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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

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money
Scam Tags:  Job Scams


As a retired postal employee, I received an opportunity thru email. It all looked legit. I even checked the company Seelevelhx; It was a real company. I went through the whole process and received money orders in the mail, totaling $2,900. What raised the red flag? The return address was from Tamara Colon, from Texas. It was a plain white security envelope. It had a simple stamp on it. I took it to my bank and enquired. I was told it was probably fake. I emailed back a response for clarification to Lisa Hartfold. No answer. So, I never put them in my account and never got a follow-up about the $2,900 in money orders.

Has anybody got a post office money order?

I received the same thing, from "Actionable Intelligence Delivery" from David Soto. A cashiers check for $2450.00, go to Apple I store. & but some gift cards Glad I did my research. A scam!!

I got one from Neighborhood Credit union out of Texas also. Secret shopper thing is still circulating be careful everyone!

Two days ago I received a letter with a $2467.00 check and a letter from someone who lives in Oklahoma. As a resident of Luquillo,Puerto Rico an area that was devastated by two major hurricanes in 2017, the arrival of a large check is a God send miracle.Upon close inspection, I noticed several clues that revealed the offer of becoming a mystery shopper for Ebay-Walmart was a fake. First the check has no watermark and has a bank listed in Warsaw not in the United States. Second the instructional letter is a black and white copy
and does not have the companies logo in color.Furthermore, the letter instructs the participant not to disclose the bank or anyone the purpose of your cash deposit. It also insists that you deposit the check within 48 hours of receipt and to purchase several gift cards in denominations of $50, $100,$200 and $2,000 at major retail outlets. The problem is no bank in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will clear a large check in less than 2 days and requires that you wait for a minimum of week or two.The scam operators then proceed to send you a text message to your phone number informing you will be receiving a special envelope from Ebay-Walmart and urge you to deposit the check immediatedly.The other clue can be found the word order of the text message. In my case the scammer identified himself as "Scott " and did not use a full name. He added that he was from HR, Human Resources.This reveals that the impersonator is nota bonafide English speaker or is someone who is accustomed to express themselves in their native language and thinks that English uses the same rules of grammar.A check in the internet reveals that many of the scammers or impostors are from Nigeria, Africa whose dialect uses a different language structure than those of North America or the Caribbean.
Third clue is that the instructional letter insists that you use their private email account and not from any recognizable business or corporation which raises a big flag. Finally, this fast buck operators obtain your name and e mail when they post false advertising want ads in the internet offering employment as a mystery shopper for Ebay or Walmart.

I received a letter in mid-March from Kroger with a check for $2850.00 and exactly like all the other posts, secret shopper and send them western union in the amount of $2400.00. I put it aside figuring it was a scam of some sort and was going to send it back, not wanting to have anything to do with this. It got piled under paperwork and I completely forgot about it. Good thing I started googling and confirmed my suspicion of it being a scam. I took pictures of everything, guess go and turn it in at my bank as fraud?

Was surprised to receive an Express Mail Envelope today containing a "Walgreens Instructional Memo" and a cashiers check for $2,850. First instruction was to send a confirmation email to "brians bock 528 @gmail. com", then shop at Walgreens or Walmart and, finally, test the western union or Walmart2Walmart outlets money transfers - recipient name was "Cathy Odle Adams" at a non-existent address in St. Louis, MO.
Planning to take it to the post office on Monday. Definitely seems like mail fraud!

I recently received an email that was sent to my university email looking for secret shoppers. The sender had a university email address and included a link to a questionnaire that asked for my name, address, email, and phone number. Two weeks later I received a USPS priority letter with an enclosed check for $1750 and my first assignment to purchase two Apple store gift cards at the nearest Apple store. The letter contained a form to fill out details of my experience with Apple and instructed me to immediately send a text confirming assignment to (323) 840 - 1332. I also was required to scratch off the backs of the gift cards and send photos, purchase receipt and report to report @surv reports. com. If I did this within 24 hours they would include a $100 bonus. David Hesse, the survey co-ordinator (916) 827-7761 was my contact. So many red flags!! The check looked somewhat convincing. TDECU credit union from Lake Jackson, TX. However, the routing number was incorrect (you can check routing numbers from the financial institution's website) and it says: issued by Moneygram payment systems P.O. Box 9476 Minneapolis, MN 55480. What was most surprising about this scam was that I received the email in my school account and the sender also had a school email address. Not only that but the email completely disappeared from my inbox. I could never find it again and did not delete it. Not sure if the email deleted itself or if it was deleted by the university. I feel that because it was addressed from someone with a school email address, this would be more successful at reeling in unsuspecting students who are already strapped for cash. Hopefully, getting the word out will help someone avoid falling for this scam.

my college aged son just received this in the mail... going to the apple store and getting gift cards and keep $300 - such a scam... the guys name is Cole Weber. Careerbuiler 2018 @proton mail .ch. 413-232-1103 is the number - I hate scammers! I hope these young kids don't fall for these types of things!

Just received a check for $998 to buy gogle play cards and send them the receipts and to scratch the back of cards and take pictures of them and email it to them! Yeah that all sounds legit!!

4/29/19. I almost fell for the secret shopper scam. I received a cashiers check for $2450 in the mail with instructions on how to go to Walmart and purchase a couple of gift cards. The letter did not have a letter head or any return address, just a guys name and email address. The cashiers check had the banks name on it but no address. I waited until Monday morning and called the bank. It took them a couple of minutes but when they got back to me they said the check was fraudulent! I sent a copy of the letter, the envelope and cashiers check to the bank. They are doing an investigation. I sure hope they catch those low lives! The scam still continues. Beware!

They are at it again. I just got sent priority mail to me and I wasn't expecting any mail especially a check. I was skeptical deposit the check. I'm waiting for the bank to clear it. I didn't feel right about this check. So I looked up as much information as I could on them and found out that they are at it again with this scam. Please don't fall for this fictitious company. I didn't and will warn everyone I can before it is to late.

I just got one of these notices. Is there anyone who could this should be reported to? They get on my nerves

Want to tell you about a scam I encountered this weekend. Saturday the PO delivered an envelop with a check for $998. Inside the letter said I was chosen to be a secret shopper to purchase Google gift cards. It said if I did it within 24 hours there would be an extra $100. for me, essentially earning $348. to be a part of this program. There was no phone number on the letter just an email and no location of a company? “Red Flags” I did not sign up to be a part of any program like this. Everything looked legitimate. Didn’t think anymore about it until today when I got a text asking if I fulfilled the requirements? After I received the text, I texted back asking for a phone number? They said just text us questions. When I looked at the phone number, (754-216-3217) through google, low and behold this FTC complaint came up with this scam!
Remember if it looks too good to be true and you didn’t sign up for it, it’s a scam!
Unfortunately scam artist are everywhere!

Thank YOU!!! same thing with me, I get an email, with misspellings ( had a hunch) telling me my envelope is in the mail. Too easy, I get the envelope overnight from Urban Village, Jeffrey Milani in New York. A check for $3400, telling me I keep 450!! go buy 3000 in Google Play gift cards!! Unzip the scratch off and take pictures of the front and back of the cards and send them.... Too creepy for me to think it was legit. Thanks for the blog... still happening.


I recently posted a SUV on Craigslist for sale for $5500, a couple days later I get a text from a person interested in it, I gave him more info on the vehicle and he was very interested in it but wanted a Car fax report, I gave him the Vin # so he could get his own report, a couple days later he text me to let me know he was sending a bank check thru priority mail and once the check cleared my bank he would send someone to pick up the SUV. The check arrived two days later, it was for $7200.34, suspicions went on high alert so I googled the bank on the check and noticed there wasn't a SunTrust bank in Atlanta Ga with the same address as the one on the check. Again my suspicions went crazy, so I called the first branch listed to inquire about the legitimacy of the check, it was fake. I kept digging and found a SunTrust bank listing in Atlanta with the correct address and a phone number, I called the number which happen to be a Washington DC number and it only ask to leave a message. The so called issuer of the check was a company in Alexandria Virginia called AOC which is also fake but can be found if googled.
Beware, scammers are smart and prey on people that do not take time or do not have the resources to check them out before a transaction has started.

I received 2 checks at different times. One from Texas and the other from Delaware. I didn't do anything with either because they looked bogus from the beginning. Especially the signatures on the checks looked alike . I believe this can be prosecuted in Federal Court as mail fraud and money laundering because they use the postal service to mail this stuff out. I am going to contact the local FBI office to see what they say? be careful out there, for "if it sounds to be too good, it usually isn't."

I just received a check for $2477 .12 I am supposed to get a cashiers check for $37 make it out to American kidney fund keep 400 for myself $30 to cover gas 2000 I am to go to different stores and buy eBay gift cards scratch and send pictures Frank at Store and text info to number 516-253-5563 This is coming from Frank Hayes supervisor Store Assignments Inc. also send them a copy of my deposit slip pretty sure that will give them my bank info just glad I checked with y’all first THANKS

Well I was hooked on this mystery shopper. It was going to be the perfect job to get me out of the house a little and help with living expenses. It’s hard trying to live on SSDI as I have been disabled for several years. Then the bomb hit, I read about the articles in
Consumer FTC and it all sounded like my job was just starting out. I am at the point that I am waiting now waiting for my first pay check and I guess the list of directives that I am to follow. Now that I am aware about the money funding, I certainly won’t cash the check. Thank you for your website an$ your help.
Linda S.

I received my instructions and a check made out to me for $2900 today. Imagine my surprise to learn that that wasn’t my money to keep… Said with much sarcasm LOL I really feel for the people who fall for the scam’s. The money that they’ve lost I’m sure it was money that they didn’t have in the first place or they wouldn’t be so eager to Join up and follow through with this scams in the first place. God bless you all be safe and always remember… There is no free money.

I received a letter with a cashier's check for 2350.00 to do an Apple Store Survey. Buy two gift cards and send the numbers to them. Just another scam

I got the same thing thing today. I was pretty positive it was a scam too. Glad I read all of these comments too.

I received a check for over $2900 from Empower bank Along with a poorly written letter stating my number was agent 2665 And I was supposed to contact my handler Nick Green at +1 (269) 213-5307 . I was supposed to buy Walmart gift card exposing the number and the pin and text the photo to Nick. When I failed to do so- Nick Texted me if I received the package and started doing my tasks. When I replied back that I knew it was a scam - He stop texting me

I received the same thing from Nick Green, to secret shop "Walgreen". Having been a secret shopper, this seemed fishy from the first email, but I thought I would play along for a bit.
I researched the bank-First Light Credit Union in El Paso, TX; and Googleing the return address, phone number, and tracking number. Bank- Texas, Return Address- California, Tracking number- New Jersey, Phone number for "Nick"- Michigan.
He sent me a text the day after the envelope was delivered, and I asked who it was. He replied "It's Nick Dean, I'm contacting you in regards to the Walgreen secret shop". I replied, "Oh yes. Hello scammer!" He has not contacted me again.
I did report this to the FTC, and have all my documents.

I have received a mail including a form for “Apple Store Survey”, with $1,950 check from TDECU.
Right away I have called TDECU and verified the check, and of course it’s a fake one.
Always call a bank and verify the check.

No luck for scammers today.

I recieved this text message today. I know this is a scam just want to post so others don't fall for it. It came from this number, which is probably fake as well 8593804567

METRO AUTO SERVICE SECRET SURVEY​INTRODUCTION:Wal-mart Inc® is currently in contract with eBay/Google Play and are accepting applications for qualified individuals for eBay/Google Play shopping survey. It's fun, rewarding and you choose when and where you want to shop. You are never obligated to accept an assignment. There is no charge to become or take a survey and you do not need previous experience, After you sign up, you will have access to training materials via e-mail, fax or postal mail. Wal-mart Inc® never charge fees to the shopper. Training, tips for improvement, and shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers. Mystery shoppers are either paid a per-arranged fee for a particular shop, a reimbursement for a purchase or a combination of both, The payment for the assignment is $400.00 OUR GOAL:The goal of this survey is to evaluate the efficiency of the human resources of the Wal-mart Inc® network across the U.S given minimal supervision. So you're to walk into a Wal-mart Inc® outlet carrying out your assignment as a normal customer would, not hinting at the fact that you're a secret shopper/surveyorASSIGNMENT AND COMPENSATION:For the sake of this particular assignment you'll be paid an amount of $400 to evaluate Wal-mart Inc® store or other competitors. NOTE: We will provide the fund you'll be using to carry out this assignment. You get paid $400 per assignment you carry out and the minimum you can do is 1 assignment per week. It's possible to take up to 3 assignment weekly if you have the time. And this survey goes on for at least 10 weeks.Click this link to fill your information if you are interested. bitly link. com/ F3ep V Kind regards M Evans

Wow, I am glad I found this site. I just received the money orders with instructions to purchase 2 apple store GC plus a separate money order for $25. Original information posted by one of my contacts. I guess they hacked his account because I asked him about the offer and I received a response. Crazy!!

Well sure wish I had read all of these comments before i deposited and bought the Google gift cards. But I do not send them any info on cards or numbers. I will not. Hopefully I can get cash back on the cards and return money to the bank. Any suggestions on what to do besides don't be so stupid again.

So glad I checked here before going any further. I was contacted on LinkedIn by a "friend", I assume it was a spoofed profile. Did the initial registration, then received a text from 3362981786 giving instructions from David Schmidt, Accion Research. I just replied saying I was no longer interested. Will post if they contact me any further.

Was surprised when a priority mail express came to my door. It was a scam from Kiss International and the check is issued from a bank in Las Vegas. Found it interesting that I had to complete the Walmart purchase of three $500 gift cards and one $300 gift cards (supposedly for my compensation) within three days and send the codes on the back of the cards promptly.

Giving anyone the codes mean they have immediate access to the cash value of the cards. No thank you. Glad I found this site just to confirm what I thought was happening.

I received a cashier's check for 3,500 to be a secret shopper. I went to the bank to have them make sure it was GOOD or BAD check just to be sure of this " Secret Shopper Deal " was legit or a scam.. Well the Manager of my bank looked it up and said SORRY it's a scam DON'T deposit it you will be sorry and be on the hook for all that money when the cashier's check bounce's . So I'm going to do nothing with it.. " WHEN SOMETHING SEAMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE " Guess what it almost always is.

We just received a check from Store Assignments Inc. for 2477.12 in a certified bank check. It wanted us to purchase 2000 in ebay gift cards and send them a copy of the receipts, front, and back with the codes scratched off. We l googled the name of the bank it was ussued at and called them. The bank teller asked for the information on the face of the check. He confirmed the check was a scam. We researched in the yellow pages who received mail at the address the certified mail was received from. The mailing address of the scammer did not match the name of the owners of the house. Part of the scam was a high payout of 400 for completing task plus a bonus of 200 if one did it immediately. Thanks for this article it saved us thousands.

Seems like this kicked backed up. They are using Walgreens as the store, they send a check and ask you to buy "e-bay" cards.

I recieved a second check. It's from Secret Shoppers.

I just recieved a 2nd check. After I replied scam to the last text and blocked so they arent monitoring .

A guy named Harry Crawford sent me emails and texts and a check about $2,900 from Metro Auto Auctions of Dallas. He tried to push me by text to immediately deposit the check at the next ATM. Phone number is 505-847-6829, email is Harry. crawford @ representative .com

Just received a priority mail letter today in mail with a $1860.66 check inside with instructions to go to Walmart by something for under 50 and report back with info of cleanliness and professionalism of cashier. Then said to go to Walmart and do a Walmart 2 Walmart transfer for 730 and then cvs to purchase amazon gift cards one for 500 and another for 200 and i was to keep the remaining balance!

Just got scammed through this method. I've always been on the lookout for scams, but what caught me was that I received an email through my college email which made me think it was legitimate. Don't fall for this trap people!

I received a text telling me a package was being mailed. In the letter was a $980 check and instructions directing me to go to Apple store and buy gift card for $750 then send them a picture of card and code on card- UNBELIEVABLE!!! I’m reporting this everywhere!! Wow...

I feel like an idiot and I should have seen the signs sooner. I fell for this, and my bank said they couldn't do anything about it. I filed a report on FTC, and hopefully something will come from this. I don't know what to do next, but I do hope that I will be able to get some if not all the money back, wish me luck. I hope to everything, that no one falls for this cause it's just terrible.

I just received a cashier's check that looks very legitimate. From some secret survey asking to purchase Ebay gift cards. The check is from Farmer's & Merchant Bank in San Clemente, CA. Be careful

Received a check today for $3,450.12 with instructions to buy Ebay gift cards. Of course I googled everything and quickly found out that it is a scam. What a terrible thing to do to innocent people.

Got one in the mail today for $2,500. The instruction is to deposit the check and go online and buy a Walmart gift card in the amount of $1,990 and to scratch off the number and send a picture of the gift card to them. Scam.

I have same happened to me; I got the email via my college email, which almost got me till I invested more and found this posting. I got the USPS envelope, the check, the assignment to by gift cards. A text from a “representative” welcoming and making aware of the package arrival. So upset that people could to this. I’m reporting them here; Craigbit, representative is Travis 917-259-3122.

I’m so glad that I found all these comments today. I have the same secret shopper information in my email. Then I received a check for 2,2500.00 to bring to the Apple store and buy gift cards just like everyone else on this blog it was too good to be true. I’m glad I found this blog to confirm and share my story.

Almost fell for it! Sent me a check for $2150, instructed to buy gift cards at Walmart, send them photos and the numbers. Went to my bank and explained I wanted the check to be verified prior to deposit just to make sure it was in the up and up. Almost got my feelings hurt when a bank teller in the next window swooped in and confiscated the check. Told me in no uncertain terms it was fake and I would lose that money plus the $1800 in gift cards. She turned it over to their fraud department. Thank goodness for nosy tellers!

Today I received the priority mail envelope with the letter inside (photocopied) and a check for $3,450.42 to buy $3,000 worth of gift cards.

Thanks FTC, just saved me.

I always check and research so that I can make the victims whose business or bank is being used in these scams aware of the fraud being perpetrated against them.

I've been instrumental in some of the criminals being caught and prosecuted in Florida. That makes me feel good! If everyone does it, this crime will cease to be appealing.


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