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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


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 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 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 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 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 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 The details you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Blog comments don't go into the database.

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.


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

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 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.

I received a check by mail for $2,850.00 from Skyport Systems Inc . to be a secret shopper I was to deposit the check in my bank account send $1220 Wal-Mart Money Gram to Marc Jerome Pullings in Albany CA,94706 and another money gram IN THE AMOUNT OF $1250 to Michelle Drake in Albany CA,94706 then I was to email my evaluation to then I would be contacted by text message number(626)478-0462 needless to say I did it now its costing me and my kids to be without a place to live and me owing the bank $2,850.00 .

Please file a complaint with the FTC at 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 got a mystery shopper email a few days ago and i provided my information. I received the check and a Money Gram transfer assignment on what to do with the check.
Direction:You are to DESPOSIT the Cashier’s Check at your bank to withdraw funds instantly or the next morning. When depositing at your bank, these are things you should write down:
• Bank name and Address
• How long it took to receive service
• Customer
• Professionalism
• Amount available after deposit
After successful completion on the first survey, deduct your $300 commission from the funds. You are then to proceed with your second customer service evaluation and this can be conducted from any CVS and wal-mart.
“MONEYGRAM TRANSFER ASSISGNMENT: You are to evaluate two different Wal-mart or cvs locations by sending funds in the location to your corresponding evaluating agents on the receiving end by using money in minutes/transfer service. The balance with after deducting your salary($300) is $1990. You will be going to Walmart or cvs. The funds will divided into 2 parts giving you $995 each. One part. ($995) will be taken to the first Walmart location to carry out your evaluation. The other part ($995) will be taken to the second CVS store to carry out your evaluation.
Below is the information for your evaluating for the first Walmart location ($995) on the reciving end.
Full Name: David Lee Address: 1531 S Grove Ave, Barrington, Illinois 60010 Below is the information for your evaluating agent for the Second CVS store ($995)on the receiving end. Full Name: Larry Martins Address: 1685 Lake Elanor Dr, Deerfield, Illinois 60015
Please take note that the Moneygram transfer fees will be deducted from each of the funds ($995) to be used for evaluation.
Note: Your identity should be kept confidential, as the job states (Secret Shopper). You should not let the bank cashier or Walmart and cvs agents know you are performing a customer service evaluation as the may not give an accurate.”
It goes on to tell me they need the conformation from Moneygram.
The people who sent it to me was from New York, the Bank is in Arizona, The people who I was supposed to send the money to are in Illinois, But the company (Freelance Market Research Analyst) is in Tennessee
They are consist texting is the funds was deposit and o let them know when I deposit it. And telling I am going to Jail and they are going to call the police on me.

If someone you don't know asks you to deposit a check and wire money back, don't do it. Once you send the money, it's gone, and you can't get it back.  If the check turns out to be a fraud, you will have to repay the bank the money you withdrew. This article tells more about fake check scams.

It can be hard to tell if a check is a forgery. Under federal law, a bank generally must make funds available to you within a certain time. But just because funds are available doesn’t mean the check is good.  It can take weeks for a bank to untangle what's behind a forged check. If a bank gives you money and then finds out a check is a fraud, you're responsible to repay the money you withdrew.

You can forward the email to the FTC at We'll enter it into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I received an email from someone claiming to be from a mystery shopping company after I sent them my information. I knew it was a scam when they said they would mail materials to me along with funds. Beware of someone named Danielle Dufayet with an email address of daniellertc19. Below is the email:
Dear Shopper,
I received your information in good time and will like to congratulate you as a member of our working team. As a mystery shopper you are responsible for gather information, giving ideas, and improving brand standards of products and services. You have been selected to conduct an all expenses paid survey and evaluation in your area. As our mystery shopper posing as a normal customer, you are expected to perform specific tasks such as purchasing a product or using a service. While there, you will secretly evaluate things like customer service, store cleanliness and quality of service rendered. You would have to keep a comprehensive report on every activity you carry out. Some of the simple questions in your shopper's report will be:
• Were the employees friendly and courteous?
• Did you receive prompt service?
• Was the merchandise displayed neatly?
• Would you return to this store / restaurant?
• Was it easy to use the service?
That’s all there is to it! The answers to these kinds of questions are extremely valuable to any business - and they are willing to pay top dollar to find out what consumers really think. You will be providing important information that will be used to improve the quality of businesses everywhere. Where will I be mystery shopping?
The companies we deal with mostly represent large chain stores and popular franchises with hundreds and thousands of locations across the United States.
They are stores, services and restaurants like:
No commitment, membership fee, special skills are not required for this assignment. Your survey packet which includes funds for the shopping will be mailed to you. Confirm in writing your readiness to complete your first assignment and let your opinion count. SECRET SHOP INC ®

Please forward the email to the FTC at We'll enter it into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I just received the email looking for shoppers it looked legit at first so I submitted my info. I received an email a week later from a different person advising I would be receiving a check via fedex to use for my first job using western union to send money. The grammer was poor and so was the spelling. It advised I should notify them when I deposited the check and it should be done within 24 hours. The check was from a bank in Iowa and the fedex came from Texas All three emails were from different names. I emailed back that I would not be depositing the check and I would contact the local police. The local police said the best thing to do is to comment on a forum regarding this scam so here I am.

I received a heck today for $4,842.65 for Mystery Shopper gig. I called the bank and it's a real bank, the address on the check is legit but the assignment coordinator's phone number is not toll free. The check looks and feels completely real. I am in the middle of packing up important belongings for me, my husband and my two kids because we have been evicted and have to be out by tomorrow with no place to go. When my husband saw this check, he started crying hysterically and praising Jesus for a blessing.. I quickly grabbed the check and started to investigate. The instructions say for me to call my coordinator Stanley Payton to "activate" check? Then take $450 -probationary training, $100 -funds needed for shopping,$4,052.65 forteansaction at money gram, $240 for service charge money gram. With desperation, part of my wants to deposit this check so my family will have a roof over our heads now and deal with the consequences later. But the other part of me says DONT YOU DARE!!!! Advise, legally how much trouble would I get into?

 Keep in mind that until the bank confirms that the funds from the check have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check.Beware of Fake Checks Scam. Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to you within certain time. However, just because funds are available doesn’t mean the check is good. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered and untangled.

Received priority mail with letter and suntrust check asking me to wire all but 250 to a random "secret shopper" and return reports for my bank & the western union - which would have made sense if earlier in the letter it asked for reports on 3 agencies (not 2. Unsolicited scam, and it went to my fiancé s house under my name, not to my actual address. Big scam, bet it's targeting disabled vets/hud housing addresses. Which is even worse. Don't fall prey, this stupid scam is obviously alive and well still.

Paul Turney check $2755.00 Secret Shopper scam I fell victim to his online Craigslist scam. posting daily posts for house keeping and nanny positions.I fell victim have been arrested and is awaiting court. they refused me a court appointed lawyer. And I can not afford a personal lawyer.

I just got one of these letters also from Microsoft secret secret shopper on a check for 2750 I think I don't know what to do with the check just send it back throw it away I don't know what to do with it anybody got any advice

You can report this to the FTC at The information you provide will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

If you have emails from the scammers, forward them to the FTC at

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.


I received a check today ($1539)and the same mystery shopper letter. Already reported it to the FTC. This needs to be stopped.

just got one with the names Chris Babbit, Jonathan Daniels, and including the money gram scam for $2,875. reason I caught it was, they said $300 was mine, but to send 2500 to one place and the rest to another. Serious, if youre gonna try to scam, get your math right.

Same scam about Mystery Shopping and wiring money. Scammer guy's name is "JACK MULLER" Also mailed me a check which I tore up and trashed.

I received a check today for $2853.00 from Alexander Hemming along with a printed off letter with confidential across the front telling me to deposit in my bank account and keep 200.00 and send the rest to two other shoppers. If done in 24 hours they'll send me another 100.00...duh, who in there right mind would send out a cashier check for over $2800 to a stranger in hopes they would be stupid enough to put it in the bank and then send most of it back. Yeah bad check, thanks for this site, I knew something just wasn't right. For all you asking I would tear it up, and mark the email as spam. LOL

I received a cashiers check for 1,360.00 in the mail yesterday. I had no idea what it was and saw the note inside: This is your first shopper assignment immediately you receive this proceed to your bank to get it cashed or deposit it in your acct for at lease 24-48 hrs via ATM or your bank for clearance. Once you do that send an email to rwgood51 or send a text to 781-691-3588.

It has scam written all over it because of spelling and grammar errors and no mention of a company name anywhere. I did a google search and found this page so it looks like this is common.

I emailed the guy to ask what company he works for and to give me more info. He said it was for Walmart and he worked for Zeb Shopper Inc. I'm sure this is some company he made up as nothing about it online at all. He wasn't very forthcoming to supply me much info except to tell me it will be fun.

Hopefully this guy and others doing the same get stopped. These people need to find a real job and get off their lazy behinds. Earn money like everyone else.


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