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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

April 18 2017- Kmart sent me a secret shopper assignment without forms to fill out and a check from Genco Federal credit Union in the amount of$1,398.00 but thanks to common sense and concise thinking I googled and found this page which only aroused my suspension that this is a scam. Thank you so much. Have a blessed day....Ps... I wish I would fall for this dummy prank!!!

I have received 2 checks for assignments from Estelle Banks at Radius. 1st was a cashier check $2980. I should deposit it asap to my bank. Keep $300 as salary, the remaining $2580 to buy 5 money orders from post office and send it via FedEx to Vonniesha Kimble, 2145 Carroll St. Apt D, N Los Vegas, Nevada 89030. I took the cashiers check to my bank to verify, indeed it was a fake cashier check. The bank kept it as evidence. 4 days ago, I received another money order $960 from Mark Tyler at 225 Michigan St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49501 to purchase iTune gift cards. Keep $150 as salary. I went to local post office, it was a fake money order. Why are there so many evil people trying to rip us off?

Cashier check came from a Ronald Webster . Send $1200 money gram to Joseph Pinbelski Alamo TX and Ryan Weater Alamo TX. I shredded the cashier check.

So I got a check for 2880 from reality check mystery shoppers they won't give me any instructions yet I deposited the check the finds are available but I'm not touching that money for two weeks to see if it's a scam and I believe it may be

So did they take the money out

I recieved a check today in mail and it was for the amount of $1998.57 from M&T bank. I did not try to deposit it but I email secretmpsagent and never recieved a response. I googled about this secret shopper moneygram assignment and I found this site. I know now it's a scam.

Heidi MacLachlan, she is scammer. She tried to hire you as secret shopper, and instructed you wired the money through Moneygram and Western Union.aftet you received the checks from her. The checks are fake, she get your money from your bank account.

I fell for the same thing. Contacting my bank/credit cards, I felt so stupid saying it out loud. Be on the look out for messages via LinkedIn (where I was hit). I was told this was a secret shopper program for Amazon and was mailed a package with instructions for "assignments" and a check for $2350. The individual who contacted me identified himself as "Mark Henderson" asking when the tasks would be complete.
I had recently lost my job and thought this would be an easy source of income while looking for a new position.
If it seems too good to be true, it is! Don't fall for this!

Today my Room mate a lawyer received the $2,350.00 From an address Meritt Island Fl, 32952. He saw through it from the get go. It will come in a Priority mail. If you check the tracking # You will not find anything about it's Origin. The Check is on the "First Sentinel Bank of Richlands Virginia the name of the emitter is Kenyonda Thomas. Only name you'll find in the sent material.

I'm a victim right now. Because I don't have a checking account I went to my local check cashing who immediately recognized the check as fake but called to verify anyway only to prove its a scammers check. The cashier said she will keep the check as she wrote the word fake onto it and said nothing will happen to me but if I had deposited the check and into a checking account I would have gotten into big trouble....Wow...I'm both embarrassed and shocked and disappointed...all only to be an in store secret shopper for extra money.

I received a packet yesterday from someone named Steven he says he's with circle of service but the check was from somewhere else and Virginia and it look like it couldn't have even made it through the mail and the return address was fake we looked online he just texted me and I sent him the link to the real circle of service and I also sent him to the link for mail fraud the definition and how many years in prison and you can get I think that should let him leave me alone we through the check away

BEWARE!!! Bass company sent my husband one for 2,500 asking him to deposit noisy them send 2,300 back and visit a Walmart as a secret shopper and keep $200 for his work.

Pls tell me more about what the paper etc. Looked like cause I also received ok be with the$2250.00 today, as matter if fact I never even applied. They gave me a step by step to do with it. Nothing on the paper says to send the $ back but, it says on step4 that after availability of funds is RECIEVED they will send me a txt notification of what to do next. I'm a single mom with a disabled child and could really use the $ but I'm definitely not trying to go to jail.

Received a scam from Kroger Company claiming to be secret shopper program and received a cashier's check for 1,975. Very eloborate scam! Beware.

IM JUST STACKING CHECKS LOL THIS MAKES THE 3RD CHECK SENT TO ME THIS YR 6,000$ IN CHECKS NOT SURE WHY THE KEEP SENDING THEM TO ME LOL ITS A WALMART SCAM THIS TIME BUT ALWAYS HAS TO DO WITH MONEYGRAM I EVEN GOT A GUY THAT SENT ME AN ID STATING THAT HE WAS THE MANAGER AT A MONEYGRAM CHAIN AND SAID IT WAS LEGIT AND SOON AFTER THAT I GOT AN EMAIL FROM FBI THAT WAS PART OF THE SCAM TELLING ME TO GO ALONG WITH IT THAT THEY ARE WATCHING THE SCAMMERS THEY ARE DOING EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO MAKE ME THINK ITS LEGIT THIS NEW CHECK IS FROMN DCU SIGNATURE ON CHECK IS JAMES F. REGO I THINK ...CHECK #000048505........SCAM,SCAM,SCAM

You have useful informaiton and details. You can help law enforcement by reporting this to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. The comments you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

 

A link was posted by Amanda McCarthy "HR" on Linked in which sent me a check that my bank easily verified as fraudulent.
They prey on honest people who feel they are in need of work.
They text with instructions as to what to do. The phone number is a "text me" applcation on a computer. A recent pH number used is 617 207 7644 and s week or two ago it was 539 202-5911. The recent one posted Kroger email page looking quite authentic.Two weeks ago he used Lagom company as a front which says its base in Warsaw Poland.
Thanks for all you do to inform.

Got a letter from Select Market Research Group. Letter states its a division of Kroger. Includes a check for $1950.20. It talks about $300 is my salary and $1,650.20 for Survey Fund. The check is supposedly from US BANK. I shredded the check. Their number 716-370-6316 Peter George

I received a "mystery shopper" from Schmidt Market Research. Cashier's check issued by 167th TFR Federal Credit Union for $2995. I was asked to get 5 money orders totaling $2600 to send to a residence in AZ. Is this a scam?

Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know. By law, the bank has to give you some money in a short period of time. You might get some money now, but if the check is fake, it will eventually bounce.

You are responsible for any checks deposited to your account. You'll owe the bank the money you withdrew and used for money orders.

I was forwarded an application to apply to be a mystery shopper on Linkedin for this same company. After a few days I got a text message saying I had been approved and in 2-5 business days I would receive my assignment in the mail. So today, a cashiers check from Navy Federal Credit Union arrived with a detailed letter with my instructions on secret shopping any USPS location i choose.I have to go get (5) cashiers checks from them in amounts of $520. i keep $300, and then the remaining $95 dollars is to cover the ups or fedex next day air shipping costs. along with some additional instructions. I am not sure if this is a scam. I was forwarded the application from someone i know who said they are a brand ambassador for them? What did you end up doing?

Hi
I was sent this email
This is to notify you that the payment for your first survey assignment will deliver today if you have not gotten it. It's a check of $2,850, it covers your $300 pay and the rest will be used for your assignments, further details and instructions will be emailed to you soon. Please proceed to have the check deposited once it delivers and keep me posted once that has been done.
And also this one
Assignment 1
1. Proceed to a nearby Gap store or any clothing store and purchase anything with $50,the purchase item will be kept by you because it is yours.
2. Attached to this email is a customer feedback form which you are required to fill out and email back to us. 3. Deduct $300 as your weekly commission. 4. Purchase 13 Walmart gift cards.
Note: Walmart gift card can be purchased with cash or with your debit or credit card. Attached to this email is a sample of the Walmart gift card required,it also comes in different designs,pictures and colors,so you can purchase any design. Go to the register and add cash of $200 to the 12 Walmart gift cards and $100 to the remaining one ($200x12 and $100x1 = $2,500)
The cards will be used to fund further projects/research, eliminating the need to post you checks for future assignments.
After purchase of the cards, "Walmart gift card" kindly peel or gently scratch the silver panel a the back of the cards and then send the pictures of the scratch cards and email to us. (Phone camera accepted) Walmart gift cards are available only at Walmart store. In rare cases were Walmart store is not available in your location, kindly inform us in other to give you an alternative. Once the payment has been received, proceed to get the assignment done at your earliest and revert back to us with the feedback form and images of Walmart gift cards for verification. Completing assignment fast earns you reward to receive more assignments promptly. I want you to know that Completing assignment and sending in the report as soon as funds are available in your account earns you 30% payment increase on your next assignments. A confirmatory of the receipt of this email will be appreciated as we anticipate your prompt response. Thank you for your time and have a wonderful day. Thomas Watt Recruiting dept|Mystery Shopping
Seelevel HX® Atlanta, Georgia seelevel hx.

Now I am a licensed PI and I asked questions about their license number to operate in Nevada, a contact phone number and then said I am turning them into the Attorney Generals office. Surprisingly I never did get my questions answered and I DID NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENT. Have you heard of this scam before and it appears there is a See Level company also. Thanks

Yes I received the same type of rhetoric from Raymond McCloskey, Atlanta Georgia @ SeeLevel Human Experience.

I am wondering if what I received is a scam. But I received a USPS money order. The rest all sounds familiar, but I don't know how they would duplicate this postal money order??

Any ideas???

Scammers can make fake postal money orders.

The US Postal Service has tips on spotting fake money orders. Go to this US Postal Service page, look at the section named "Accepting Money Orders," and click on the words "Show Details."  You will see a diagram of a postal money order with tips about how to spot a fake.

I received a cashier check for $1000 and the letter has the Walmart logo. Brian Winchester wants me to deposit the check into my account, the fund will be available in 24 hours. I'm supposed to go buy something for under $35 for myself to keep, then wire $700 from Walmart2Walmart, and there's was a 15 fee for that, and I'm supposed to keep $250 for myself as payment. HA! oh and I have 2 days. He keeps texting me asking how I am and if I'm doing the task. He knows my name. Now I assume everything is a scam, but there's secret shopping jobs...like my husband gets secret shoppers at his restaurant. Well my 2 days are up and I have just left the letter and check on the desk hear. I will assume it is a scam. Right before Christmas too, gotta be fake. Walmart doesn't do Secret Shopping this page says....going to block phone number now. Is there even a Walmart2 Walmart transfer kiosk? I was just there too I forgot to ask them...oh well.

Hilarious! Let's ask the question another way, "Can you name for me a single fact about this situation which suggests it is NOT a scam?"

OMG! i am so lucky I did some research and found this site!!! I got this UPS Priority Mail which I opened to find a check of 2410.10 dollars! I had no idea what it was all about until I check this site!!! Can we all say SCAM???!!!!! I have never had anything like this before...totally insane! I wish I could bring it down to the Police Department and have them take care of business!!! But I will just shred all this stuff and wait to hear from the scammers everyday until I tell them.."I am on to you..You are Busted"!

I received a check for $2,950. I was instructed to deposit it, keep $200 for myself, do 2 transactions at Wal-Mart...a Walmart to Walmart transfer of $1,950 and a money gram of $900 to two separate individuals. Then take $20 and make a purchase at Walmart and report back all my findings...for example, length of time at the register...etc. The email's are coming from what appears to be a legitimate company. They're using Market Force but a really strange email address. He's going by the name of Douglas Nash. I did deposit the check, made my bank aware of what was going on and asked them to call me if the check cleared. That was 3 days ago. It hasn't at this point but I'm still getting emails from Douglas Nash asking me why I have not completed my assignment. I've told him I would when his check clears or is paid. Now he's telling me I've been reported for miss appropriated funds and could be arrested....really? I haven't received any funds, only a useless check. What should I do????

This sounds like a scam. It's not safe to agree to deposit a check from someone you don't know and send them money. If the check turns out to be fake, it will eventually bounce. And because you are responsible for the checks you deposit to your account, you will owe the bank the money you withdrew.

Read more about fake check scams.

I received in the mail a cashier's check from First Community Credit Union of Houston Texas and reference: Andre M Williams, in the amount of $2,900.52. It was accompanied by a letter offering me to be a "Secret Surveyor" and instructions to deposit the check (Obviously a phony check as it is printed in large letters: OFFICIAL CHECK)and to buy EBAY Gift Cards in the amount of $2500 and keep $400 as my commission for being a Secret Surveyor. Also the check is a printed signature (not original ink signed). The instruction letter is signed "Regards, Mark Scott" ... no address or phone number to reach him. I am reporting this to the FTC and FBI. I cannot stand these ridiculous scammers.I want to see them in prison!

Tony..I so agree with you! How the hell do these scammers get away with this crap! I feel bad for any people who actually think it is real and they deposit the fake check and then loose tons of money! CRAZY!!!!

I received a letter (Priority Mail) from Schmidt Market Research, with a Cashier's Check for $2995.00, drawn from HarborLight Credit Union. The instructions are to deposit the check, wait until the funds clear (usually the next day) and complete a task within 24-48 hours (required). LOL The task is to purchase postal money orders worth $2600 (5 worth $520 each). You can only make the purchase with cash or a debit card, so you need to first withdraw the funds or use your debit card. You are to mail the money orders to an 'Evaluator' of the USPS, via FedEx or UPS Next Day Air and use the remaining $95 to cover your costs for doing so. The funds go to a Leatrice Pratt in Rutland, VT. SCAM for sure!!!!!

I got the same thing today. But my check was from Navy Federal CU. Did you fill out an application link that someone sent you on Linkedin to see if you would be approved?

Hi, I received a message from a LinkedIn connection about a Mystery Shopper job. He said it was legitimate... I applied, got "approved" they mailed me a letter with a large check.. I immediately smelled a scam. Same scenario, go buy eBay gift cards.

I am so glad I looked this up and found out it is a sham and I was going to fall for it. I too got a priority mail packet on June 29, 2018 and was hesitant about even reading it. Today, July 2 nd, I get two emails from a George Harris about why hadn’t I been working on the project and deposited my check. This made me nervous as I could really use this money. I had sent a previous email three weeks before and never got a reply, so I assumed they dropped me. I have called the telephone number multiple tones and and no answer and cannot leave a message. I have today called, texted, and emailed him, but have not heard from him. I looked on Google for this company’s name and got nothing until I saw the scam alert here. Thank you so much. I was being such an idiot thinking I could make a little money. I will close my actions with this bogus company and not pursue it. Did anyone send the check back so that it doesn’t look like I was going to keep it as evidence?

I received my cashier's check and instructions via priority mail, and my check is for $2,900.92 (with a $400 commission). According to the instructions, I'm to evaluate a store that sells Ebay gift cards and buy $2500 worth of Ebay gift cards.

I'm glad I found this website, and I appreciate everyone taking time to report this scam.

was told to apply for mystery shopper job at this website lre12.com / Application-Index. Secret Shopper --- Forum Research I received a check from Capitol one for $3,850.70, I was told to deposit it, and cash out 3,500.70 ($350.00 would be my payment) received a text from 347-927-0598 with instructions and an e mail from a Joe Budden.

Name on the check is Intelligent Discovery Solutions, the overnighted check returned address was from John Capati and Peter Storm of 129 E. Ocean Boynton Beach, FL Now I received this late on Friday 2/16 and did deposit the check, they then were in a "rush" for me to get to the bank the next morning and take out the cash. When the bank told me I deposited after hours so only $400.00 was available but the rest would be available on Tuesday morning 2/20 as 2/19 is a federal holiday. The person texting me seemed agitated that I hadn't got the check cleared. I received the application above from an ex co worker via Linked In inbox. He assured me it was all legit and he was making good extra money. Well today I check Linked in and his account is now taken down. I think this is a scam from reading this. I am thinking of going to the police on Tuesday morning

I was scammed by receiving a cashier's check for $ 2370.22 I had an assignment at Target I was then mailed the check via Priority u.s. Mail such a large large amount I was skeptical I hold on to the check for a while I deposited it into my bank the just over night the check was bad

I also recieved a check from the above person, but didn't deposit it. I thought it was a scam right away as there wasn't any instructions w/the check. They sent $1,400 more for the part that I was selling on craigslist.

I just received an email regarding this same info. Sending me a check by UPS and to deposit it and my employment will be verified. Just waiting for the packet so decided to ck it out. I had written to the person sending me the email that if it turns out to be a scam, that I will be her worst nightmare. If the packet shows a scam, it will be reported..

I got a check in the mail from george holder he sent me a check for 1,998.00 i deposited it into my bank i waited 3 to 4 days called my bank and they said it cleared so im supposed to go to any store that sells itune cards and purchase 1,750.00 worth and send in the pin on the back of the cards so i can recieve my next assignment he paid me 238.00 for my service and gas so im hoping this is not a scam i did call the number back that he called me on he answered and text me too but he has several numbers hes called and texted me from hes steady texting and calling to make sure i did the assignment i will do the assignment since the check cleared and was legitimate and hopefully ill get another assignment and its legitimate too

Honey make sure you keep in touch with your bank. My sister was scammed like this her bank said it cleared then 1 month later she recived letter from bank to cover for that check. Be carefull hun.

George holder is no one to be trusted knew it was a scam from the beginning. His instruction list to go to Wal-Mart and survey questioner looked like a high school student typed it up for him. So felt like it was too good to be true and normally thats the case because nothing in life is free.

Received Ed a check for 2902.43 told to deposit it Take 2100.00 out and buy 2400.00 worth of amazon gift cards from Walmart, Best Buy, Target or Walgreens and CVS. Take pictures of front and back of cards scratch off number and pin. Send to an email address save cards for next assignment. They have sent two emails wanting to know if checks have been deposited.

I recived nust today a check for $2,450.49 with a letter asking to wire money to 3 dif. People in texas using money gram. And i called the credit union where the check belongs and they said thatbis not a real check.how can people think we that stupid omg. Im a mistery shopper my self and they actually has sent me visa cards with the payment for my assingment or direct deposit. Wish they get cought soon tho

First at all, thank you everyone for their comments here, I just got a letter and a check formore than 2000 from "Clear Evaluations", I was curious and hoping to find something good for me since I got laid off back on 2016 and finding and working in a job only for necessity so far away from my home, I Google the company and looks something like real, but still something wasn't right for me, so, I came here and reading, I found that so sadly is an scam, the letter with the instructions and go to Walmart and keep 330 as my salary as "we agreed" (I never never ever agree anything with nobody ok?!) and then something that happens 3 weeks ago came inmediately in to my mind, I received an email from Kroger mistery shoppers (actually the website has a link to Kroger jobs, make you thing is something for real) and I sent my address! (Oh oh) then this letter, so we need to be extremaly careful, is a lot of "smart" people out here trying to take advantage of ours weaknesses.

Just got the same deal. Email offer to be a mystery shopper. Responded to it. Seemed a little odd so I investigated and found it was questionable. When I heard back I responded that I was not interested. Next thing I know they say they have my first assignment and a package is on the way. What? Then I receive a letter and cashier's check for $2,484.50. Told to deposit it or cash it at my bank, buy Amazon gift cards and send pictures of the cards and PINs. I looked up the bank website that is way outdated (2015 - no bank doesn't update their website for 3 years!) and nobody answered the phone. Of course, I didn't do anything with the check and reported it to the Postal Inspector and forwarded the email to the FTC (scam@uce.gov) as suggested in earlier posts. This is just a couple days ago - 3/23/18! Check from a bank in Kansas mailed from Virginia?

***BEWARE*** I JUST RECEIVED A US POSTAL MONEY ORDER FOR $998 AND A LETTER WITH INSTRUCTIONS FROM
BOB MCCHRISTY, HEAD OF RECRUITMENT,INTELIUS SHOPPER PROGRAM.
I AM GOING TO TURN OVER ALL MATERIAL, EMAILS AND INFORMATION TO FTC AND HOPE THEY CAN STOP THESE CREEPS. IT IS SAID "IF IT SEEMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE...IT IS!"

same thing here. I am taking it to my bank so they know. police want nothing to do with it. I also got a text from ole' bob.

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