyn Swafford James Cooper and Carmina Stubblefield

What should I do if I already deposited the check?

I too received a check with similar instructions. I responded to Terry Patrick's email requesting an address to return bogus paper check... crickets.

I too got a Priority 2-Day Mail Letter! Priority Mail was shipped from "NEXTGEN FLIGHT ACADEMY" in Riverside CA 92504. Being a Pilot I didn't think much of it till I opened the envelope.
It contained what appeared like a Cashiers Check, but no Bank address or other info was contained on the check made out to me for $2,850.50 drawn on AMOCO Federal Credit Union. Found that there really is a Amoco FCU located in Texas, but a check sample, routing number, and check number did not match what the banks website said the order had to be along with the checks routing number did not match the banks info! SCAM, SCAM!

Looking at the Instruction sheet also did not contain any company location and only one contact phone number that did not get answered. The instructions wanted only TXT messages! Company claims to be Postedjobs Inc. a Professional Survey and Research Grop. (Yes, that's how its spelled on the paper!). Paper and working are miss-aligned on page, with poor copy quality. They want you to report each step via their website www. walmarthr. biz and texting to a 347-690-???? number. What they asked was to deposit check into my account, go to Wal-Mart and buy five $500 gift cards and keep $300.50 for myself. The remaining $50 will cover gas and other expenses.

I have already reported them to the Post Office General, and the FTC. Will be reporting to some of my states Gov. offices that work with these types of scams. Hope nobody else falls for these scams!.

Beware of Brian Stalder PHD from GfK research. Just contacted by them through LinkedIn from a trusted contact however acting like all of the previous comments on the subject....He does not have a LinkedIn profile...

Notified via Linked In by my customer contact at WM that this was legit deal and well worth it. I signed up at Forum Research and was contacted by a Joe Budden - ‭+1 (347) 927-0598‬. He sent me a cashiers check for 3850.70. Very pushy to get me to withdraw the cash once checked “cleared.” 1st assignment was to wire money via Moneygram and Western Union to a person named Judy Kay Lunsford. Then to WM to wire more money and mystery shop for a couple items. My pay was 350.00 along with 50.00 to spend on items at WM. Thanked my customer on Monday for the lead and customer said Linked In account got hacked and she never sent me that email! GDI! Western Union is on to them and didn’t release the funds so at least I got that going for me.

I got the Walmart mystery shopper job today ...! And a check for $2330.00 ... with instructions from the "task manager" that came via ups overnight mail..... it's very appealing but when u look a closer ... it's quite obvious . Chopped or broken English in instructions . It's a bummer too. How is these people can get away with this stuff ...? And then be impossible to find? It makes no sense.. or no cents .

Just received a cashier's check from Coleman for 1950.00 but already knew it was a scam just wanted to check on here to see where I could report them. But please be careful there's no job on where you have to send two different ppl money.

A few days ago I received a cashier's check for $910.00 from Candidview Research Inc. Told to deposit into my bank and $200 is immediately mine. Purchase a cashier's check for #20 for a Charity. Then proceed to Walmart to purchase 2 Walmart gift cards. I am supposed to evaluating the quality of the customer service, et al. I tore up the cashier's check and laughed because is seriously sound like a scam. If it is too good to be true it usually is. I would not dare deposit any "free money" into my account and "text" anyone a "clear picture of the cashier's check I purchased.

Anyone hear of LinQ Research services. The link came from a linkedin contact. I followed thru, got "accepted", went to ask my LinkedIn contact for more info and now the LinkedIn contact is nameless, the link is now bogus and my messages are going undeliverable thru LinkedIn. I don't get how people can be so greedy and selfish!

I just received an e-mail this morning from Linq Research Group starting a check was in the mail and I needed to deposit it...ect. I followed a link on a LinkedIn message I had received from a family member. I asked her if it was real and she replied yes then the next day she deactivated her account. I was busy with work so I didn’t think anything of it. Until the email today. I warn that Linq is a real company but not this one!

Same thing happened to my husband. Were you sent a check and if so how much was it for? Has to be a scam

I was scammed through a job posted on indeed.com for Linq research services. Same scam... got an email back after applying for this part time job stating “accepted” and to wait further instructions. Got the same email about a check coming and to buy 3 Wal-Mart gift cards. I also took issue with the 7th grade level of professionalism. They sent $70.10 more than the total. When I emailed “Karen Henson” back she said she to keep it for the next assignment. I sent her an email saying that I’ve been instructed to hand over the check to the authorities as this is a scam and if she could provide me with contact information from management...
The check is drafted on Wells Fargo so I’m taking it there. But it has a law firm name on it that is legit. I’m not sure but it just doesn’t feel right. Going with my gut on this one

Received an invite on Linked In to apply for a mystery shopper position. I was approved. Received a check for almost $3k. The return address is for an accounting firm in CA. The check is for a company in MI. I blocked the person on LinkedIn and I'm turning the check and envelope over to the company it shows on the return address. The employee there is concerned about the scammers using the company information.

I received a message from LinkedIn from a person I went to school with inviting me to be a secret shopper. They told me that they had been doing this since July 2017 on a part time basis and wanted to pass it on. I received a link from LinQ and Karen Henson and advised to apply for an opening for a part time mystery shopper. 2 weeks later I received an email advising that I had been selected for the part time job and that I would receive a packet in the mail soon. A few days later I received a priority mail envelope from Pamela Hill from Chicago IL. In the envelope was a check from Joshua Bevington of Lakeville Ohio and from bank CSB The Commercial & Savings Bank for $1860.80 and no instructions. Shortly after I received an email with instructions to deposit the Check immediately and the purchase 3 Walmart and Ebay cards totaling $500 a piece. I am the take the remaining amount and keep it as my pay for the assignment. I am so glad that I found this website. I called the bank that the check is drawn on and they advised that there was not enough money in the account and that they had received a number of calls about this account. So glad I found this website and will be forwarding to Attorney General for mail fraud and a scam

same happend to me. "karen" keeps emailing me to move forward. im trying to figure out a way to cash the check with no risk to me. LinkedIn needs to crack down on this.

i recieved a check of 2780 for walmart secret shopper from a george harris survey coordinator of all star retail express with a fake check asking for 200 dollar itunes and three money orders of 700 each i did buy the gift cards but not the money orders my bank let me know its a fake check so im out 360 but lucky my bank didnt clear the hole amount and this guy is still trying to play innocent saying the checks real and he doesnt know why the bank the check came from and my bank says its fake

I just received an email from the same guy I'm glad I did my research George Harris from All Star retail Express. Be aware people there's a lot of scams going on I'm glad I ran into your comment thanks!

I just received a priority pkg today with a check for $2985 with instructions for Walmart and USPS from the same George Harris! I too am glad I googled the business name and found this site! I used to manage a check cashing store years back and although a lot has changed in the ways things are done in regards to cashing, counterfeiting, etc, the letter itself had red flags all over it and inconsistencies both in instruction and overall grammer which immediately told me it had to be a scam! I have emails and texts from this Harris guy as well as everything I received and will use the link on this site to properly make a report and hand over anything pertaining to it! It's really sad that people have to be shady to make a quick buck and given what I saw today, really hope that ppl receiving these letters and checks pay extreme attention to the letter that comes with the check because if that isn't properly worded or doesn't make sense but they make it appear to be time sensitive as they have, those little flags are dead give aways that it is not how it seems!! Good luck everyone!!

I recieved an usps envelope with a check for an ebay survey. I deposit the check but then aread al this stories an I think is a scam because they are rushing me to buy this gift cards. I am not hoing to touch that money.

Did you stay with the money? Like if you deposited the check what happened to it?

I got a secret shopper job invite from intelligence to take part in a secret shopper evaluation at Walmart. The letter was sent Priority Mail from a Brian Caldwell in Maryland. The letter said to cash the check and send money to 2 different men I Arlington Texas. This is obviously a scam! The letter included a check for $1850. It looks legit until you tri to verify it with the company. No such email address can be found.

I received a check for 1,897.00. The name on the account was Dillon Aero,Inc. This was sent to me priority mail and the return address was from Brian Caldwell. Instructions for my secret shopper task was sent with the check. I imagine this is the same scammer as you encountered. When I sent a message to them in return to all the text messages they had sent me, I told them this was not a accredited business and I did not hear anything else from them.

Got my letter today and was shocked with the directions and the amount of money in it. So scary that they are able to hack into my ex co-workers linked in account...have a full out conversation with me and convince me to sign up. Then it's all a scam. Who can you report this to? I want them to be caught.

Yesterday I received a text that said I had offered to help with a survey and I would receive a package soon. I didn't know what it was about so I deleted it. Then today I received a priority email with a check for $1,367 and instructions to deposit the check and complete my first "secret service evaluation." I was to buy Ebay gift cards in any denomination from $50 to $200 up to a thousand dollars worth and scrape off the silver bar, then take the pictures and send them to an email address they gave. All this had to be done TODAY or TOMORROW. The whole thing sounded fishy, especially since the original text was obviously written by someone with English as a second language. Tomorrow I'll take this to the post office because I think this scam needs to be reported.

I received a priority mail today with a check drawn on a AMOCO Federal Credit Union in the amount of $2,420 telling me to cash it at my bank and if the bank wouldn't cash it deposit it so that it would post over night and keep $420 up front and purchase $2,000 in $500 wal mart gift cards scratching off the codes and emailing or texting those photo answer some other questions about the store. This would be my 1st job for mystery shopper and depending on my speed and performance would determine how quickly I got more "jobs". The bank is legit but I seriously doubt that is the only thing in this scam. There were inaccurate writing skills: capitalization, punctuation and spelling in the directions. I was to text them once I received my package but it was after bank hours. Be leery if you receive one of these packages. This is the second one for me. The 1st MONEY GRAM WRITEN ON THE BANK i BANK WITH AND THEY COULD SPOT IT BEING FAKE AT ONCE! What a shame the people take advantage if people obviously in need of money or why were they willing o preform @nd jobs on the hopes of making some extra money. I'll keep you updated once the bank checks it out! Pun intendended

Was it fake

I'm glad I saw this post. I got she experienced. I got a mail as well just today with a check on it as a Walmart secret shopper. Asking me to deposit to a bank and everything. Geeeeez. What a scam. I wonder if I could just send this mail back to the sender ? Or probably throw it in a garbage. Scam scam

I received 2 of these today. One had a money order for 985.00 and the 2nd had a cashiers check for $2350. The money order was blank and the cashiers check was made out to me. I am to cash or deposit the check and keep 300 then buy gift cards. They want pictures of the pin codes and front and back of the cards (I suppose so they can use them online). One came from this P&O Professional Survey and Research Group. The 2nd was from Route Brokers Inc. I'm glad for boards like this to help us all stay safe. This scam is obviously alive and well. I'll report it to the agencies already listed here.

I got an email from a George Harris saying i was hired as a mystery shopper. The whole thing is a scam and the checks he sends you in the mail is a fake. Dont fall pray to this scammer!

Hi I receive a check in the mail for 2,985 aug 6th,2018 from a guy name George Harris I was instructed to go to Walmart and purchase 250.00 dollars of iTunes cards and go to the post office and buy (3) 750.00 money orders and my pay is 300 deduct out of my check once it’s deposit and cleared well I deposit the funds in my bank acct I hope I can stop that check by tomorrow I tought it was real since my bank teller didn’t say anything about it being fake or not but I want touch the funds unless I know everything is ok

I received the same letter and check from George Harris the other day. I took the check to the bank it was drawn on and they let me know then that it was fake. I then attempted to contact George Harris at the number that was given but could not get through to anyone. He text me and I told him I would need to speak with her. So he called me and told him I was u able to deposit the check. That's when he started getting loud with me and when confronted about it he hung up the phone. Now I keep getting text messages from him.

I was contacted by text message telling me that I was hired to be a mystery shopper. In a priority mail envelope sent to me, there was a check for $2, 997.43 from Fort Knox Federal Credit Union a letter - with the letter head smushed (as in printing error) and an assessment form - but nothing to send my form back in (no address, contact information, etc. I am to purchase Apple Store gift cards $1600.00, $1000.00 and Itunes of $90.00 - salary of $300.00 and left over of $97.43. I am then to text to 505-636-8194 to get further instructions. I am supposed to use the same gift cards to shop in the same store for my second task.

What did you do. I received the same thing today

Hubby received a ck in the mail from Brian caldwell for $1897.00 to be a secret shopper at Walmart. .he is to get $250. for doing this, he then needs to wire the rest back to two men in Arizona. Im calling the company whose name is on the check- it belongs to DILLON AERO. from Scottsdale AZ.

Got text from ph # 6615334665 to work as a secret shopper they sent MO even tracking number from USPS # 4204890655529470112699350008277802 sent me $950 asked to buy Itune cards deposited in bank money order was fake now i have to pay this money to the bank

Got a check from Karen Henson today, after receiving the same Linkedin message from a trusted source. I contacted the source and he said that he did not send the message. I’ve been ignoring the texts I’ve been getting and then got the check in the mail today. The check says it’s from Oculus Global Inc, drawn on TD Bank in the amount of $1850.55. It came from Karen Henson 6701 N Seeley Ave, Chicago, IL. No instructions, just a very real looking check.

Well, they got me. I was contacted through LinkedIn from a former classmate with this link for part time work. Said he had been doing it since April 2017 and made pretty good money every month on the side and it’s flexible. Me looking for part time work, I clicked the link saw the site which looked real and signed up. Maybe a week later I got contacted about the job saying I had been approved to start. Got some detailed info of what i would be doing and if i confirm they’ll go ahead and send me my first assignment. Early last week i got instructions about my first assignment which were to put about $500 on 3 specific gift cards. Walmart card, vanilla visa, google play. She told me she would be sending me a check for $1850, and $1,350 would be for the gift cards .... my commission would be $385. Her name is KAREN HENSON by the way and the company is called Hill Consultancy. She had me confirm with her that i would accept the assignment first before sending the check and stated that the amount was so large for the gift cards because i would be using those for future assignments. I confirmed before i went out of town. Got an email while I was gone that the check had been sent and to please confirm when it’s deposited. I returned home Monday , my bank was already closed internally so i took the check to the atm deposit. I looked at who the check was through which was TD Bank i had never heard of it before, but i googled it and it’s a real bank so i went ahead and deposited. Long story short 3 days later after completing my assignment and scanning over my customer reports and card screenshots. I get a notification from my bank that I’m overdrafted $1,300... 3 days later The check is asking to be returned , right after I bought the last gift card and send in my forms. All $1850. Of course now Karen is no where to be found even though i had just received an email from her that morning. Talked to my bank whom prompted me to call TD bank which is who the check was through, who then notified me the check was fraud and to call my bank back and file a claim, so i did. Very nervous about the claim because I did buy the gift cards and I’m not sure how this will play out. The most they left on the gift cards were $0.69. So now I’m possibly in the hole for over 1k, and anything deposited in my account will be eaten. I trusted a linked in source and shouldn’t have. Deposited a check in a rush and shouldn’t have. Thought i knew enough about secret shopping from working in retail previously and it all sounded so legit. All the instructions and communication. But i was wrong. They worked hard for this scam, she promptly responded to all my questions during business hours, did check ins. This was almost a month in the making. So yes, please beware because they are definitely out here getting people.

I received an email saying that I was chosen to be a secret shopper and I replied cool. Then I got a fed ex priority mail delivered with a check for $2893.93 and they immediately started texting me to follow the instructions for my first task, which was, buy various types of gift cards scratch off the number take a picture of it and send it to them immediately. Needless to say I could tell it was a scam and called their bluff and told them that it was a scam and that the fraud protection is tracing the ip addresses and would contact them directly to strengthen it out. Never heard from them again. Lol

I also recieved the same...a postal
money order for$985 with instructions to purchase gift cards from Blake Taylor from "Route Brokers Inc in Great Neck, NY. This is a scam.

Route Brokers strikes again! Same song second verse. Money Order for $985. Keep mine and buy I Tunes cards, take pics of them and scratch off. yada, yada...

I fell for one of these scams and I deposited a check for $2789. I withdrew $2100 to send to the company. When the check bounced I was unable to repay the $2100 and am now redlined by Chex systems from the entire banking system.

Secret shopper opportunity Just received $1000 money order told to cash keep $200 buy $800 in Amazon gift cards scratch off pin take a picture send to them along with evaluations of shopping experience and wait for next assignment ??

I received the same package in the mail blank postal money order for $1000. I keep $200 and purchase $800 in Amazon gift cards. I am not sure what to think of this.

I Received several email regarding which always went to spam, MICHAEL BARBAN. I JUST WROTE ON THE CHECK SPAM,SENT A SCREEN SHOT AND BLOCK THE NUMBER. I received a check for $2985.00 for shop a APPLE STORE to purchase to gift cards $1300.00 and $1350.00 keep $335.00 for my salary. I was to deposit it in my account, purchase and a third party person was to pick up the merchandise . NO THANK YOU

Every single time I use a job search engine, I am inundated with scam emails, phone calls & texts. I usually play along with the scam as far as possible without giving any personal information, so that I can learn where the scam actually gets the payout. I used to really let em have it in the end but now I just say “shame on you”. I just received a $1565.45 check in the mail from Florida credit union sent to me by Sinclair CM with full instructions on how to Carry out my tasks as a secret shopper. The details of this particular scam include stores like Verizon AT&T and Sprint. This is a new one for me, involving bitcoin and a bitcoin ATM. I’m still doing my research which is where I came across this site. I bookmarked it because it is the best information I’ve come across so far regarding scammers. I have been telling this scammer that I do not have a bank account and that I am going to try to open an account at another bank tomorrow because I was declined at a major bank right before closing. I actually work at night and sleep during the day so I do have to stall these scammers while still trying to do as much research as I can. I plan to tell them that I was finally able to cash the check at a check cashing store and then see where we go from there. I cannot even wait. I suspect. I will not hear from them again. My heart is happy at the whole idea of stringing them along for no reward.

I recieved a message on my LinkedIn account from M & S Marketing Inc saying they would like to hire me as a secret shopper so I gave them my email and phone number and about a week later I got a letter from M&S Marketing with a check for $2954.00 saying to buy 2 Apple gift cards, 1 Itunes card and the remainder of 300 dollars would be my fee. I took the check to my bank earlier this week and deposited it and today I checked to see if it cleared and my bank canceled the transaction and charged me 25 dollars which was a very inexpensive lesson.

I received the same task with constant pressure to do it the same day. The “assignment” was not printed on any letterhead and had many typos and presentation errors on it.

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