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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


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

Blog comments aren't included in the database.

Interesting that this very same group of scammers is still active and obviously continue to profit after so many years of operation. Here is the scam email sent today by 'Secret Shopper Inc.'

From: Brandon Davis

Mystery Shopper is accepting applications for qualified individuals (18+) to become mystery shoppers and merchandisers. Its fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop Wal-mart, Western Union e.t.c . There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, We would pay $300 per assignment which would come in the form of a cashiers check along with comprehensive details in regards your evaluation assignment. APPLY NOW to become a mystery shopper®. Best Regards, Brandon Davis. Secret Shopper Inc Copyright (c) 2015 All Rights Reserved

I received an email and being well young and pretty naive i replied and sent them all my information. I received a check for $1,977 dollars in 3 days, i opened it and but didnt really look at it. I got this bad gut feeling. They keep emailing me telling me that I will be late turning in my report. I made up and excuse saying i was moving half way across the world and to please not send anything out anymore. I decided to look it up and it brought me to this blog, I did file a complaint. The guys name is John Pual, maybe i should have seen how he spelled his last name. I called and txt the numbe that was on the email and a lady answered me when I asked that I was looking for John Pual, she told me she had been receiving so many calls looking for him as well. I feel bad for her. I have tried to block him from my email but somehow it appears again and again.

I was a victim recently. The name on the email states Brian Thompson.... Thanks goodness I didn't spend anything. Really don't know what actions my bank will take. I feel so dumb because I should've known better. My advice would be to just research before depositing anything in ur account but most likely if it is legit.... U won't get anything until u have done the work.

I just got a mystery shopper "job" and a check for $2,875.00!! The name on the envelope is Charles Ragland, Middleburg, FL.He wants me to do my mystery shopper job at Western Union by sending $1250.00 to (2) two separate people, both in the Philippines, keeping $300.00 for my work. I already knew this was a scam. I'm reporting to the FTC.

I receive same email, please what is the email you receive the message from

I answered an ad in my local paper for mystery shopper. sent them my resume. I got an email today to reply back to get a check mailed out.

I also received a check for $2350.00 in the mail along with a beginner packet telling me to send some of the money by Cashier's check to two different people and use part of the money to pay for these and keep the rest along with my purchase etc. I tried checking BBB and nothing. I e-mail them and never got a reply. I was beginning to think this a scam and this has confirmed it. I was going to go to the bank to check on this but now I see it is truly a scam. So glad I did not do anything with this check. Thanks everyone.

I should have mentioned that the e-mail address was secretshopper193729 . and the name of the guy contacting me was James Smith. Smith of all people and a gmail address. Fishy

Just so you know. The name on the envelope may be a scammed person too! Somebody is using my cancelled ups account to send these things out. I only found out when several were returned to sender. Apparently if they have an account number ups doesn't check to see if it's cancelled or if it's your own. Thank goodness I'm not out any money but who knows how many of these checks were send with my name as the sender!

I just received a priority mail today with a check for 2800 and instructions. Last week I had a email sent asking for my name and address to register to be a secret shopper. I had been looking to making some extra money for the holidays (and bills) so at first when I saw the check I was really excited. But of course if it's too good to be true, then it mostly likely is. After reading the instructions from a Greg Brewer in Texas to go to a Western Union I just knew it wasn't right. Thank god for access to the Internet to double check things. Can you imagine this 50 years ago?? I'm reporting it to the FTC and taking the mail to my local sherriff dept. From what I just read, they are gonna start sending me some harassing emails.

I can almost say ditto ! I have not been harassed but I keep getting more and more of them!
Thankyou for your post.

New scammer 'names': Timothy Derrison, Daisy Walton, Dorothy Yardley, Tywan Bell and Caroline Dillon.

Watch for First US Bank. Routing number is bogus. Rodney Gray and Gregory Tucker, both of Houston, Tex, were recipients.

The above said master-mind of mystery Shopper or better said or claiming as "Walter Scott" who is located at 3788 Waterside Ct., Addison, TX 75001 is still well and operating. He/she is offering you $2920 with a FAKE cahier check with bank name but address on it sent to you by priority mail if you fall for his/her scam. He/she has a telephone number of 224-444-6337 (in Illinois) and wants you to send money to two other people (PRESHAUNA NICOLE COOPER and ARLETTA RENEE BROWN) in Reddings, California, while he/she is operating from Addison, Texas. What I don't understand is, where are the so-called STUPID and incompetent authorities? What happened to the criminal penalty for fraudulent use of the United States Postal Service?

The details you have could be useful to law enforcement.

Please report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations nationwide.

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.

Thank you for the contact information "Bridget Small". I have reported the issue to the USPS. If I hear or see anything positive from the USPS, I will also contact the FTC and the State Attorney General.

One thing you MUST do when you receive a fraud check through the mail, report it to the US POSTAL INSPECTOR. THIS IS MAIL FRAUD. The USPS tracks the activities of the fraudsters and have a data base that holds all of the information from victims or scams.

Got email from Robertlinden     Robert Lindenberger Sat 2015-12-19 10:29 AM Inbox To: (my email) You replied on 2015-12-20 4:50 PM. Attn: Prospective Shopper, Thanks for your Prompt Message to us. Your Application Has Been Processed and approved. The company is happy for the turn up made by you regarding the job offer and all details you sent to us in your mail has been filed and passed on to the database management department for updates on the first payment. Payment would be forwarded to you and all you need to do is to follow the instructions given to you.

JOB DESCRIPTION: 1} When an assignment is given to you, you would be provided details to execute the assignment in a timely fashion. 2} You would be asked to visit a company or store in your area as a secret shopper and shop with them to know more about their sales and stock, cost sales and more details as provided by the company then report back to us with report. But anything you buy at the shop belongs to you. All we want is an effective/quick discharging of your job and detailed reports.

ASSIGNMENT PACKAGE: Before any assignment we would provide you with the resources needed {cash} Mostly our company would issue you a check,Then we would be providing you details on here. But you follow all information given to you as a secret shopper. You can earn more which involves nothing more than shopping at a number of selected retailers and assessing their customer service and reporting back to us in a very detailed manner. We welcome you to our organization and look forward to your contribution to the growth of the organization and yourself. I will urge you to carry out the first assignment as soon as you get the the payment to handle your task. The company is solemnly behind you and will not give room for any act of indulgence. The company is wishing you best of luck as you keep working with us.

Are you able, capable and willing to carry out the evaluation assignment in a timely manner, effectively and efficiently? I will await your immediate response. A confirmatory of the receipt of this email will be appreciated as the payment to carry out the first assignment will be processed immediately . Regards, Robert Lindenberger Recruiting Department Mystery Shoppers®/Evaluator Consultant

I am assume it too good to be true since $400 for a task also I am only inactive membership of any mystery shopper site. Also before this email I was so call hired for post ads on indeed $200 weekly but before that I have to cash out 1,350 check and go to money gram and make credit card of $1,100 and give information of it. Good things I have many people knowing about scams out there and protection me from making huge mistake which could hurt my family's fund.

This is the email I just received:

"Acknowledge This Email After Reading" Dear M M, How are you today? This is to update you that you will be receiving a payment for your first retail assignment today or tomorrow via the postal service and the tracking number for the pkg is (940                 ) you can track it at www. usps. com.

You are kindly advise to Deposit the payment and have the Equivalent Value withdrawn and Note**You are to run a survey on two prominent Companies in your area this festive period, which is Wal-Mart & Money Gram money transfer.

1, You are to deduct $300 for your commission from the total payment received after completion of first assignment.Here Is The Final Update & Instructions On How To Complete Your First Assignment BELOW IS THE EXPENDITURES BREAKDOWN:- Received Payment (check of $2950) Your Assignment Salary ...... $300 (for your commission) Wal-mart ..................$50 (to be kept by you) Money Gram...................$2600 You are to send $1300 each through Two different Money Gram stores to the Secret Shopper Agent information below.Kindly make sure you deduct Money Gram fee from the balance of each $1300 before sending and Please pay for Money In Minutes. RECEIVER:- Surname: Ford First name: John Address: 244 E Ave. Lancaster, CA 93535

2, You are to make a purchase of any electronic or any item worth $50 from any Wal-Mart location in your area (to be kept by you) and is now your duty to take note of the following activities at the Wal-Mart & both Money Gram Location while sending the funds. 1) How long it took you to get services. 2) Ambiance/Outlook of the Shop/Outlet 3) Smartness of the attendant 4) Customer service professionalism 5) Reaction of personnel under pressure 6) Information that you think would be helpful 7) Your comments and impressions.

3, You are required to proceed to two different Money Gram Stores in your area with the reaming balance to perform your transfer assignment, after you might have deducted your $300 commission and $50 for the Wal-Mart duty. As soon as you have done this, You are to e-mail me the following information below: 1,The name and address of the sender 2,The reference number of each transaction (8 digit) 3,The exact amount to be received after deducting money gram charges from each $1300 NOTE: The transfer charges should be deducted from the available balance. you are to email me back the reports once you complete the assignment.. Best Regards, Daniel Whitmarsh Consumer Research Group Mystery Shopper®.

These are useful details for a complaint. 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.

I was contacted after they saw my details on LinkedIn. The person who has been contacting me is Michael Thompson. I thought it was odd that he was contacting me from a gmail address (, despite the fact that he has a corresponding photo. Over the weekend, he followed up asking if I'd received his prior email. I suppose I had, but I was busy spending time with my family over the holidays so I found this a bit pushy.

When the check for $2,750 arrived, I was provided with the following breakdown:


You have been sent your payment . You are to deduct:

--NIKE accessories shopping--

Shopping expenditure - $200
Assignment Salary .......$300
Amount to send through transfer to Tester......................$2,150
Transfer fee Charges and Transportation....$100

I actually googled the cost of the items I was asked to purchase and there is no way they cost $200.

Here are the names of the individuals to whom I was asked to wire money:

Please send $900 through Moneygram transfer to tester #2

501 Elizabeth Avenue
Elizabeth, NJ 07201

And Please send $900 to Tester #3 through Moneygram transfer to ;

MR Andrew Martins
2201 North Sam Houston Pkwy,
Houston, TX 77038

And send the remaining balance to tester # 2 through Moneygram transfer to ;

501 Elizabeth Avenue
Elizabeth, NJ 07201

As others have commented, the bank exists and the routing number is correct, which means the checks must be the problem. From the start, I had a problem with a few things:

In addition to the gmail account, the emails themselves were riddled with typos. Also, the check was from Bailey Plumbing, Inc. in Durango, CO, yet it was sent from Daniels, NJ in a plain envelope with no logo, no return address and no transmittal letter. Lastly, I was asked to complete my assignment 'within 24 hours,' which was the oddest request of all.

After coming to this site and reading others' experiences, which are oddly similar to mine, I responded that I was withdrawing from the 'assignment.' Thanks all!

Got the same scam and knew the minuet they set me a personal email, here is part of the first email and this should be your first clue this is not for real!! I played along to see what they were going to do and yes I got the 2 money orders with the address in Philippians to send money orders to. And here were are today as I have reported this and hope they can stop them before they do some poor person some real damage. If it's to good to be true then is not for real!!!
How are you doing today?

The Board of Directors of the K-Mart Mystery Shopping Company uses this medium to congratulate you on the approval of your application, it has been forwarded to our personnel department for processing. Your information will be forwarded to our clients as one of our new survey agent immediately, as soon as they have any job for you it will be communicated to you through us.

I will be willing to work for your company hope you can keep me as a worker for you guys.

Yes, I received an email regarding Mystery Shopping. The second mail explained to me what I would be expected to do. They told me I would be getting a check in the mail and yes, Walmart. Well, I didn't respond to their email so they never sent the check. These people need to be stopped. I also, had some guy talking with me on facebook. I am in many work at home groups. He was telling me about this job and I was hoping for it to be true. I did give him my address, but somewhere in between that time and a few minutes later I delete him. I know it was a scam. I did get close to a $500 check in the mail. I called the bank an the girl told me it is an online scam and that the FBI were now involved. I asked what I should do with the check and she said it was up to me I could tear it up if I wanted. So I did. They need to be stopped.

I just received a check from the Kmart Mystery Shopping Company as well.. Im so glad my friend told me to google it and your site came up.... thanks

I received a check Saturday for $1900. It appeared to be from City of Surprise AZ and was even signed by an actual employee with the city. I was told to deposit the check and let them know once the funds were available. I told them I was not going to deposit it but would instead cash it. When I responded back that I had the cash, the reply from the text said "This is not a working number". Of course I did not cash it or deposit it, I just said that to see what they would say. Be aware!

I got the following email, which I thought was legitimate because it came from and the "click here" part took me to a Sears Holdings website that looked legitimate. I gave them my name and address and email and phone number, but nothing else. I was contacted by cell phone message. After reading several things here, I responded to text message that I had second thoughts and wanted to be removed from their list. Then I blocked the number.

The name used is Steve Morrison, phone number 267-629-2377. I did a reverse phone number search and just got the area of Doylestown, PA. At least I quit before I got or gave any checks out.

We have a job survey and we need you in our team. We are hiring secret shoppers. No experience needed, just an honest opinion. The job requires you to shop and evaluate our employees. You will get paid to eat, shop and keep the products. For more information and sign up form click here Good Day, Kmart Ltd

Please report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a database law enforcement uses for investigations.

Blog comments don't go into the database.

hello all,i received the same apparent scam as "pebbles" above who posed on february 1, 2016 -

on january 27, 2016 i received an email appearing to be from - and i'd never received ANY emails purporting to be from (whereas fake WALmart emails i have seen all the time), specifically, and this came at a time when i had shopped at kmart for the first time in years, so it was either a coincidence ...or an employee of kmart had possibly harvested my personal information...

i was also directed to a webpage that appeared to represent "sears holdings,", and because it didNT ask for my social security number, or bank account info, i did give my name and cellphone number, and i was later contacted by cellphone, by someone claiming to be Michael Archer, 828-355-5548, and told i'd been approved, and asked to reply to confirm ...unfortunately, i DID reply and confirmed my name ...i don't know what will happen now, but for starters if i receive any check, or am asked to wire money, i am NOT...i'm so grateful for this website, being able to look things up, and to PEBBLES above for sharing her experience...

best of luck everybody...

I just received a text yesterday at 3:31pm from 832-604-3030 that goes like this "Good day, This is Michael Archer from the Kmart secret shopper program. This is to affirm that your application has been approved confirm receipt of this text". I did response back to confirm but I'm very thankful for this website alarming others so they don't fall for the tricks.

I too am so gullible.. its awful. I responded to an email I got and asked just for my name, address and phone number. I thought well maybe its real because I was recently as kmart. I signed up, but i never heard anything back and then i got a text to confirm receipt, i replied with a yes. Still nothing, then 2 days ago i got just a typed letter with a cashier's check for $2980. Said you can deposit this check into you your account via, ATM, phone or whatever basically. My husband said let me do some research on this. Well i have been doing my own research and its like... where do these people come i am so gullible. I did not deposit this cashiers check. However, the letter stated that i were to go to Kmart after the check cleared the next business day and buy a product i needed for at least $50. Then go to 2 different Walmart's and send money gran to 2 different people with American names at 2 different locations in TX. These 2 people had 2 emails attached one was a Gmail and one was a Yahoo account. The letter stated to make sure you DO NOT let the Walmart employee know who you are because you are a mystery shopper, i was SUPPOSED to send them $1300 a piece and keep $400 for myself. I googled the name and nothing happened i used to locate the number which i have received the text from. The disposable phone i assume was reported from AR. So the guy that is contacting is " Michael Archer ". I received a text yesterday, stating that the first assignment have been delivered to your mailbox via USPS check your mailbox for evaluation package and confirm receipt of this text - Michael Archer. WTF man! Clearly sending me $7.00 kind of certified mail is scary. Im not desperate for money but extra money always helps. The check is just sitting on my counter. I need to frame so i never fall for this again. Thank you " CTRL F" for helping me locate spam artist Michael Archer, bunch of jerks! probably laughing as i respond or while they are putting labels on my envelope. You may have my home address but you will NOT steal from me...

I too got the email and since I was unemployed at the time, I responded. Got the USPS 2 Day Priority envelope today with the letter of instructions and a check for $2850. Same sort of breakdown. $305/salary, $90/shop at Kmart or if one was not close then Walmart, $55 for money transfer fees, $1200 to someone in TX and $1200 to someone in FL. I contacted Washington Federal who the Cashiers check was made from and they confirmed the scam. They asked me if I could provide pictures and better than that I scanned everything I received including the USPS envelope with the tracking number to them along with the original email that I received about the Secret Shopper opportunity. These guys are pretty sneaky but if you look for the clues you will be able to detect these scammers. Some are the before mentioned like clerical errors but others are like with mine, the senders name did not match the name of the remitter on the check. The biggest is asking us to send money to other people. Hope this helps someone else from becoming a victim.

This has to be a scam. You can deposit all of the money in the bank and not send any of the money to anyone else. How are they going to get their money back? I just got a check in the mail. A letter of instructions was sent with it. The letterhead was forged. They copied and pasted it on the paper. You can see the different color in the background. When in doubt, call the bank on the check and see if the money is good.

mine sent from Gale Russel and Employment Connections Inc, 905 S grand in Spencer iowa, google shows this to be legit. Letter and mystery assignment guide is on plain white paper from mark sisodia text/phone three four seven six nine five o 2 seven.

A scammer may misuse the name or address or other information of a legitimate business.

Received a check for $2,650. They had initially told me they would pay me my fee by Money Order, so when the check came I knew it was scam city. It came from: Diane Wilson, Diane Ent., Sandy Valley NV I will contact Brannen Bank, on which the check is allegedly drawn, about their bank being used in a scam.

I received a $977.30 POSTAL MONEY ORDER with instructions to write from Megan Graf-adderess: 27 Whitemre Ln, Coram, NY 11727 pay to: my name and address. They want me to cash it at once at the counter at my bank, deduct my pay of $200, spend less than $20 at Walmart and Western Union remaining $760 to Thomas Philip in Illinois. Is it a scam if my bank cashes the check?

This could be a Fake Check Scam.

Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to you within a certain time. But just because the bank gives you some of the money doesn’t mean the check is good. It can take weeks to discover and untangle a forgery.

Until the bank confirms that the funds from the check were deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check. That means if the is no good, you have to repay all the money you took out.

I am going through this right now. They are hounding me to see if I got my check. it is for $2,445.00. 45 is for expenses, 400 is for me and I was to buy $2,000.00 in prepaid visa cards and send a photo of the front and back of the cards. I was to write a basic report but no other instructions were given.

I just received a check for $1745, claiming they are with Shadow Shopper and want me to do a Mystery Shop on MoneyGram. The scammers aren't very accurate because they give very vague email instructions. The bank name on the cashier's check is a real bank, but I'm sure it's a fake check. I will report it to the FTC and send it through the shredder.

Here is an email that was sent to me recently about becoming a Mystery Shopper:

We have a mystery shopping assignment in your area and we would like you to participate. Mystery Shopper is accepting applications for qualified individuals to become mystery shoppers. It's fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop. You are never obligated to accept an assignment. There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience.

Mystery Shopper NEVER charge fees to become a shopper, mystery shoppers are paid a prearranged fee for a particular shop, We have available for immediate assignment an inspection of the customer service of any Western Union in your area. This fee will be paid upfront. During this shop you will visit the location and make several observations as regards the customer service. You will be required to interact with the shop clerk. You may conduct the shop alone or as a couple. The assignment will pay $170.00/ assignment.

Kindly Fill Out the application form below and we will get back to you shortly with the assignment. You can also send the below required information as plain text email. PERSONAL INFORMATION: First Name.. Middle Name.. Last Name.. Street Address(Not PO Box) .. City, State, Zip Code .. Cell Phone Number .. Home Phone Number .. Age.. Current Occupation.. Alternate Email Address .. AVAILABILITY: Days/Hours Available Monday . Tuesday . Wednesday . Thursday . Friday . Saturday . Sunday . Hours Available: We await your urgent response. Thank you for your help. We look forward to working with you. Sincerely, Timothy White. Mystery Shoppers, Inc.


I just received a message via LinkedIn about this same thing! Personal Profiles, Inc. I received a priority mail package with a check for $3,330 and was asked to deposit the check and then purchase six VANILLA ONE prepaid VISA cards and photograph them and send them the photos of the front and back of the cards, and could keep $300 ($30 processing fee for each card). I was told that I would be using these cards for my next "assignments." Luckily I did research and am not falling for this. I would be out $3330!! Name of the bank on their "check" is Delta Community Credit Union and the names associated with this scam are: Alicia Vokes & Johnny Giordano. I emailed and texted them that I am aware of their scam and not to contact or mail me anything again. DON'T FALL FOR IT!!

These are useful details for a complaint. Please report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Blog comments don't go into the database.

Yes, I too received a retail mystery shopper email. Went through the motions, received a check for $2,875.00. was to proceed to Western-Union store. Make a transfer to Williams Munoz in the amount of 2,500 in Istanbul, Turkey!! You gotta be kidding. Pay Western Union 125.00, I get to keep 250.00. No one sends checks out just like that, gimme a break.

I recevied a money order for $975.00 from Brent Dickenson. Is this a scam? asked me to cash the money order then spend $50 at Wal-mart keep $200 for commision then send the rest to Frankie Button. Is this a scam

I've mailed that check they gave me right back to the address it came from

yes it is a scam

this is a fake!!!! My check came in the mail today and there was no bank on it just the po box of an insurance co with a claim number on it.

I recevied a money order for $3975.00 from duckfield Truman. I spent all of it and no bank said anything. should I be honest and the tell the bank and the scammer that both there money I burn on crap I don't need!!!!


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