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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

Now operating under the name Dennis Walters. I will report him to the State's Attorney. 1/19/15

I received the check from Bobbie MCChristy head of recruitment at MS Consultant.
I tried to call the number at the bottom of the letter and of course nobody answered.
I also looked up the bank and it is a CU in Florida. I then found this web site and read everything. I have not cashed the check and still have all of the information. What should I do now? Any suggestions? I guess I am glad they had to pay for USPS fees. If anybody has any info on where I should send this please let me know. I would like to follow through with getting them caught!

Hi my name is Sue and I think I might have received a fake check for about $2,250.00 I believe it's fake how can I check to verify if it's real? I'm really confused because it's my first time they are asking me to keep $300.00 and to do a money grant to the Philippines.

I got same one with email address. jonathan.daniels1950@gmail
I wrote back SCAM

I think this one is funny. My roommate received an email to do the "shop." Upon very close examination the routing number and account number was his cousins business who lived in another state. The scammed was caught and felt very dumb when he found out how he was caught.

Well I received a priority mail package in the mail this morning from a Margaret Yerkey from Mesa, Az with a money order worth $967.89 and a document stating to western union Tim Dykes in Baltimore. At first I thought it was real. Then my wiseness kicked in and I went into private investigation mode, as it seemed too good to be true. So I looked on the USPS website to verify the money order and everything seemed legit, until I read some of y'all reviews and I came across a number to call to verify money orders. Well, the money order didn't match any records. Thank goodness I'm not money hungry because I wouldve ended up in a unnecessary bind. These scammers need to be stopped.

I just received this in the mail. Just for kicks went to local post office and reported this person to the FBI. FRAUD FRAUD. Never take jobs where you have to send money to make money. EVER! If you do, then you were really just not thinking. Sorry for those who got scammed. Rodney Lawson in state of Maryland. Looked this person up on FB. Yeah looks like a real winner. Going to pay him a visit shortly! He'll never see it coming.

I got a check yesterday from Terri Williams, bobby McChristy was the recruiter. I knew it was a scam because I never asked to be a shopper, and the urgency of the job. It was $1,994.00. No way would I be making any deposits, sending any money to anybody. Beware people!

I recently got one of these email scams for a mystery shopper job. The first clue that is was a scam was there was no company name in the email. The second clue was they wanted me to send them money, after receiving a check in the mail. Legit business owners do not ask you to send them money. They hire you, and when you finish the job for them, they send you money.I don't know of anybody who will pay you for your work before you actually do the work. They would go out of business that way.

Wow! We are not the only seniors who get scammed. My wife agreed online to be a mystery shopper by no more than checking a yes box a while ago. yesterday she received this very real looking priority parcel in mail box from Steve William, Gold Firm, Inc.,395 Ocean Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11226 with a $2,760.00 check drawn on Bank of the West, signed by Roland "somebody" and instructions to cash or deposit it and asap go to 2 nearby Walmarts - at each to purchase $30 of items - buy a $1,200.00 moneygram for person - Akelisha Latrice Bowman, Albany, CA 94706 and at #2 a $1,200 for person Howard Clifton Hamblet, Pomona, CA 91768. Make a secret evaluation report on the services for moneygrams at the Walmarts and to keep $200.00 for herself after fees and all. Well it had a phone number to text (347)841-0225) and 2 email addresses. We texted and got 0 but emailed evaluationreport7@gmail.com and shopperupdate3@gmail.com and got a response urging her to continue with the assignments. Husband suspected scam immediately and stopped it all from happening. Now our question is will we get in trouble from USPS to send that worthless check through the mail back to NY? Husband would prefer to shred it. I made a USPS report too. Thanks everyone for posting - we didn't get hurt, just wasted sa lot of time and energy on this.

Good for you! You did your research, and didn’t agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know. That’s our advice, exactly,  to avoid a fake check scam. Your story sounds just like scams we describe in the Fake Checks Scam article. Check with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service or your state or local consumer protection agencies for more information. Visit www.naag.org for a list of state Attorneys General.

I just received scam letter with cashier check for 2,760.00 from NY? Sounds like several others got this. The. Scary thing is I called and bank is ligit as well as account being opened. The name on check as remitter of account was not same as email information. Wanted me to cash check.keep $200 and use Wal-Mart money store to send to different addresses in CA. Such a shame to pray on people who are honestly trying to earn a living. But I never applied for this "position".first red flag. And they didn't even want to check my history? I'm a Security Officer. Thanks for all the warning letters. Heres my input.

Lloyd Rowland? Yeah, I just received a txt msg from this guy. Said I was to expect a package via usps... even provided a tracking number. What's interesting is that there is a delay on shipment. Guess USPS is getting smart to the scam artist(s)?

Wow... I don't remember how I signed up for this, but I believe it was through Walgreens? So, when the text message stated, "Walmart/Walgreens Secret Customer Shopper," I thought it legitimate. I will wait for the package to see if there is fraud involved; then report it accordingly.

Thanks for this website.

Same guy sent Lloyd Rowland sent a check for 3250 asking to deposit check...scam alert right there.. shredded and disposed of it...

Got an email about being a secret shopper...just received a check for 1650.00 suppose to cash it keep 200.00 and send the remaining via western union to Rocherl Lewis in Sugarland Texas. Think I'll just mail the whole check to her.

I received a letter/check in the mail from someone. I called the dude and told him that I wasn't stupid and that I had a real job. I told him not to be trying to pull one over on me. He was from a foreign country I could tell by his accent. I pretty much told him like it was. I told him to go out and look for a real job. He didn't say anything except yes ma'am haha!!! I knew it was fake when I opened the letter it still outraged me though.

Got check for 1650 and I am to keep 200 and send 1420 to Cheryl Segal at 1131 Cardinal Ave Sugar Land Texas 77478. Bank is Berkeley Community Federal Credit Union and remitter is Dennis Keller. SCAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looks like Dennis has changed his name again. Update as of 25 March 2015

A John Miller with Secret Shopper is currently sending out checks to potentials shoppers. He is fake, the company is fake. His emails were unprofessional, misspelled words, cashiers check sent was fake, asked money to be wired to next shopper, etc. I knew all along and was just checking it out. Did research online and it confirmed everything I suspected after I got the packet to start the job. Sooo glad I did not fall for it. I would be out nearly $3,000!! Beware.

I got an email from a contact on Linked In today about Mystery Shopper Opportunities. It asked for my name, address, age, telephone number, occupation and email. I gave the info, they emailed back saying I would be receiving money and my first assignment. I figured it out, still worried I gave them that info though. If I get a check I will be reporting this. I know better--please everyone beware!!!!

I also previously performed mystery shopper assignments that were ligit. I responded to this current ad and after checking the Internet determined it is a fraud. I called the FBI who took a report but suggested that i also contact the US Postal Inspectors office, which i did. I talked to a lady in Chicago who esentially told me there are lots of scams going on. She didn't sound very receptive to taking any info and said to send the information I had to them , if i wanted to. I sked to speak to an investigator but she declined to transfer me. I asked for her employee number but she refused. I then called the local US Post Office and talked to the postmaster. He asked what would this have to do with the post office and I explained that the use of the mail to perpetrate fraud is a crime. I asked for his spervisor and he refused. I asked his last name - he refused. I DON'T THINK ANYONE IN GOERNMENT IS INTERESTED IN CATCHING THESE PEOPLE- NO WONDER THESE SCAMS KEEP FLOWING RIGHT ALONG.

rec'd my "check" and assignment in the mail today. have sent back to return address. No one really states what to do with this stuff once it has been rec'd. What do people suggest? thanks

I got one today as well...certainly looked real, didn't it? I wondered what to do with it as well...

I received a message via LinkedIn from someone I trust, saying they are doing mystery shopping, and they earn an extra $2000 per month. I thought, "why not give it a try", and see what its all about. I gave him my address and phone # and age; got a response and got the packet in the mail. I had an uneasy feeling when it was $2800, and he told me to keep $400 of it for payment. The letter did not look official at all - no letterhead, no company name, etc. So I looked it up online and figured it out really fast that its a scam. I have since shredded the check and the letter and told the guy I wasn't going to take part in this. I'm going to ignore any additional emails I get, but I am worried that they have my personal information. Thanks for all the posts. I thought I would do my service to others by letting them know this came at me a little differently than the above - by LinkedIn, and through someone I know and trust - so it makes me wonder if her account got hacked.

So I got the letter and check yesterday. I also was contacted via a Linked In contact that I trust, very definitely her contacts in Linked In were hacked. I wasn't the only contact, all her contacts got the email from these scammers. I am filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission. The man, Robert Collier keeps texting and emailing me to hurry and "finish this assignment, that he will be sending me work twice a week." My check was for $1976.00. BEWARE!!!!

I received my check for $2400 today with instructions on my two shops. The second is to wire the rest of the money after I keep my $300 plus $50 for expenses. I decided to do research and found this site. Thank You so much for posting your experiences. Now I know for sure this is a total scam. And I'm going to turn all this over so that maybe the authorities can use it somehow. The name mine came from was Geoff Howe. Stay alert peoples!!

Did you find anything out about the check is this really a scam and how come no one's actually trying to cash these checks instead of depositing them

I received a check for $2870.00 and read the info. Then got on Google an type the name, And got the info
on P & 0 Professional Survey and Research Group. Found out there were reports on this turned out be
not legitimate. I've done SASE and it ready to be sent back by regular mail.Today!

I was just sent a check for $3990.00 to be a secret shopper I contacted the company. They said to deposit the check, then when it cleared to call them. I did, when it cleared I called them they gave me instructions to withdraw all but $500.00 and to wire the money to 4 different people. I did this. The next day I found out that the check was from a spam artist & I was responsible for the whole amount. My accounts are frozen and I can't get my social security check forwarded to another account till June that means I will lose my appt and my utilities will be turned off.

Report the scam to your State Attorney General's Office and the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Ask the Attorney General's office if there's an agency in your state to help you pay rent and utilities if there's an emergency. Call your utility company and explain what happened, and ask about getting a payment program.

You can contact a legal aid lawyer to ask about help keeping your apartment.

I just got one yesterday from him and another one for 2000 I called he asked me did I get it and read the instructions.I told him I didn't get to read it a complete silence .

thanks just got a check for 2760 from mystery shopper co. good thing I did a little research.. don't think I would've sent any money to any one anyway .but I can see how a lot of desperate folks are looking for free money and end up getting screwed.

people please be careful. i recieved a check from paul albert for the amont of 2,450 dollars in my name but the person who signed the check is Jaime l Forke. i was bout ready to go cash the check when i had talked to my best friend and she told me to go talk to a cop. but the letter was tellin me to keep 400 for my self and then send half of it thru money gram and the other half thru western union. i had talked to a cop and he told me to not cash it .. he said if i did cash it the bank could come back after me for it. they wanted me to send it to chicago illinois. i am happy i did my research before i did anything. and i think my best friend.. who do i give this check to?

This is useful information for a complaint. Please go to ftc.gov/complaint to report this. If you got the check through postal mail, submit a Mail Fraud Complaint Form to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You also can alert your state Attorney General.

All I did was ask for some information on mystery shopping and I got a priority mail letter welcoming me as a mystery shopper once again. That was my first red flag because I have never worked as a mystery shopper but I let that go thinking it could be a typo. Included was a check for $2,300. He wanted me to cash the check or deposit it and then spend $50 at Walmart evaluating them, and wire $1,950 to Laketra Maki evaluating the money gram store. There was supposed to be $200 for my salary and and $100 for money gram charges and transport. If I ever get a check I am not sure about, the first thing I do is call the number on the check. Well this check did not even have a phone number, just Fulton Bank and the address. The best thing to do then is to cash the check where it was drawn, then it has nothing to do with your account. Well, if it's drawn on some bank you have never heard of and can't cash it at, then it's probably fake. These people have gotten really good; I used to do payroll and this looks just like the checks I used to print, so please be careful!!! This letter is from a David Wilson and I will be filing a complaint. Needless to say, I have not cashed the check.

I have recently gone through this scam, I wish I could have read your postings before I completed two transactions. I contacted my bank and they are on high alert. Apex Research LLC, in New York City is a scam, I have informed me them that I went to FTC, FBI, and IRS to file a complaint. No one has gotten back to me. NO surprise! I hate I fell for this. I feel like a fool. SMH...

Donald Roy is his name now. Going to send his #Offer to the FTC and let them take him up on it. If you click on the email, it shows one email address. If you hit reply, it shows the email as if it came from the 'real'sender.

CITIZENS BEWARE: As a teacher, I do what I can to make extra money during the summer months. Good thing I know to do my homework and how to do research before I fell prey to the same scam. In an attempt to become a mystery shopper, I responded to an email offer forwarded to me by a trusted friend. Today I received a letter via priority mail from an Alexander Hemming with Sandslogistics (funny he had a gmail address for a supposed corporate email). Company was snslogisticsusa.com The letter asked me to cash the enclosed check of $2853.00 , keep $200 for myself, and use the rest to wire money, evaluating Walmart's Moneygram services. ITS ALL A SCAM!!!!!! check was a teller's check from a MidWestOne Bank in Iowa, Issued by Moneygram in Minnesota, remitted by Michelle Jess, and signed by someone completely different. FRAUD, FRAUD, FRAUD. Now to keep a close eye on all my accounts and my SS# and taxes. CONSUMERS BEWARE!!!!!!! If It's Too Good To Be True - It Is.

These are useful details for a complaint. You can file a consumer complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. You can also report to your state Attorney General.

Shannon June 9th, 2015 Received a letter via USPS about being a mystery shopper along with two USPS money orders for $975 a piece. Many typos, instructed to deposit in my bank and then use money gram at Walmart to send $800 to Michelle Drake in CA and Marc Jerome Pullings also in CA. Letter was from Steve William out of New York. Letterhead starter P&O professional survey and research group partnering company. I googled the company and found this site immediately. I called the 800 number for the USPS money orders and they were fake. Glad I followed my instincts and was wary! So sorry for all of you who were scammed, my heart goes out to you! Tell all your friends to beware!!

Please file a complaint. Blog comments don't go into the database that law enforcement uses to investigate scams.

You can file a consumer complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. You can also report to your state Attorney General.

I too, received an e-mail to become a mystery shopper from a Danielle Roberts from P & O Professional Survey and Research Group, located out of Alabama. I was sent a set of instructions that I would receive a check and then I was supposed to deposit it in my bank account and then send some money to 3 different addresses via Money Gram. I was also supposed to send a check payable to this Danielle person. Which sent up red flags. I responded and said I wasn't interested. I then got a couple of texts saying that it wasn't fair that I signed up for this job, and was sent money, then backed out of it... I'm checking with my bank today to see if the check sent was real - I highly doubt it though. I'm really ticked to see these people get away with this.

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

Blog comments don't go into the database.

I've reported on www .ftccomplaintassistant. gov What else can I do? I've checked the other website and couldn't find the route to do file the complaint. I've just received the mail and I have the check and the letter.

So when you checked with your bank, which I plan to do in the morning... did you find that the check was not legit?

1-15-17. I got a scam from Darren Thompson. P&O Professional Survey and Research group. This is still active!

I remember reading along time ago about this scam. Well here it is, haven't revved the check yet and won't cash!!! Will turn in to ffc!

Dear Karen R. Lucas, Information reaching us from FEDEX Courier Service confirmed the delivery of your first assignment today. The package entails a check of $2930. You are required to deposit/cash the check at your bank. Do note that we deal with banks ONLY, Reason is that we make monthly reports of our transactions and financial activities to the government through the bank, so the records are required.

STEPS TO FOLLOW You must memorize key points e.g. staff name, location of toilets etc. Do not use leading questions e.g. “do you sell large drinks?”. This will restrict the level of service the staff are able to provide. Relax, act normally, and do not draw attention to yourself. FIRST ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTION BELOW You will be evaluating a Money gram store and a Western Union outlet in your city. The payment you received covers all expenditures including evaluation, shopping, transport and your compensation (salary = $300.00) for these surveys. The balance of the money will be used to conduct a survey in a Money Gram store and a Western union store respectively. As a Secret Shopper you should go there and study how to send money and memorize all you see at the outlet. Below is the name/info you will transfer the money to. Wire $1200.00 via any Western Union money transfer outlet and another $1200 via Money Gram money transfer outlet.

INFORMATION FOR WESTERN UNION AND MONEY GRAM Name: GLENDA PASCUAL Address: 6315 HOLBORNE IN City: HONOLULU, GA State: HAWAII Zip Code: 96801

Amount: $1200.00•...........MONEY GRAM Amount: $1200.00 ..........WESTERNUNION *You don't need an address to send a western union or Money gram transfer, you have all that is required* BELOW IS THE EXPENDITURES BREAKDOWN:- BELOW IS THE EXPENDITURES BREAKDOWN:- Money Received • $2930• Salary • $300.00• Money gram Wire• $1200.00• Money gram transfer fees. $100• Western Transfer Fees• $130.00• Western Union Wire•. $1200.00• Best Regards, John Brown

These are useful details for a complaint. Please report this to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Blog comments don't go into the database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

In about 2 weeks time I have received 3 checks and 1 money order for these illegal mystery shopper things. Where and who can I turn these over to for investigation and hopefully arrests and shutdown. Thanks in advance!!

Please file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov complaint. The details you provide will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

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 and the Attorney General in the state where the business or person is based.

I have a nephew that received the same money orders with the same instructions many of you have. But the only difference is he completed the transactions that he was instructed to do. However, by the time he found out that it was all a scam, HE, not the person who initiated tge transactions, was arrested, charged and convicted of Fraud. He now has a criminal record, (keep in mind he has never had so much as a traffic ticket prior to this incident), he can't find a decent job, can't provide for his family, and has completely given up on himself. This kid was a Straight-A student, and a member of the National Honor Society. Yet has life has been ruined, because of one us am that he had nothing to do with.

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