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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



What’s the address to the FTC? I need to send this money order/letter off ASAP!!

The same exact thing happened to me! Word for Word. They text me instructions and that "my assignment is expected to be done by now". I became skeptical due to how ill-planned and unprofessional it seemed.(major red flags)! What should I do since I tried to send the money but cancelled it right away waiting on the refund now. Did you call the authorities?

I just received a text saying that I will be getting a secret shopper package. If there is a check in the package, I'm going to the check cashing instead of the bank & I'm going to ask them to validate it. If it's fake, I'll tear it up. I just don't know if it's a legit business. I'll post the name and yu guys reply if it sounds familiar.

OK, I admit it, they got me too.
I received an email telling me I was chosen to do a mystery shop. I then got a text to be on the lookout for a package coming in the mail with a check and instructions for the shop I was chosen for.

The check was for $2,995.80. The package came by priority mail with a return address of Dallas, TX. The instructions, typed on a plain piece of paper with bad formatting by the typist and told me to deposit the check in my account and go to an Apple store and purchase 2 iphone X's for $1150 each. Make sure the phones are unlocked and contract free. It said that with the money left over, I should take the phones to FedEx and overnite them to an address in Hamilton, NJ. It said that I would end up with $300 as my payment for doing the shopping job.

On the back of the instructions was a list of questions to answer a simple yes or no or needs improvement. The instructions were signed with the name Brian Stalder, Ph.D.

Well, I deposited the check on a Thursday and since it was Easter weekend, I did not do the shop until Monday evening. In the meantime, on Saturday, I received a text that asked me if I had deposited the check and was I going to do the shop that day. I told them that I could not go on Sat.
On Monday, I got another text stating that the funds should be in my account and I should go purchase the phones and return them immediately. It also stated I should text the tracking number to "Data Analyst" on 925-338-0741 to confirm shipment made.

I was thinking that for a mystery shopping job, they sure were pushy. I have done this type of work in the past but never experienced this type of pushiness.

Getting to the store, I used my debit card to pay for the phones. The message came up that I did not have enough money in my account. When calling the bank, I was told that I had pending payments and they all came through so there was only $280 in the account. It was blowing my mind because I knew there should have been over $3,000 in the account, enough to pay for the phones. I left the store without the phones and with a lot of embarrassment. When I got home, I checked my account and it stated that there was a hold on the check.

That's when I knew it had to be a scam. I couldn't believe I fell for it. Luckily, the bank caught it and did not release any funds. So, at least the scammers did not get any of my money!

Do not be stupid like I was. I should have known that something wasn't right with all of the different addresses and the address on the check was from Webster Bank in Woodbury, CT. The check looked very legit.

After all of this, I now will be changing my debit account - just in case - I also know that mystery shoppers do not get paid $300 for a shop and a legit job would not be pushing me to hurry up and make the purchase.

I learned my lesson.

A friend forwarded the Forum Research opportunity to me. She reported her success with the program, so I registered. My first assignment just came, and in the words of Judge Judy, "if it looks to good to be true it probably is". Any advice on the Forum Research Inc and a guy named Raymond McCloskey? He has a gmail email (flag) and the signature block contains no phone or company address. It's screaming red flag. Will see how my friend really feels about this.

The name of the guy that's been contacting me from Forum Research is Jeremy Parrish. I looked up the bank online, Winchester Cooperative Bank, in Boston. But all of Forum Research's online sites state that they are in Toronto. I will not be depositing this check (or at least trying to). It wants $1500 in Walmart gift cards and to scratch the back and email photos. So they can use the gift cards, I would suppose, and this reeks of money laundering.

I received a check from Forum Research also from a Thomas Watt. What’s really up with this company? Any news from anyone? It’s a cashiers check also.

Got a check today, too from Thomas Watt.$2850.00

I also received an email and cashiers check from Thomas Watt for $2850. Should I just rip it up and move forward from this?

I received a check from Thomas Watt yesterday from Las Vegas Called the bank to find out that the whole thing was a hoax...
Be careful...

Same thing, forum research. Some guy named Terry Patrick. Weird emails and assignments that do not make sense. Reporting it.

I'm trying to find out if what I got is a scam I received a secret shopper thing in a certified mail today with the money order telling me to cash the money order or deposit it keep part of the money and MoneyGram the rest through Walmart is this a scam since it's a money order not a check I did sign up for secret shopper assignments online a while back so I'm worried

Wish i would have looked him up first! I did not cash his postal moneyorder i ripped it up!it didn't sound right. Today I received a t.h.r.e.a.t.i.n.g. letter from Bob mcChristy. Well he said I cashed the money order an used it for Nope. Send the cops stupid. I didn't want to return it an have someone else cash it!!

Steve Gregory of Forum Research found me via LinkedIn. I later found out he or his org hacked into a common contact and sent a link advertising a part time job for mystery shopping. Long / short he sent me a check for $2,850 asking me to by some items at the Gap for $30. The kicker was to also buy 4 gift cards at Walmart at $500 each. He then asked for me to scratch off the coating to reveal the numbers and send him photos of the cards. Ridiculous! This was followed by a few emails and texts to me asking me to quickly make the purchase using the funds from his check. I deposited the check at my bank and determined to wait and see if the check would clear. The check was drawn from a bank in Florida and all my research indicated Forum Research is out of Canada. I believe he and his crew just ripped off the name Forum and created their own check system. I had no intentions of making any purchase until the check cleared. I even called my bank to put them on notice that I thought this was a scam. 3 days later, sure enough, I got notice THE CHECK BOUNCED! No major surprise. Just like I thought it would. I am posting this notice to let you all know these checks are not good and will bounce. Don't buy into this scam. I am following up with my bank to see that they alert all their clients. The branch manager initially told us he had seen a few of these checks come in and thought they were good. I think he has a bad memory or really did not see these checks at all. BE AWARE AND DON'T BUY INTO THIS PROGRAM! Be safe everyone.

I just received a priority mail piece with s check for $1,850.00 with a letter of instruction to buy something from WalMart for no more than $50.00, then to wire money to 2 different guys in Texas. I was excited until I read these postings! Thank you everyone for stopping me from making a huge mistake!

This also happened to me, luckily I realized it was a scam before I but it in my bank though. I told the guy I wasn't doing it and I knew it was a scam and then he threatened me saying watch what happens to your life. Should I be worried?

I answered an ad in my email concerning a position as a Secret Shopper for Walmart. A few days later I received a letter with a deposit check. I followed the instructions in the letter. My bank got in touch with me the next day and informed me that the check was a counterfeit. I had not withdrawn any funds. The funds never were actually deposited in my account. I am thankful that my bank has a fraud department that checks and verifies these transactions. They are now investigating further.

Do you know anything about George Holder of
Retail Shopper Express LLC?

Dont do it its a scam

I just received the paperwork and a cashier's Check for $2,483.50 supposedly from Fort Worth Community Credit Union about an "Assignment" to buy iTunes cards in the mail yesterday after a few email correspondences with a person that called Himself Brette B. Griffin phone# 904-748-3782 and the contact email changed from wlcovie11@ with the headliner of National Shopping Service Networks to barbara.griffin667@ the check seemed was a little off so I emailed the Credit Union with pictures of the check and got the response this morning that it is counterfeit, I've contacted USPS and am going to contact the FBI and get all contact info to them. I seriously thought they were legit when they first contacted me, but live and learn and always verify before taking action!! Hope this info helps others avoid being scammed!!

Beware of this mystery shopper company called performa insight 222 West 6th Street Suite 400 San Pedro California 90731 phone number 213-929-8051 email info@ performa Using the names Carolyn Swafford James Cooper and Carmina Stubblefield

What should I do if I already deposited the check?

I too received a check with similar instructions. I responded to Terry Patrick's email requesting an address to return bogus paper check... crickets.

I too got a Priority 2-Day Mail Letter! Priority Mail was shipped from "NEXTGEN FLIGHT ACADEMY" in Riverside CA 92504. Being a Pilot I didn't think much of it till I opened the envelope.
It contained what appeared like a Cashiers Check, but no Bank address or other info was contained on the check made out to me for $2,850.50 drawn on AMOCO Federal Credit Union. Found that there really is a Amoco FCU located in Texas, but a check sample, routing number, and check number did not match what the banks website said the order had to be along with the checks routing number did not match the banks info! SCAM, SCAM!

Looking at the Instruction sheet also did not contain any company location and only one contact phone number that did not get answered. The instructions wanted only TXT messages! Company claims to be Postedjobs Inc. a Professional Survey and Research Grop. (Yes, that's how its spelled on the paper!). Paper and working are miss-aligned on page, with poor copy quality. They want you to report each step via their website www. walmarthr. biz and texting to a 347-690-???? number. What they asked was to deposit check into my account, go to Wal-Mart and buy five $500 gift cards and keep $300.50 for myself. The remaining $50 will cover gas and other expenses.

I have already reported them to the Post Office General, and the FTC. Will be reporting to some of my states Gov. offices that work with these types of scams. Hope nobody else falls for these scams!.

Beware of Brian Stalder PHD from GfK research. Just contacted by them through LinkedIn from a trusted contact however acting like all of the previous comments on the subject....He does not have a LinkedIn profile...

Notified via Linked In by my customer contact at WM that this was legit deal and well worth it. I signed up at Forum Research and was contacted by a Joe Budden - ‭+1 (347) 927-0598‬. He sent me a cashiers check for 3850.70. Very pushy to get me to withdraw the cash once checked “cleared.” 1st assignment was to wire money via Moneygram and Western Union to a person named Judy Kay Lunsford. Then to WM to wire more money and mystery shop for a couple items. My pay was 350.00 along with 50.00 to spend on items at WM. Thanked my customer on Monday for the lead and customer said Linked In account got hacked and she never sent me that email! GDI! Western Union is on to them and didn’t release the funds so at least I got that going for me.

I got the Walmart mystery shopper job today ...! And a check for $2330.00 ... with instructions from the "task manager" that came via ups overnight mail..... it's very appealing but when u look a closer ... it's quite obvious . Chopped or broken English in instructions . It's a bummer too. How is these people can get away with this stuff ...? And then be impossible to find? It makes no sense.. or no cents .

Just received a cashier's check from Coleman for 1950.00 but already knew it was a scam just wanted to check on here to see where I could report them. But please be careful there's no job on where you have to send two different ppl money.

A few days ago I received a cashier's check for $910.00 from Candidview Research Inc. Told to deposit into my bank and $200 is immediately mine. Purchase a cashier's check for #20 for a Charity. Then proceed to Walmart to purchase 2 Walmart gift cards. I am supposed to evaluating the quality of the customer service, et al. I tore up the cashier's check and laughed because is seriously sound like a scam. If it is too good to be true it usually is. I would not dare deposit any "free money" into my account and "text" anyone a "clear picture of the cashier's check I purchased.

Anyone hear of LinQ Research services. The link came from a linkedin contact. I followed thru, got "accepted", went to ask my LinkedIn contact for more info and now the LinkedIn contact is nameless, the link is now bogus and my messages are going undeliverable thru LinkedIn. I don't get how people can be so greedy and selfish!

I just received an e-mail this morning from Linq Research Group starting a check was in the mail and I needed to deposit it...ect. I followed a link on a LinkedIn message I had received from a family member. I asked her if it was real and she replied yes then the next day she deactivated her account. I was busy with work so I didn’t think anything of it. Until the email today. I warn that Linq is a real company but not this one!

Same thing happened to my husband. Were you sent a check and if so how much was it for? Has to be a scam

I was scammed through a job posted on for Linq research services. Same scam... got an email back after applying for this part time job stating “accepted” and to wait further instructions. Got the same email about a check coming and to buy 3 Wal-Mart gift cards. I also took issue with the 7th grade level of professionalism. They sent $70.10 more than the total. When I emailed “Karen Henson” back she said she to keep it for the next assignment. I sent her an email saying that I’ve been instructed to hand over the check to the authorities as this is a scam and if she could provide me with contact information from management...
The check is drafted on Wells Fargo so I’m taking it there. But it has a law firm name on it that is legit. I’m not sure but it just doesn’t feel right. Going with my gut on this one

Received an invite on Linked In to apply for a mystery shopper position. I was approved. Received a check for almost $3k. The return address is for an accounting firm in CA. The check is for a company in MI. I blocked the person on LinkedIn and I'm turning the check and envelope over to the company it shows on the return address. The employee there is concerned about the scammers using the company information.

I received a message from LinkedIn from a person I went to school with inviting me to be a secret shopper. They told me that they had been doing this since July 2017 on a part time basis and wanted to pass it on. I received a link from LinQ and Karen Henson and advised to apply for an opening for a part time mystery shopper. 2 weeks later I received an email advising that I had been selected for the part time job and that I would receive a packet in the mail soon. A few days later I received a priority mail envelope from Pamela Hill from Chicago IL. In the envelope was a check from Joshua Bevington of Lakeville Ohio and from bank CSB The Commercial & Savings Bank for $1860.80 and no instructions. Shortly after I received an email with instructions to deposit the Check immediately and the purchase 3 Walmart and Ebay cards totaling $500 a piece. I am the take the remaining amount and keep it as my pay for the assignment. I am so glad that I found this website. I called the bank that the check is drawn on and they advised that there was not enough money in the account and that they had received a number of calls about this account. So glad I found this website and will be forwarding to Attorney General for mail fraud and a scam

same happend to me. "karen" keeps emailing me to move forward. im trying to figure out a way to cash the check with no risk to me. LinkedIn needs to crack down on this.

i recieved a check of 2780 for walmart secret shopper from a george harris survey coordinator of all star retail express with a fake check asking for 200 dollar itunes and three money orders of 700 each i did buy the gift cards but not the money orders my bank let me know its a fake check so im out 360 but lucky my bank didnt clear the hole amount and this guy is still trying to play innocent saying the checks real and he doesnt know why the bank the check came from and my bank says its fake

I just received an email from the same guy I'm glad I did my research George Harris from All Star retail Express. Be aware people there's a lot of scams going on I'm glad I ran into your comment thanks!

I just received a priority pkg today with a check for $2985 with instructions for Walmart and USPS from the same George Harris! I too am glad I googled the business name and found this site! I used to manage a check cashing store years back and although a lot has changed in the ways things are done in regards to cashing, counterfeiting, etc, the letter itself had red flags all over it and inconsistencies both in instruction and overall grammer which immediately told me it had to be a scam! I have emails and texts from this Harris guy as well as everything I received and will use the link on this site to properly make a report and hand over anything pertaining to it! It's really sad that people have to be shady to make a quick buck and given what I saw today, really hope that ppl receiving these letters and checks pay extreme attention to the letter that comes with the check because if that isn't properly worded or doesn't make sense but they make it appear to be time sensitive as they have, those little flags are dead give aways that it is not how it seems!! Good luck everyone!!

I recieved an usps envelope with a check for an ebay survey. I deposit the check but then aread al this stories an I think is a scam because they are rushing me to buy this gift cards. I am not hoing to touch that money.

Did you stay with the money? Like if you deposited the check what happened to it?

I got a secret shopper job invite from intelligence to take part in a secret shopper evaluation at Walmart. The letter was sent Priority Mail from a Brian Caldwell in Maryland. The letter said to cash the check and send money to 2 different men I Arlington Texas. This is obviously a scam! The letter included a check for $1850. It looks legit until you tri to verify it with the company. No such email address can be found.

I received a check for 1,897.00. The name on the account was Dillon Aero,Inc. This was sent to me priority mail and the return address was from Brian Caldwell. Instructions for my secret shopper task was sent with the check. I imagine this is the same scammer as you encountered. When I sent a message to them in return to all the text messages they had sent me, I told them this was not a accredited business and I did not hear anything else from them.

Got my letter today and was shocked with the directions and the amount of money in it. So scary that they are able to hack into my ex co-workers linked in account...have a full out conversation with me and convince me to sign up. Then it's all a scam. Who can you report this to? I want them to be caught.

Yesterday I received a text that said I had offered to help with a survey and I would receive a package soon. I didn't know what it was about so I deleted it. Then today I received a priority email with a check for $1,367 and instructions to deposit the check and complete my first "secret service evaluation." I was to buy Ebay gift cards in any denomination from $50 to $200 up to a thousand dollars worth and scrape off the silver bar, then take the pictures and send them to an email address they gave. All this had to be done TODAY or TOMORROW. The whole thing sounded fishy, especially since the original text was obviously written by someone with English as a second language. Tomorrow I'll take this to the post office because I think this scam needs to be reported.

I received a priority mail today with a check drawn on a AMOCO Federal Credit Union in the amount of $2,420 telling me to cash it at my bank and if the bank wouldn't cash it deposit it so that it would post over night and keep $420 up front and purchase $2,000 in $500 wal mart gift cards scratching off the codes and emailing or texting those photo answer some other questions about the store. This would be my 1st job for mystery shopper and depending on my speed and performance would determine how quickly I got more "jobs". The bank is legit but I seriously doubt that is the only thing in this scam. There were inaccurate writing skills: capitalization, punctuation and spelling in the directions. I was to text them once I received my package but it was after bank hours. Be leery if you receive one of these packages. This is the second one for me. The 1st MONEY GRAM WRITEN ON THE BANK i BANK WITH AND THEY COULD SPOT IT BEING FAKE AT ONCE! What a shame the people take advantage if people obviously in need of money or why were they willing o preform @nd jobs on the hopes of making some extra money. I'll keep you updated once the bank checks it out! Pun intendended

Was it fake

I'm glad I saw this post. I got she experienced. I got a mail as well just today with a check on it as a Walmart secret shopper. Asking me to deposit to a bank and everything. Geeeeez. What a scam. I wonder if I could just send this mail back to the sender ? Or probably throw it in a garbage. Scam scam

I received 2 of these today. One had a money order for 985.00 and the 2nd had a cashiers check for $2350. The money order was blank and the cashiers check was made out to me. I am to cash or deposit the check and keep 300 then buy gift cards. They want pictures of the pin codes and front and back of the cards (I suppose so they can use them online). One came from this P&O Professional Survey and Research Group. The 2nd was from Route Brokers Inc. I'm glad for boards like this to help us all stay safe. This scam is obviously alive and well. I'll report it to the agencies already listed here.


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