You are here

A scam story: Secret shopping and fake checks

Share this page

Scammers need a good story to get to your wallet. Once they find one that works, they use it again and again. One of their old favorites brings together fake checks and secret shopping, and we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately.

Here’s how it starts. You get a check in the mail with a job offer as a secret shopper. You deposit the check and see the funds in your account a few days later, and the bank even tells you the check has cleared.

Now you’re off to the store you’ve been asked to shop at and report back on, often a Walmart. Your first assignment is to test the in-store money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, by sending some of the money you deposited. Or you might be told to use the money to buy reloadable cards or gift cards, such as iTunes cards. You’re instructed to send pictures of the cards or to give the numbers on the cards.

Fast forward days or weeks to the unhappy ending. The bank finds out the check you deposited is a fake, which means you’re on the hook for all that money. How does that even happen? Well, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. By the time you try to get the money back from the money transfer service, the scammers are long gone, and they’ve taken all the money off the gift cards, too. (By the way, money orders and cashier’s checks can be faked, too.)

The moral of the story? If anyone ever asks you to deposit a check and then wire or send money in any way, you can bet it’s a scam. No matter what they tell you.

Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at FTC.gov/Scams.

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money

Comments

I recently received a check for over $2600 check/secret shopper. I did not do anything with the check. The bank in Washington State

I received a check from a bank in Texas. I didn't do anything with the check either. The only way I would have considered cashing the check is if the bank that the check was written on was in my area and I could cash the check at that bank

Even is it is a local bank, it may still be a fake check. Often banks in one State own banks in other States. If anyone sends you money out of the blue and asks you to send MoneyGrams, it is a scam!

I just received a $4600 check and they asked to deposit to my account and Text a James Smith (707)653-3012 confirming that I deposited the check into my checking account. Then withdraw $4000 cash and go to a local Walmart or two and purchase 8 Walmart Gift cards. Then exit store and scratch off gift card backs and take pictures of all individual gift card backs and receipt and send pictures through text to James Smith.

I will be sending all info to fraud department.

Omg, I just fell for this!!!! Please someone tell me what to do!!!! I’m unemployed and wanted to make extra money!! Please someone help me!

I just got taken as well. Please share any info you have learned.

Hey Thomas,
This just happened to me today. I did NOT touch the money. Left it in my account and when the check was returned from Fulton Bank(on the fake cashiers check) my bank was able to take the money back right away.

Thank you for sharing this story! I just received a check for 2,350.00. I deposited the check and had a terrible feeling. I reported it to the FTC and will be calling the bank in the morning to notify them. So, in your experience since you didn’t touch the money the bank wasn’t owed. Did the scammers continue to communicate with you?

I'm going to throw up, I got scammed as well. What do I do?

I also just did this and I am a broke college kid who was just trying to pay my health insurance.. stupid me

I just received a check for 2600, was told to deposit the check and then in 24 hours it would be good. Then keep 600, then go to Walmart and buy something personal for me and then get 2 Walmart cards and send them to them via pictures. Figured out was a scam, glad to know. They don't have my acct number or anything. Came through USPS. Glad I checked it out and then contacted my lawyer.

Did your attorney say to turn it in - to the police/is there an open investigation? I just got one Saturday

I think all you can do is report it.

Yip - Fernando texted me!!!!! I half knew it was a scam and googled it and here we are!!!!!!!!!!!! Never ever trust anyone who is offering to give you money!!!!! The world is evil - remember that!!!!!!!!!! Always be alert!!!!!!! NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO GIVE YOU MONEY EVER!!!!!!

I just got scammed back in September. Fell for first class mail with name, routing number and water mark including really good fake check. Bank of America contacted me not long after to say it was charged off and I owe balance of $2,240. It was such a good fake that the teller didn’t know the difference.

And what happened next. How did you handle the situation? I just got scammed.

Me too. Buy giftcards and we'll reimburse you after we get pictures of the display, receipt, cards, etc. $1000 before I Ran into a cashier who warned us about this scam. I feel so stupid!

Never ever trust anyone who is offering you money to BUY A gift card, gift certificates, money orders. OK?

I'm from tampa florida recieved a cashier's check for 3600 dollars and asked me to deposit and wanted me to buy gift cards and text him the codes. I didn't because the force told me not to.

To all of you. Sorry but Truth never changes. IF ITS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? IT IS! Except for Jesus of course.

I just got the 4600 check too. But "James Smith" had a different phone number and area code.

I received the same thing but I went to western Union and cashed the cashiers check, will western union, come after me for the money now ? Or am I going to be arrested for fraud ?

I have one to did they give you the money

Did anyone come after you yet? Just curious to know because I did the same thing?

Same here I just received a cashiers check for $4,600 with instructions inside the overnight UPS package , I was instructed to go to my bank and deposit the check and wait for it to clear once it did I was to withdraw $4,000 and head to Walmart and purchase 4 separate money orders of a $1,000 each and keep the rest for gas / transportation and my commission and than to text Sandy back to confirm everything went through and also if I did it within 48 hrs I would receive a $500 bonus gift card for Walmart, so in total I would be getting $1,100 for myself

I just had a gut feeling something wasn’t right so that’s why I’m on here searching for similar story’s and WOW!! I was surprised to see I’m not the only one fortunately for me I didn’t cash the check but what should I do ?? Any suggestions would be great I still have the cashiers check

I just received a letter in a FedEx envelope... it had a $4800 check and an instruction letter .
The check is high quality with water Mark's and embossed seal from a bank in New York state " Josephine Kanis Estate ". As for the instructions ... I was asked to deposit the check into my checking account then proceed to a local Walmart and purchase 5 money orders...totalling $4200 and I was to keep the rest ..also if done within 48 hours a bonus of $300 would be sent to me..I have not destroyed the evidence in case local or federal investigators were going to need it....if it's too good to be true ..it is going to hurt you.

I was sent a 4900.00 check. Same exact instructions. So glad I didn't cash it. I'm contacting the FTC.

I got a check for $2950, from WholeFoodsMarket, as a secret shopper, they wanted nike gift cards bought at multiple locations they offered..scratch off the back and send it to them type situation. I contacted my bank, turns out it is a fraud! They will use anything to get your money! DONT FALL FOR THIS!

Just got my $2950. check from Whole Foods to buy Nike gift cards. I'm taking it all to my local police. They will contact the Attorney General in my state. TIP: whenever I get something like this, if it contains spelling or grammatical errors, you can bet it's not from a legit source. This letter contained several errors which is a tip-off that some foreign person wrote it. Yes, I know, I'm stereotyping, but it's obvious it's composed by a foreigner or less- than- well- educated American person.

To whom do we report this?

You can report to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

Omg! I received the same exact thing on Monday! I was going to show it to my boyfriend tomorrow to see what he thought. I work alot but am broke due to student loans garnishing my checks. I can't even pay my rent now so it would have been perfect timing if I had cashed the check. I decided to Google whole foods market and ended up right here! I'm so glad y'all had this for me to see before I did anything dumb. I hope someone comes up with a way to use their scam against them! That would be great. Good luck to the ones who did fall for it. I hope y'all some how come on top.

Just received this check via USPS was given a tracking number and everything. Very specific instructions to buy gift cards equaling 2500 from 3 separate locations. Keep 450 for myself. Take pictures of the gift cards after scratching off the silver in the back and phone pictures are okay ( of course they are!) and if completed in a certain time frame i get a bonus and to email all this to info@ storeevaluation. ....it had Whole Foods logo on the letter....the check said ACU in Washington State.

EXACTLY!
Except I was stupid enough to buy 2 Nike cards before i went to the bank and they said it was a fake check. Tried to return the Nike gift cards, Gift cards are NOT RETURNABLE. Called Nike, nothing they can do... soooo frustrated with myself.
USPS ACR Services Inc. 330 Berry Street
San Francisco, CA 94158 tracking number and all. He "Mark Henderson" texted me to confirm from 346-366-4252.
Now I have two Nike cards for $500 each, REALLY? out a grand

My daughter was sent an email from a student from her college in PA in regard to a Mystery Shopper opportunity from Pebble Survey Inc. Deposit check for $2500 , survey local Apple Store & purchase (2) Apple G Cards each for $1,100 . Your compensation for survey is $300. After completed , text picture of store receipt & scratched gift card # to: David Bodin : 530 270 9439. Check is fake , you lose your $2500. Looked very legitimate ....preying on College kids !

I was approached on LinkedIn recently about being a Mystery Shopper by someone I thought was one of my connections. I emailed the contact person she gave me and he wrote back to tell me my first assignment would be the Apple Store closest to me - and that I should watch for information coming in the mail. They sent me a check for $2995 and instructed me to purchase 2 Apple gift cards and 1 iTunes gift card for a total of $2695, with the remaining $300 to keep as my "salary." I knew it had to be a scam so I took the check to my bank. It even took the bank a little time to verify the check was fraudulent because it had a water mark and hologram on it - very sophisticated. Once I told the scammer I never received the check they must have realized that I figured it out, because they quit texting me, and I haven't heard from them since. They are using tactics to throw people off by being "referred" to you by someone you supposedly know. They are also using slightly-altered legitimate research company names & creating very realistic checks. Be careful not to fall for this Mystery Shopper scam!

Thank you! Similar scam just happened to me. They made a website look legit, but when it didn't go anywhere at the end I was on point. Same thing happened, Guess it was worth their $6 to Priority Mail and see if I would "bite."

Sam exact attempted scam here February , 2019 . Was approached on linked in by a "Richard Brooks last month and then messaged from number 254-307-0221 . The went three checks for (*% each from a return address in Midland Texas. Checks look authentic ! Thanks for your posting which I saw before this went any further

Richard Brooks text my husband about his so called New Job Assignment from ph# 702-425-8511. A Las Vegas #. What a scam.

They stop emailing and sending packages right? or do I have to report them? I'm only 17 and this is freaking me out

Don’t Let it freak you out. You sound very smart. There is nothing they can do. Either ignore them or tell them to stop emailing. You will be fine

What was the email they contacted you from?

I just got the same thing and the same phone number text me earlier and said to let him know as soon as I recieved the check! 702-425-8511. Crazy!
I’m thinking about just telling them I got the gift cards but that I decided to keep them. lol

Don’t do it you will still owe the bank for the fake check if you deposit it

I think they use different phone numbers. They are probably not even in the USA because they want you to send them the gift card numbers. It's not like they are going to come here and go shopping haha!

Same exact thing, money's orders arrived today.

Same exact thing, money's orders arrived today.

Our postage.com account was hacked and they stole $1500+ of priority mail stamps, and people are contacting us about the letters they received.

Huh, I've got a priority mail envelope here with a check for $2990 that I'll never touch, guess I know how the envelope was paid for now. *sigh*

I'm sure glad I found these comments. I received a check today after clicking on what I thought was a friend sending me a secret shopper link. Accion Research Group. Fraud. The Priority media mail came from Suzanne Kessler in Lansing MI. Fake name for that address doesnt match beenverfied site or the assessor office. This Samuel Cook keeps texting me out of Palm Beach asking how my ebay gift card assignment is going. Where should I turn in this fraudulent check, emails and text messages?

Pages

Leave a Comment