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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
Scam Tags:  Job Scams

Comments

Received one from Jamie keilholz from Waterford, MI. Mirage systems inc. Out of Deland FL and Mainstreet Community Bank of Florida

Received 2 checks one for 2850 and a second for 3850. Was advised to buy 2500 worth of google play cards....buy one 50 dollar product and keep 300 as payment. The second check was the same. It didn't seem like a scam until they had me email pics of all the Google play numbers. That perked concern from my husband. I've reported them and asked for their company name. They said they are with paid surveys. I'm scared I'll have to repay this money

I just got a second secret shopper fake cheak quest,first was Walmart w/$2,450 cheak,now it's dollar general/$1,960 cheak,guess they think I feel off a turnip truck this morning,ms Inc services evaluation is today's scam,it all comes from Nigeria,africa,Dont go for any of the secret shopper work,its all a scam.

Just got a check for 1,475.00 cant believe that this was the best thay could do.

By Priority Mail, received check issued on Santander Bank for $1825.36 (Nice! It says "Official check!") And a letter from Kenny Risak with my 1st assignment to buy Ebay gift cards - after I deposit their check. The letterhead says Consumer Research Network with phone number 4153906621 - text only! If it seems too good to be true...

I received a Cashier's Check for $2,290.00.Amscot Confirmed that the check was Fake.I'm glad Amscot did Something about it.SCAMMERS BEWARE.

I received a check for $998 telling me to go to Best Buy and buy a card worth $650 for Google play take a picture of the front scratch off the back send it to: reports @CBEVAL surveys. neat! They keep texting me and asking me if I’ve done my project yet

Just got my priority mail today with the check for 1800$ but the guys name is keven porter... I know better..lol checked on here to see how many people he was doing this to... Crazy.. Can't believe they get away with this.. Wow

Mike from Florida. I also received a check on the Mail for mystery shoppermailing I was going to use a family member to deposit it in his account. I've been Job hunting for 5 months thought my drive had came through. Now I see it may as well be a scam.o should know better..thank you guys for your post.to good to be true.damn.

I recieved one from "Diana Gonzalwz" in Garland, Tx via priority mail it was a postal money order for $1,000 said my pay would be $200, send pics of a gift card for $800. bottom of letter says email to: updateevalreport 2018 @ yahoo. com & updateevalreport 2019 @ outlook. com too and text: 501-500-8315 or 310-881-4282 signed: Yours Sincerely, @2018 Evaluationsurvey team. Los Angeles, CA.

Wow!! I'm from MI and received a first class envelope with a cashiers check for $2995.00 with my name and some Jessica name on it and looks very legit and has my assignment to by Walmart gift cards and of course for me to keep $350.00 for my time.. What a joke so glad I found this site. My mom always said "if it seems to good to be true it usually is ":)

I just received so called "first assignment " scammers are sending me check with $1850. email: hznetwork @ comcast. net

I just received check for 2993.00 for Top View Market Survey. I knew it was scam right away. Wanted me to deposit and purchase several gift cards to total 2600.00 my pay was to be 350.00. To send pictures of scratched off gift cards to them within 24 hours. Well, I know that cashiers check will not clear in that time or available in that time. I'm not spending my cash to give away to someone I don't know. I answered text when asked if I finished my task. I will be reporting them. It is to good to be true. Don't do it. There are legit survey options out there. Just keep your money.

I was contacted by Mike from Nike via email to provide all my info. I did provide him all my info and the job was a Product Analyst in store for Nike and Walmart. All the communication was through email and text, which look authentic, but yesterday Mike texted me asked me the details of my bank account to wire transfer the funds, which I said no and I prefer mail check. The wire transfer on Sunday, striked me that this is a fraud. I am still waiting from Mike for any future communications. Thanks for the comments on this site, which really identified the spam/ fraud going on.

Just got a check from Consumer Advantage for $2975. looked very real. They wanted me to cash the check and buy two gift cards at Apple one for $1300 one for $1350, a money order for the American Cancer Society for $25 and keep $300. I thought it was legit since I got the info through my UT email. Best shred that mess. What company hands out $3k in money in hopes you do a job for them??? Without collateral. Please, don't fall for that.

Thank you all for your comments. I was about to go to the bank to deposit the check but luckily I looked it up and here I am. Rec'd a check for $1,750 and go to the Apple store and purchase 2 gift cards for $750.00 and that once I am done , I was to scratch the back of the gift cards to reveal the codes and send a clear picture showing all 4 corners with the purchase receipt. Really cant be fooled by this.

I received an email from my school about a part-time job so I believed it to be legit.
Got a Bankcorp South check for $2,990.30 to buy 2 itunes gift card and keep $300 as my secret shoppers fee. Sender's name: Coffee Artista( A coffee shop in Mission TX with location address as senders address too.). Such a shame that they are now targeting innocent college students looking for part time job.

Just got a check myself yesterday for $2335.00. Looked really legitimate. Like others reported here, the instructions were to deposit the check, and when the funds became available, to pull out my fee of $250 plus $37 in processing fees, and take the rest to go to Walmart and use Moneygram to send out moneygrams to 2 people listed on the letter attached. The check is drawn on Santander Bank NA, and from the routing number on the check, I was able to check with Santander Bank, and the account number and name on the account are legitimate, and the funds are available. So, isn't that interesting? So then, I googled the account holder's name, who happened to be a doctor, and the doctor appears to be reputable and legitimate too. That tells me that the doctor (the person who owns the bank account) probably had their account hacked, and the hackers are using this method to get money out of the doctor's account. So, since the doctor seemed legitimate, I called her, and she will call her bank to take protective measures. Hopefully the doctor has not already been hit with other checks. If this was happening to my bank account, I would appreciate being advised asap so I could avoid getting my account drained!! And no, I did not deposit the check! :-)

They tried to scam me too with this exact scenario, and here's what you should do to help bring these criminals to justice:

1) report 'em to the FTC: ftccomplaintassistant.gov
2) report 'em to the FBI: ic3.gov/default.aspx
3) report 'em to your local police dept (if they'll take the case)
4) report 'em to the USPS Inspection Service for Mail Fraud: postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactUs/filecomplaint.aspx
5) report 'em to the bank whose name appears on the (fake) cashier's check (for example: Bank Of The West, Huntington Bank, Wells Fargo, etc) -- call the corporate/toll-free # for the bank and ask for their fraud dept or security team, and tell them exactly what happened; they darn well SHOULD be concerned if some scammer is mailing out counterfeit cashier's checks with the bank's name on it!
6) if your cashier's check was delivered by FedEx or UPS, call THEM up and ask for their corporate fraud dept - the point here is that SOMEBODY had to pay some $$ money to ship the envelope to you, and wherever that shipping label was created, on whatever computer, using whoever's credit card #, the security team at FedEx or UPS can (or should WANT to) pin-point exactly where that happened, and investigate from there!

I did even one step further and looked up the name/address of the "sender" of my USPS Priority Mail envelope, she was someone named Elaine in Glenview, IL. I found a phone # for her online, called it, and it turns out SHE was a fellow scam-victim herself! She had no idea who I was, didn't send the envelope, knew nothing about a cashier's check, etc. She said a suspicious person on the OfferUp website (kinda like Craigslist) had maliciously obtained her full name & address, after claiming to be interested in an item she was selling. So apparently this scammer used HER name & address on the return shipping label for the cashier's check I got mailed, just to make it look legitimate.

I tried reporting this crime to my local city police dept, and even the county sheriff's office, and both of them refused to even bother to take a report unfortunately. But in case anyone finds this comment via Google, I'll type out all the particulars of the scam as it was tailor-made to me: the supposed company name is Accion Research, person's name is Samuel Cook (Senior Scheduler) and it's a 571-area code phone # and their website accionresearch.com gives the name of a David F. Swanson.

When I talked to the bank this cashier's check was drawn off of, I scanned it and emailed a copy to someone there, and he said a giant red-flag that it's a fake/scam check was that next to the word "Purchaser" there SHOULD be a name of a company or person there, the one who's paying you. But on my check it's left blank. Huge tell-tale sign there of an amateur scam-artist.

I Just received via Priority Mail Express addressed to me, a check inside for $2,950. Looks real but I know I have nothing to do with the company so I called them and they don't send out checks like this. Phone number on check told me to download an app for free text and calls. I didn't. Needless to say, I'm not depositing it. Be aware.

I received 2 checks on the same day for $998.00 asking me to purchase Google Play cards. i thought it sounded to good to be true, today i received a text from 754-216-3217 asking when I would complete the assignment and to deposit both checks and I would get a paid $400, so happy I googled the name David Beausoleil and Secret Shoppers.

Scam received by Big Sky Beverages using a fake bank cashier's check. Suppose to get $150.00 to display decal on vehicle as a marketing campaign. They sent a fake check for $1950.00 and stated you were to text 951-582-4369 when the check was deposited and past that point they would only take via text messages. The $1800.00 was supposedly for "expert contracting fee and advertising materials" for sending money to another person. The scam was delivered via priority mail to make it seem like it was legit, but it is NOT!! DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM!

I received the same scam with the same details, instructions, and number! Except the check was for $2,260.55, and salary of $300. Two came in the mail with the same letter, format, and check; however, the checks were from two different places.

Received an email through my university from someone with my university email offering mystery shop job. I applied, got it and a check came in the mail today with 2k on it. Everything seemed legit to me until I saw I had to purchase gift cards and scratch off the back and send pics???? That’s when it got fishy and I decided to do more research.

The guys name is “George Taylor” of Winmark Retailers sent a cashiers check from a credit union that doesn’t exist in California, the return address on the mail is in Texas but the tracking system online says it came from San Diego. It all looks incredibly fishy now that I put all the evidence together.

The same thing happened to me! I almost went through with it! It didn’t hit me that it could be a scam until I’d already bought the gift cards. I talked to my bank, explained the situation, and they said it would take about a month for the check to clear. The moment I realized it could be a scam. I started doing research (I’m not sure why I didn’t do this before, I think I was just really excited). Nothing but this came up. I kept trying to contact this “company” called WINMARK RETAILERS SURVEY INC, but no one ever answered until yesterday. His name was George Lindor. No phone introduction and a bit awkward. Thank you so much for posting this! This helped confirm my suspicion!

thanks to the postings here, averted a scam involving a legitimate company, MIS Group, that was hacked by the scammers. The initial correspondence looked legit, but suspicion arose once the money orders arrived and subsequent communication was all by text. Money orders were from a credit union, that I googled and discovered it had only $40 in the bank.
Beware of this group!

I got a Secret Shopper Cashier's Check from Comerica Bank today for 2800. To buy and text photos of Walmart gift cards. Check looks pretty real. No phone number on it though. It will take a lot more than this to scam me. So far Equifax breach screwed me the most.

I got 2 Priority mail envelopes. One had a postal money order for $998, the other was a supposedly cashier’s check for $2400. Both had instructions to deposit the bogus funds in my account, get cash and purchase some store gift cards. Good thing I’m not stupid enough to deposit the checks. Debating whether I should hand the envelopes in to the Police Dept. Or contact FBI. It is a federal offense to use bogus checks.

I just received 3 checks for $950 asking me to go to an Apple Store and buy computers. After checks cleared my account, the claim was when I went to the store to buy the computers, the person who I was to report my mystery evaluation to would be named. I knew it was a scam. Will turn checks and senders information over to my county, state and local AGs, as well as the FTC.

What if the cashiers check IS cashed at Walmart (and the instructions on the letter NOT followed) Does that mean that the check was legit? And, who is responsible for the funds and how can a check clear from a fictitious bank account. How can a victim be held accountable for a fraudulent check that clears and is cashed at a Walmart or check cashing place? Why aren't all these complaints raising a red flag and warrant ing an immediate infestation. It's not like Walmart doesn't have high powered attorneys who have coffee dates with FBI and FTC agents who could be putting a stop to all this before hundreds more share the same fate. These scammers need to be stopped and the authorities have the ability to do that but obviously aren't focusing their limited budget this direction. Probably because they don't face the same financial struggles that we fall victim to out of desperation to feed or family, or by a car so we can get work and get parenting time with our children etc. There is a definite need for a Class Action Suit. Please authorities....step it up because it's the scammers fault and who should be held accountable; certainly not the victims nor the store that cashes it.

You are responsible for the checks you cash. If a bank cashes a check, that does not prove the check is good.

Federal law requires banks to make money available to you within a day or two after you deposit most checks.

If you cash a bad check, and the bank finds out later that the check is no good, you have to repay the bank. This article explains more about fake checks.

I just received 3 UPS envelopes with my company name as the sender, all 3 had checks for $2,900 each, two from Bank of Springfield and one from Bank of America, with the same letter (poorly copied) with Walmart letter head to buy money orders.

I reseived a e-mail saying that there was an offer to get your car wrapped in adverts for 400 a week for 3 months. Coming from a school e-mail, i thought i was legit so i followed up and then sent me a check for 1950. i deposited the check and then they sent me a text telling me to go to Walmart and get some gift cards. This is when i began to be suspicious. I texted the man and told him that i was not going to go through with this and then he called me. He did not convince me and when i said that, we wanted me to transfer the money to someone named Joann Cox. Needless to say, i did not do it and i came across this when i looked up the phone number. Im going to my bank to see what can be done about this

I received an email in my college email. It appeared to be from the Work Study program at the school itself. So I replied thinking it would be a good way to make some extra money. However, when i started receiving texts from someone from CODI Survey Services LLC red flags started going up. It felt strange that a company would conduct business via text messages. Anyway I researched survey scams and found this article and I am glad that I did. I received my first mystery shopper "assignment" yesterday and it is almost verbatim the same as what is represented here. The only exception is that my letter states that in the first part of my assignment I am to purchase gift cards from the Apple Store and then in the second part of the assignment I will be purchasing product from the store using the same cards I purchased in the previous assignment. I am further instructed that after I have made the product purchase that a "verified agent" will pick up the merchandise purchased from me once I exit the apple store. Obviously, I'm not going to deposit this check but is there anything else that can be done. I am really worried that younger students from the college I attend may have received this same email and fall victim to this scam. I have emailed my counselor at the school, but is there anything else that I can do?

I almost did this! I applied for a job doing secret shopping. They just sent me a check for $2,468.00! Ebay/Wal-Mart survey program. I was instructed to deposit check immediately without the bank clerk knowing what this was for. Then I was to select stores from their list to purchase ebay cards for$2000.00 then take pics of cards back and front and send them in. I really almost fell for this!! I am so glad today is Saturday and the banks aren't open. I thought I better check it out before Monday. I really hate there are so many people out there that are so dishonest and steal from good people in this way.

Indeed have these people on there ...beware

I got one too, but thought to check here first. Glad I did. Thank you.

Im kind of scared... I thought this was a real company through kroger... Sent me a cashiers check for 1890..... 50 for grocieries to buy 40 for a charaitable donations and 1500 for gift cards and 300 for myself.....,.. Im supose to get another chexk monday the 4/15... Tried to find the company for a friend to join and i cnt find it anywhere and then i did a background search on the phone number i was given and it came up with nobody has it..... What should i do? I still have the gift cards and charitable donations and my compenstaion.... And the reciepts bc im a hoarder for those.

My daughter received an e-mail through her college account and needing a job, she "applied" to be a mystery shopper to Store Survey Support LLC which is NOT a registered Texas LLC. Luckily, she told me about it when she received an e-mail from an iCloud account informing her she got the job and the next steps would involve receipt of advance payments to make purchases. I instructed to block the e-mail and not to respond if she received anything further. Fast forward a few weeks later and in the mail were three checks for $995 each with detailed instructions to purchase gift cards from the Apple Store, text a number for instructions on "how to complete your task with the gift cards" and the purchased items would then be picked up by a "verified agent" at the Apple Store. Not only was this suspect, but potentially dangerous!! Her "salary" was to be $300 for each task. The name on the envelope (a plain white envelope with printed address labels) was Melanie Ottinger from Austin, TX, the company is supposedly Store Survey Support LLC: http:/ /store survey support. us/, the email and instructions came from jeffre yknapp 60@ icloud. com, and the cell number was 904-372-8954.

I wanna know, since the check cashes and all, what happens if you flip the script on them? Cash/deposit the check, and never do what they tell you after. If they need you to buy gift cards and such and then send pictures of them, they obviously can’t access your bank information. It’s a scam, but it’s not fraud per se. like there’s no identity theft of information stealing.

I whish I would read this yesterday. They send me this to my college account, I feel so stupid. what can you do?
Apparently it happens a lot with apple giftcards!!! they whould take more precautions.

Do anyone know if the free Shopping Place is legit

I got the same check last week for a total of 2450 dollars. The assignment was to purchase 2 apple gift cards then keep 300 dollars as my payment. I just knew something was not right and I had no intention to deposit that check. It just was too good to be true. The person keeps texting about whether I deposit the check.

Did anyone get a second check under priority mail that is only the check and no letter but from a company? I never did anything with the first letter they sent me from "Kenny Risak"

I received a letter and check for $1000 from Ricky Ford secret shoppers CoOrdinator I deposited the check did the assignment and survey 1 week later bank said check was fraud. Now I’m out of $1,010 . They next sent 3 $1000!checks for another assignment. Fool me once I was a fool not twice. Who can I report this to.

I received a check for $3000 I deposited into my bank account and the funds are available but I did not purchase the Apple gift cards. I received several test and one phone call from a guy urging me to complete to assignment. How do I report this and get them arrested?

My first approach was in an email . I’m trying to support myself, a car, and my home on 1100 a month Social Security. So I could use a little $.

Sender was Opinion Outpost, with an address in Shelton, Ct. ladies name was Alice Montgomery.

Filled out an application, got a check in. priority Two Day envelope from Opinion Outpost in Orlando FL.

Check inside from Sk Life Science in FairLawn, NJ FOR $2945.00. Keep $300, shop and report on the stores, buy ITunes and Google play gift cards totalling $2600, send the pictures of the codes to them and keep the extra $45 for gas.

Anyone wanna bet it’s real?

I am on my third check from 3 different companies. First thing I checked was the fake routing number on the check. Then brought it all to the police station to report. I'm now just making a collection of the checks and letters. (of course writing void on the checks)

It's very simple people. It's another form of money laundry.
al i had to do was to google the name of the corporation and popped all over the place, to be a scam.

I received a check for 2800. I was to go to western union in Walmart and send a person in Florida 1400. To make a long story short I took the check to my bank to find out if the check was legitimate and much to my surprise the check was stolen from a reputable company, but the company had not reached that check number yet.

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