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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

I have received the same emails as everyone else. I had done some research on this so called mystery shopping. Recieved the check today for $2955.00 sent them an email telling them they are a bunch of losers and need to get a real life instead of stealing people's money. Ripped the check.

I also am grateful I saw this after receiving a check in the mail sent to me Priority for $1,595 but written out as $1,995...that was a flag plus I didn't expect any money coming to me so I wanted to know first where it was coming from.
That's how I found this site because I have been contacted by Michael Givens who claimed this was an assignment for Target & that instructions would follow.
The only information I had received was vague & not what I'd consider professional...
Thank you for putting this post up!
Lana

Mysteryshopper @ walmart. com is the email address it shows as Walmart in the address location.

Congratulations, We are accepting applications from qualified individuals from all-over the world to become Secret-Shopper. There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials from us. Should you interested, your wages would be $250 per assignment. No commitment is made on this job and you would have flexible hours. At least 2 evaluations a week will be assigned to you because this is a part time job and we think this job suits you. We will provide you the money for all of your evaluations.

Money order/Payment check would be in a certain amount which you would be required to Cash at your Bank, then deduct your salary and have the rest used for the evaluation at the store that would be given to you for evaluations. Provide the following information if you interested and we will get back shortly with your assignment. Full Name: Full Address (Including City, State and Zipcode): Phone Number: Regards, Mark Tyler Head of Recruitment SS-Network @2016

Beware- I received a Priority mail with check for $2,450.85, from Alexander Street Press, LLC Alexandria, Va drawn on Wells Fargo Bank, 420 Montgomery San Francisco. I was selected to be an Agent for Secret Evaluators... The name of the letter writer was Michael Waltz . His email was mwaltz             . He asked that I text him immediately after I deposited the check in my bank, which I did not do. BTW, His text is 562.353.7641 And get this...the check was signed by Richard Nixon! I guess tricky Dick is still playing tricks on dummies! I will forward to my bank and send info to FTC

I received an alleged cashier's check drawn on Suncoast Credit Union, FL. As in the above reports, it involved secret shopper scam including Kmart and MoneyGram same day wire transfers to individuals in Dallas TX. I have eMailed the detailed information to Suncoast CU this afternoon (09-17-2016) and hope to hear from them Monday 09-19-2016

i received a 2,285 cashiers check from Helen Martha Lewis using First Fidelity Bank scam or what?

Did you ask her to send a check? Did she offer you a job as a mystery shopper? What does she want you to do with the check?

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.

If you get a check that you weren't expecting, you can contact the person or business on the check, or the bank the check is written on to get more information. Some scammers steal checks from legitimate businesses, or create checks that use the name of a real business, but the checks are no good. If you deposit a stolen or fake check, you could lose money and have legal trouble.

Just today I received a Priority Mail package with a check for 1,983.94. Along with what is, to me, a mind=boggling amount of money, was a set of instructions to text when I get it, text when I deposit or cash it and go to two different Money Gram locations to send out amounts 800 and 830 to first, Chad Doug, then to Buell Cason both in Arlington TX, 79602.

Asked me to rate performance, yada, yada, yada. The kicker was that I was coached to say NO if asked am I a mystery shopper and YES to "Do you know the person you're sending money to".

Letterhead reads Money Gram International, contact is David Forbes. The very real looking check (with color change ink, no less) is from Gate City Bank, remitter Amaris Flores, w/ only a po box for bank contact. 1983.94 is a lot of money to me. So is the 350 I'm supposed to keep. I could finally pay for my tall, handsome, smart youngest kid to be in basketball! I could get my Dad some healthier food...I am the sole provider for my son (13) and my Dad (89). In the past 6 months alone, I've lost 45lbs because of stress, over-working and not eating any food at home so they could eat.

This check crap is downright CRUEL!!!Last Thursday morning, I put my last $3 in my tank, which was waaay in the red zone, so I could drive to work to be able to run payroll! This amount of money would make such a difference! Don't worry, tho, my heart is in the right place and I'll just turn this bogus thing in. I just had to vent!

Thank you for sharing your story. You may help someone avoid a similar scam.

You can report this to law enforcement too, to help with investigations. Go to FTC.gov/complaint and give the details about who contacted you, the check they sent & the instructions about what to say. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement agencies nationwide use for investigations.

Im still looking at Check thinking of paying off some credit cards...

I received a Priority Mail envelop in my mailbox with return address from SHERRY CASE. Inside a letter had a letterhead SIGNATURE WORLD INC with no address, no website no logo. The letter said: "NOTE: MYSTERY SHOPPER, Congratulations you received your first assignment package. With it you have A Pay Check and you are to deduct your commission which is $300. The rest will be used for your assignment."

The letter contained instructions. A plain white sealed envelope contained a Cashiers Check No: 2070101 Utah Community Credit Union, payable in the amount of $2,330.27. The signature is impossible to read. The check seems to have a watermark and a microprint signature line. I searched online and think it is either a stolen and altered check or a counterfeit check.

The MYSTERY SHOPPER assignment tells me to keep $300 and use the $2000. to purchase 4 WalMart Gift cards and have WalMart cashier add $500 to each gift card. Then instructions say: "AFTER PURCHASE OF CARD 1. Open pack and peel the silver scratch-off area. 2. Capture image of card front and back. Email to your recruiting officer. Confirm receipt of package by Text to: (203) 403-3612 Email completed report to surveyteam              Davis Scott End of Details--

my story: I've heard of many similar scams by reading online stories and reports. I WILL NOT deposit the check and know that it is fake or counterfeit or stolen. I understand that the scammers are trying to take $2000 from me using WalMart gift cards. That if I followed their instructions and purchased the cards then photographed the details and numbers and sent them the photos, that they would use the numbers to create counterfeit WalMart cards with my real numbers and shop with those cards. Then my WalMart Gift card balance would go to zero. Then their check would bounce and I'd be out $2000 to the scammers, plus bank fees and perhaps other problems. I've heard of people being arrested for passing counterfeit checks EVEN UNKNOWINGLY and having their bank account frozen etc.

I also just received the exact same mail. the only difference is my cashier's check was for $2,300.00 and was from PNC BANK. As soon as I saw it and read the instructions, red flags just jumped out all over. I called PNC BANK to verify the routing and account numbers and they verified it was fake.

If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

I received this same scam offer in the mail, with the same phone number to call, 203-403-3612. The person was using a different name, though. The sent me a priority mail package from one state, but the label showed it had actually been mailed from another state. They listed a woman's name in the return address, but I'm sure she is probably has no idea they are using her name and address, if it even exists and is not actually a made-up name.

The priority mail package included a check from an unrelated company in yet another state. The check was for $2,300, I was to cash it, keep $300 for myself and use the $2000 to buy Walmart gift cards. Then I was to scratch the silver off of the gift cards, photograph the cards, and email photos to the scammer. Don't fall for it! I reported them tot he FTC.

Thank you sooooo much for your information. I was sent two checkts of $1450.00 to mystery shopper at wall mart and the rest to send by money gram and western union. It didnt fell ok so I look online about spam checks and now this is what it is. complain is sent to FTC. good luck to everybody

How did it work out?

I received a priority mail package last week. Same scenario as above. Cashiers Check for $3,200. Now I am getting texts asking whether I completed my assignment. I SO want to respond back to the texts. May karma catch up with these people.

I keep getting a email from a Alex smith claiming I have to do some kind of an assignment for some check as u can see I've disregarded the message. But my message I just got:

Alex.Smith@  truckeast.     Hello , We need your confirmation for the assignment sent too you and we need you to kindly give us a go ahead to cancel the check has you have refuse to complete the assignment . waiting for your reply now

I am worried this being a scam it doesn't look like it being from any kind of business.

It's ok to ignore spam email from people you don't know. You're right; it could be a message from a scammer.

Working under name Marc Benson now and using email marc1benson@ which probably changes by the day.

Adding to this, just received one. Point person in the email is Carter Michaels at secretshopper11112 @ gmail.com (representing Regional Research Inc) Then undisclosed name given at 352-322-4643 Then a Lindsay at 203-403-3612 The Postal Money order in the mail is fake (and not a good one), and the serials don't match.

I received a similar piece of certified mail and instructions, how can O report this scam?

You can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. The information you give will go into a secure database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I was contacted by a group by the name of Connect Market Research. Filled out a form with basic info; like name, phone number, and e-mail address. No SSN info was asked for. I suddenly realized that this may be a scam. Have I put myself in jeopardy of ID theft?

I got an enamel four days ago saying I got accepted as a secret shopper through Affiliate Surveys.com website /George Harris. They sent overnight package w/ directions AND cashiers check for $3850. I am NOT doing anything with the check because looks suspicious and they wanted my last assignment to be wiring money to two different locations one of which being the Philippines.Didn't recall applying for the gig however extra money is always awesome. So beware if you get a message from this person. Website looks legit but I'm fairly sure it's a scam.

I got the same money and emails, jdas. It's ridiculous and I'm reporting everything that I have received to the FTC. You should do the same.

i was one that fell for the check they got me for $2600.00 and it was a guy named Afolabi damilare (Sean. i field a police report but my bank said i signed it so its my fault.

I am in the exact same situation right now. How long did it take to clear your bank. They can take the money back I do not care. I just need my bank account unlocked so I can fees my kids.

I received an email to be a secret shopper for Kroger's. Anybody else get one? Curious if it is legit or not.

I did too and was wondering the samething

Not real don’t waste your time

I reported all the info a company sent me and shredded the check they mailed me last month, scammers phone number 203-403-3612 just texted me today stating that the "assignment is still valid". I hope something is done to stop them.

WILL if its a scam to work why send it at all just to get us all in troble with the cops not worth it

I fell for this Mystery Shopper too. Didn't ask for any off the wall personal information, besides my address. I received a check for $2850, I am to wire $1250 to 2 people, addresses are located on US, I am to use $50 for transaction fees and pocket $300.
Of course my mind was like How can I keep this to myself? lol They guy, Mark Anthonio, emailed me inquiring about if I had received the check. I did deposit it via ATM, because 1. if it was fake, bank wouldn't cash it, no big deal. 2. if I didn't respond, they (Scammers) would put a stop payment on my check anyway. I did email that guy back asking Why it was returned, I was waiting for it to clear, etc etc...playing dumb, in a sense. He never replied.
Also, I kept thinking If it's too good to be true, it is.

OK, Just reading all of these, and now I'm skeptical. I just got a check from Huntington National Bank for $2300. Instructions were to cash the check, buy 4 $500 "oneVanilla cards". Remove the label, and send a PIC of front and back. I looked up the bank and it seems legit, but the numbers on the bottom are weird. Usually the numbers on the bottom of checks are routing #, account # and check # (left to right). These are not in that order. I plan to take the check to the bank tomorrow and have them confirm its authenticity. Also, the instructions were printed and a different style font...

Well, the check was a fake. It was from Huntington National Bank. I checked with the bank and they confirmed it was a fake check. They kept it, and I moved along. No harm, no loss on my part.
If it sounds to good to be true, it probably isn't...

Got a check from The Southern Credit Union for $2,865. Wanted me to send $2400 back via Monogram, evaluate the business and keep $300 for my pay. Scam! Reported them to the FTC.

Yesterday I received a cashier's check which supposedly was from PNC Bank for $2,155. Instructions included said to deposit the check and then buy Reloadit cards totally $2,000 and e-mail the card PIN numbers to: andy360gibson@aol.com

Of course, this was a SCAM so I did NOT do it. Instead I notified the PNC Bank, the Police and the Post Office of this mail fraud. The funny thing is someone texted me from phone number 510-463-1826 saying they would call the police if I don't cash the check. Hmmm... I already called the police!

I just got a check from Bruce Windesheim of ARC %98 Halsey St Brooklyn NY 11233 for 1350.00 started out being a Kroger shooter but a letter to survey Walmart. Then send money to Daniel Maroney and Linda Luie Smells of a Scam so beware if you see these name

I am embarrassed and sorry to admit, I got scammed. I received a fradulent cashiers check from andy360gibson   and MotorStar Studio. I followed their instructions and got taken. I filed a compliant with the FTC and I am in the process of filing a compliant with the local DA and police.

can you give me a list of real mystery shopping companies? I could use a little extra cash?

Has anyone actually went through with it and lost the money? is there any legal way you could get the bank to help you out with this balance? please help I was a victim and now i dont have the money to pay the bank.

Did anyone receive a packet or an email from a Melissa Elmore, she is in California, I tried to call her and she won't respond!! I too was sent a cashier's check, and emailed right away about depositing the check and than to shop at WAl Mart and do 2 Western Union money Transfers!! I thought this is way too good to be true!! The return address for the check is in Pennsylvania and the check is from a bank in Winter Haven, Florida. I am going to contact the Chicago ABC 7 news, they mentioned the scams the other night!! Thank God I did not fall for this!!

I received one from the same person but a different bank just yesterday. I was suspicious of there not being a company name attached and the aol email address. Glad I did some digging and didn't fall for this.

I received a $6.45 priority mail package complete with USPS tracking with an enclosed teller check from USAA Federal Savings Bank 10750 McDermott Fwy out of San Antonio, TX 78288-0544 in the amount of $1995.00, RE: Michael Columbia Memo: NA with an authorized signature from Stuart Parker. However the routing number, account number & check number are in the wrong order! There was also a letter with Walmart Foundation (The #1 employer of mystery shoppers) at the top which stated for me to email & text message the receipt of my packet (customersevaluations            /971-213-3273)

They want me to deposit the check , email a copy of the deposit slip and keep $300.00 as commission. In bold it reads "MAKE SURE ASSIGNMENT/TASK IS COMPLETED SAME DAY FUNDS APPEARS AVAILABLE IN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT TO AVOID DELAY IN NEXT ASSIGNMENT". There's also an extra $45.00 to cover Walmart transfer charges as well as to cover cost of gas/transportation.

The task is to A) make a transfer of $1650.00 to Allan Harris, San Antonio, TX 78240, scan receipt and email/text "senders name as written on form together with the reference no" B) make observations as to the cleanliness & appearance of the parking lot, store entrance, any damaged or worn signage and representatives' behaviors such as acknowledgement within 30 seconds of entering store, upbeat & friendly tone with all associates in contact and if the cashier thanked me at the end of my transaction. It can be done at any Walmart/CVS/Ace Cash Express, Speedy Cash or stores with Walmart logo outside.

If asked if I'm a mystery shopper I'm to say NO! After completing the evaluation I'm to kindly have all the details above emailed to customersevaluations              917-213-3273 text messages only. There's a watermark toward the bottom of the page with an incomplete "Walmar". There's even a copyright 2017CorporateResearchInternational at the very bottom of the page.

These are useful details for a complaint. Please report this to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

Thank you for this tip! I reported the "job" to the FBI and filed an IC3 complaint with them.

It is a shame these fake companies put such a bad name out there for our industry. I have been in the mystery shopping industry for almost 18 years. l love this industry. I wish there was more we could do to prevent this from happening.

Hi Pam, please tell me how to find a legit company needing secret shoppers? Thank you.

Received e mail first, Check followed in ( Priority Mail) they spent 6.60 came from California, was for A Wall mart transaction 50 bucks inside 0f a total of 1680 -They couldn't spell correctly, couldn't add or subtract correctly and they were using an Alabama Bank -Remitter was a phony name, Cashiers check was a very bad Print Job, But there will be people that will bite on this "Bad Bait" they even called me to make sure I Got The Check" I yanked their chain real good-

I just got a check from moneygram secret feedback agent for 1965.00 it ask me to wire 735. To a person and 900 to another and to keep 300. But decided to check the internet to see if this was a scam. good thing i found this site. Decided i'm not falling for this scam.

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