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A scam story: Secret shopping and fake checks

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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!

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

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

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?

Kindly Confirm you have received funds and Instructions for your first assignment via USPS. TEXT " ASSIGNMENT
RECEIVED " to (201)-771-3621 for Confirmation

That’s what they sent to me from 52548 number

Wow glad I saw this they just sent a check and text message to me this morning

Yeah they used priority mail too. I should have sent it to someone idk who. Or taken photos so these people get caught. I tore everything up. Mine started with a text message then the mail. So idk how they have my phone and current address.

Same thing just happened to me. I thought it was legit but I see its not. Will be taking checks to local bank to turn them in with letter and screenshots of text messages from person who has been contacting me.

Just received one today for 998.00. Asking me to load google play cards. Haha. I knew it was a scam. In the trash out goes after I take pictures of the letter and check.

interesting, I just received a check today and was solicited by a former colleague of mine via LinkedIn. They only communicate in text and when I asked why the checks were sent with remitters being someones name not their company nor the company of those requesting the research or a contracting firm, they continued to confirm that they were 100% legitimate. What threw me off is the amount of the check and that they wanted me to go buy these gift cards with $2k and then send it back to them scratched off. LIKE WAIT A MIN! This very much felt like old scams back in the 90s that worked sort of the same way, re: Ponzi, where someone sends a check to someone else. The remitter of the check and the sent from address on the priority mail label were even differing names.

Definitely do not deposit this check. I am holding onto the envelope and check, sitting on a shelf while I figure out how to return this to the right folks. I'd like to see how far they are willing to take this if I continue to ask them questions.

Yep just got that one also glad i came here and checked it out.

I just recieved the exact same package. 998.00$ to purchase Google play cards totaling 750.00$
Wow. I even looked up the banks routing number. Only thing that didn't jive is, the cheque...unfknbelivable number in toe top right corner and the one on the bottom line by the routing number, was not the same...nice try !!

Just received a priority mail Express 1 day with a certified check for $998.00 and instructions for Google play. Lord knows the money is needed but I am not going to be no one's fool on Mother's day.

I received the same thing in the mail today for the exact amount as yours $998.00. Too good to be true!! Red flags popping up all over the place. Took a Picture of the letter and check and will post it on FB to let everyone know to beware.

I received a random text about secret shopping at Walmart. Then they emailed me with the assignment. I was to keep 300 for my salary and then spend 50 on anything I wanted and then get gift cards with the rest. After that I was to take pics of the pin scratched off and the gift cards and send them to them. They sent me screen shots of the check and I was to upload my banks app and deposit it that way. Glad I came here and seen it was a scam. As a single mom I can’t afford to be on the hook for $3500!!! Something needs to be done about all these scammers. It’s happening way too much!!!

So glad I researched about this beforehand. I JUST got a check for $2995 to be a mystery shopper; was told to also deposit it in my bank and go to an apple store to purchase 2 gift cards with it and $300 was my salary . It seemed too good to be true so I researched first and low and behold here I am. A few different things though, the company is White Loft Surveys LLC and the mans name is Joseph Rendon. I've saved the text messages as well.

Oh my god ! I’m so happy that I googled it before going to the bank tomorrow morning . I just got a check for $998 and they wannted me to buy itunes gift cards and then scratch the code and send a picture of the gift card code to their email !
The pay was so good to be true ! I mean almost $300 for just going to bestbuy or apples store to buy the gift cards IS RIDICULOUS !

same here

I knew something was fishy. Signed up for that peddle Inc company through my university. And received a check for 2,950. Called all my older friends, and we looked at it and I was like nahh...let me look up the number.

I just got the same amount in a check yesterday through a priority mail from mystery shopper but called better business bureau and they confirmed it was a fraud. I'm so HAPPY my grandma pointed it out once I showed her the check and survey packet , and than my family called and reported it and I also kept all the messages.

I just received a check today for $2997 and my assignment was to go to the Post office and get postal money orders. The overall sound of this made me feel it was a scam but I am glad I looked here to confirm it. I just sent the guy named Jeff Mclever (909-581-4223) an text stating that I shared his name and number with my neighbor who was interested in this as a second job. And that my neighbor's first job was working for the FBI. I haven't received any further texts from Jeff! Thanks for these posts!

Same here. Just got the same money orders for $2000 to deposit and then go to Walmart and you know the rest. I’m reporting this to the US Postal Service because they’re saying to report it. They are trying to catch these scammers.
Call 1877-876-2455 to report these people.

We just received the exact same check amount and instructions. Curious as to who you received from?

Same here received from roldan Walton the check from rollerrena auto sales in east Palestine ohio

Same exact thing. My husband received post office money orders and they look so real so he was telling me that he thinks that it is legit, but after the next few days he was getting flooded with priority mail with checks in them for secret shopping. Trusting my instincts I looked up secret shopper scams and here you are telling my story...Same exact amount on the check! Thanks because I was looking for something similar to determine that they are fake.

Latest scam uses cashiers checks that look legit from Navy Federal Credit Union.
Text number is 773 area code from a guy named Steve. You usually get an email from someone you know via linkedin

Veterans get their checks from the treasury department..regulated by the veterans administration. They dont use credit unions or private banks to send paper checks...our federal government does that...the only way you will receive any compensation from the u.s. armed forces via bank is if you have direct deposit...

Received private message on LinkedIn from someone that I’m aquatinted with...for a mystery shopper stating she had been doin it PT & pat was great.
I filled out info just to see more info & within a few days I received a check for close to 2K...no instructions inside just a check. I tried to contact company on check because it looked like income for property that was sold as the Title Co said Escrow...
Then I started to receive emails & texts from “Karen”. The attachments say all the same thing as others have said: deposit ck Into your account & then purchase gift cards & rate experience & then email gift card info...
Looked here before doing anything!

Same here. Just got a check for $995.00. Supposed to go to Kroger and buy $700.00 in Itune gift cards. scratch off the pin and email a picture to Peter Anderson. Keep the $ 295.00 for your first Secret Customer assignment.
I knew it was too good to be true. Phone numbers are all from California but the Banks are all in Florida.
Think I will call the local tv station.

I just received the same thing! A money order that looks totally legit,water marks and all..except mine is from a federal credit union bank in Michigan. However I’m supposed to send the pictures of the cards I purchase for 700$ to
Peter Anderson as well. They sure do put a lot of time into this scam seeing as everything looks so real and they even used a real credit union, same address ect. These people are such scumbags.

Just got one from Space Coast Credit Union in the amount of $995. And supposed to get $700 in Amazon Gift cards .....how do we find and become mystery shoppers for legit companies?

OMG! I am also glad I googled before doing anything! I also received “ cashier’s check” in a mail for 2,350.00. Then I texted to 682-237-9633 that I received the check. His name (not real probably) is Ben Melvick. I thought it’s too easy to be true. When I tried to call , nobody answered . I also received e - mail asking me about updates. Where can I report this # and e mail?

I received a text from number 1-615-685-2677, they had texted 10 people in regards to sending out the mystery shopper package and to expect it. Then the next day I received a text from 1-778-706-1011 letting me know that my package had been shipped and to text when I had received it. Signed Mystery Shopper USA, 2 days later they texted to see if I had received the package and when I plan to complete the assignment. I texted that I had not received it but as soon as I did I would let them know. I texted them that evening letting them know I did receive it and would this be David Beausoleil(the name on the check), all they texted back was "yes". I texted that, I am not able to complete my assignment until Monday within 24 hours do to my bank not being open until Monday. Is there allowance for this for the bonus? I NEVER received a response. I then decided to search and found all this horrible scan stuff...I am so glad I looked on here. The check is from Adademy Bank, it is a cashiers check, it is dated March 11, 2019 but was sent to me on 04/05/2019 the total that was sent to me was $998.00. I was to purchase a Google Play card for $325.00 from 2 stores then take a picture of them and email the picture of them to the emails john@ ecommerc eshoppers. net and newell .jess @mail. com. My compensation was the $348.00 left from the check. Is there somewhere I can report this?

The exact same thing happened to me but the link came to me from a recruiter and so I thought it was a legitimate Mystery Shopper experience which I sent my contact information to. Fortunately for them, I work in the judicial system and will take this to the authorities. I never did anything with the checks but let the Scammer know they had the wrong person. The company is SeeLevel HX Research Group and the woman's name is Lisa Hartfold. File a complaint with the FTC and give them as much information as you can regarding the checks, text messages and phone numbers. I also had another address on the envelope that was sent to me as well.

Wow...she has been texting me for the last 2 days asking if I received my first assignment. It was a bit too desperate why I started researching her name. Once I receive the package, I will definitely report it. Thanks for providing details...

Same thing with the same name. FedEx had actually intercepted the pkg and I text them about it. The referral link came from a reliable person on LinkedIn as well...is ftc.gov the only place to report this to?

Lisa almost got us. But we were concerned that the mail address was different from the check address and the envelope was not professional, we sent her a screenshot of this blog and said that we have a family member who needed extra money because of the furlough. But he works for the FBI, so we wanted to refer her information to him. bet we will not hear from her again.

I just received a check for 2,375 from consumer insights LLC and I'm like....woah it says the remitted is Deanna Jones. Cashiers check ...definitely a scam

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