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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

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.

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

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