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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 was sent a check for 1960.00 a was told to buy Amazon Gift card and take a picture of the front and back of the card that was a dead give away

Just got one in the mail today - any way to report ?

I just received a check for $2895 with the instructions to buy gifts cards in W Mart....what I suppose to do?..

Gary from Gartner contacted me via text. Next was James More (716)404-5960. email jm777712345@ Mailed me a check for $2450.12 to buy $2,000 worth of EBay gift cards. with $400 for my pay and $50 for gas. Cashier's check looks very legitimate and the bank took it as a good check. Was wise enough not to go any farther as in 7 days it was shown as a bad check.

Smoothsurvey . is pulling off the same skulduggery. Sent me a check for $2350.00 with request for immediate text message. I was then supposed to by several gift cards from Walmart and send photos of the card numbers. How do I report this criminal activity?

I signed up for this so I would receive whatever they were going to send... so I could use it as teaching material at my company. It'll be a super show-and-tell. I've already reported mine on the Internet Fraud website, but haven't had a response from them... I'm now doubting that I'll get a response, so I'm just going to send this weblink to the moron who sent me the envelope... This will at least slow them down a little. Or maybe not... but I'm trying, anyway.

I got a check today priority mail $2600, from phone number 717-353-8541 and email from Kate Perry

got what clearly appeared to be fake cashiers check for over $3,000 and wanted m e to buy walmart gift cards and keep $450.

Was approached via linked in.
Received this week a check for $3,459.92 and a page w instructions to buy Walmart gift cards and take pictures of front and back of cards but to scratch off the silver area.
This is when red flags went up. I also kept receiving texts . Reporting this to fraud

I just deposited the check into my account but have not completed the assignment. I am going to the bank to see if
I can retract the deposit. Better safe than sorry! Glad I read this.

Received a check for $1850.50 ask to deposit check and email bates@ from a Charles Bates field agent inc. this is the second check like this I have received. The other was for advertising on my car can’t remember the company name now. I took the check and turned it in to the bank and they report it for me.

My daughter applied for a mystery shopping job through a college website and they sent her this same letter. I knew right away it was a scam but looked it up so I could prove it to her. It seems like there should be a way for law enforcement to catch these shameful piranhas.

I just got a check in the mail for1,850.50 and I have been trying to find out if it is Fack but I started looking for names of the company and got got a bunch of numbers and started to do my own investigation on this matter nobody could give me a answer did any one get one from secret customer with the email to respond back to a bates@ if so please let know I going to hold on to it till I find out if it is in fact fake or real but I put my money on fake

I signed up for what I thought was a secret shopper job! Received an envelope priority mail through the post office. It had a check for $1,850.50! I was to deposit it in my checking account and notify them that I had done so!!! Well I can smell a scammer a mile away!! There was no telephone number to call on the letter, just an email address to contact!! That’s another way they scam, by using your email address!! If it’s to good to be true, it probably is!!!! Beware scammers are everywhere!!

I receive stuff like this all the time. When I feel like being a little crazy and have some time I respond to the scam with what they want. Only I call or send them a fake response . Example Got a check for $2500 long story short said keep $500 and send us the rest through western union. Sent them a fake western union #. They responded back and said the # I sent did not work. I responded with sorry I was off one #. they responded again. with are you trying to be funny. Knowing I got tot them was such a kick for me and a burn for them. Just sent a fake EBAY card to the scammers this week. wait till they try to use it. HAHA HAHA

Today I received an email from a person named "David" (david.accion12@ ) who said I signed up as a mystery shopper. The email asked me to reply that I had received his email. Which I did, as I wasn't sure what it was about, but I knew I didn't sign up for any mystery shopper job. Just like clockwork, today I received a letter and a check from Accion Research for $2,375.00. The letter stated all the same things...deposit the check, keep $350 for myself then go out and buy gift cards from a list of stores on the letter. Once I saw the check, it looked and felt strange. I decided to google the company name and low and behold, I got to this website.
I went back to the original email and replied " David, thanks for contacting me about this opportunity. I sent your letter and the check to the FTC. Have a nice day and enjoy your time in prison. I bet they're packing up their storefront and moving on to scamming more people from a new office before the FTC can capture and arrest them

I just got one of these. It turns out that my friend's LinkedIn profile was hacked as it was this guy's profile that contacted me.

I got a text just a couple of days ago asking about whether I had received the packet with the Check.

My wife looked the details up online and this is what led us to here.

I plan to string these guys along though. I will let you know how I go.

Received one from shop live work@

SO blah blah same story but it actually happen to me C3 couldn't help me and CFPB. My bank just ignored me. THE problem is I actually handed a person the check to deposit and no one is accountable but me. This is heinous. I have a full report to the police in the matter. i have all documentation of the events. so you telling me i cant get anything back. REgions bank still calling me on, i owe them money.

What if You are sent a money order and asked to cash it at your bank for a 1000$ and told to buy amzon and orher gift take pictures with the number scrached off and email back please dont say its a scam.because this will make me homeless for sure I am 65 liveing on a 900$ ssi check I can harley pay for meds.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news because I too am living on SSDI and only $800 a mo. So I understand how you feel. However, it is definitely a scam as we all have gotten the same one. They very just slightly, but they're all the same. Do not deposit that check !!! As it will initially clear. Then a week or two later you will find out its fake and you will be on the hook for it with your bank.

Wow! Same thing different person/ recived a proirity mail package Survey Associates Recived Cashiers check for $980.00 if i shopped Google Play cards from 3 different stores they would pay me $230.00 or an extra $100.00 if i did it in the first 24 hours of reciving the package? right then i knew it was a scam! No bank is going to clear a cashiers check in 24 hours they will say its good then screw you 2 weeks later telling you its no good? The cashiers check was really good water line and everything! Another thing that thur it off i got a follow text today 3 days after i recived the package from yes another name that claimed to be a Phd of the company in What texting? Red Flags every where! they got in contact with me thru Linkin! Scammers! Don't be fooled!

Just received my check for $3,345.00 Immediately went to my computer and found out it is a scam. Glad I looked but I bet there are some people out there unaware and are depositing the check.

Got one of these checks too. From a guy 'in retail' on LinkedIn. I wasn't home when the check came so I texted him to say I couldn't follow through, and what to do with the checks when I got back.
No reply (shocked) Well, I just got home and I read it and saw the fake email of walmartinc @ usa. that I should "email a clear pic" to. That's how I got here and confirmed my suspicions. My check was from Summit Credit Union, by the way.

Same scam as others have posted. I have a supposed phone number. Thank goodness this has been well publicized. ....is there a place I can report this?

I just recs package via FEDEX which I will be turning over to the authorities shortly, it did contain both a letter as well as a check funny thing is the routing number on these k didn't match the banks routing number... (Hint) . Always verify the bank routing number, and then look for further proof of the validity of the check.

Just got check for 2930.00 for some tcf.bank it is a cashiers check it came priority mail .says to cash check & follow instruction by gift cards @ Walmart & Ebay take 300 for my saary.Email is shoplivework@ ph is 505-916-1299.

Just got a cashiers check for $2350 from Genisys credit union out of Michigan. Bank is real, check is a full blown scam. Came with a letter asking me to buy $2000 in Walmart gift cards and to then email a clear photo of the card numbers, as well as their pins to sophiayates16 at gmail.

Not today Satan!

I received this through someone I know via LinkedIn - you register to be a secret shopper and they send a certified usps envelope to you, with a certified cashiers check. And one page ‘assignment’. They want you to deposit check of $3450 and buy $3000 worth of gift cards, sending them the scratched off gift card. I was apprehensive, and after reading this and another scam reporting site told them I would not be moving forward. They are now texting me and telling me to I HAVE to complete my assignment. Nope. DONT DO IT!

I was contacted in LinkedIn via a legitimate friend. It appeared real at first as my friend is in marketing. I’ve never shop at Walmart so that was a bit of a red flag. Three weeks later I got a text. “Your first assignment had been mailed”. Number is from an area code 530 in California but doesn’t mean anything. Then the Official US envelope came with a check for $3,400 and instructions to deposit the check and go to Walmart and purchase 200 gift cards from Walmart. Wait? I thought this was a secret shopper opportunity. If so, I would go to the store and observe people or product not buy gift cards. Then the instructions ask to scratch off the backs of the gift cards....hmmm also suspicious. Meanwhile, if I was studied enough to follow these instructions the check would bounce and I would have to pay for the stolen gift cards that are already registered. Brilliant scam for those who fall for it. I’ve continued to be harassed but blocked all 5 phone numbers.

They send my a check for 2,440 dollar for go to my bank and deposit i need to out 2,100 in cash and go to two walmart and spend four gift card to 300 dollar each and them go to the other walmart and spend 300 for three and send him the photo for the gift card ...omg thanks God i think maybe is fake because no body sent you that much money for gift card..

Received an e-mail through my “school” with a part time job being a secret shopper. Figured I would bite and it would go nowhere. I came home to a priority mail envelope with a check for nearly $3000 and a letter with instructions to cash it and purchase eBay gift cards. I checked my email and there was a random email address, matching the email on the letter, stating the envelope was delivered and to email back saying I received it. The grammar was poor and the company on the letter versus the company on the website I applied to isn’t the same... glad I’m not dumb enough to cash this check, but sucks that they are praying on broke college students.

The same type of job offer came from my schools job placement center via email.

My story is just like everyone elses, all I can say is dont text them because they want your cell number to be able to go onto FB, make a fake profile and start messaging you. You will get a bogus message from a friends whos now got a second fb page stating they just won money from the mystery shopping for Walmart and they say your name on the winners list and you need to contact Agent Becky Porter to seeif your on the winners list 425-610-7419. I still have them messageing me back and forth thinking I believe them and Im working with the local police as they say they want to come to my house to pay me. This is what I do for fun is to bust these scumbags. This ones a tough one. I still have all the paperwork they overnighted to me with the bogus check for 2, 950. YOU KNOW THE SAYING, "If it sounds to good to be true.........."

i got a registered USPS with a very legitimate-looking letter with great formatting, grammar and punctuation. The instructions were complex, but written very well and understandable.

The check was 2,800 and i am supposed to keep $350. glad i internetted this!

I received the letter today with check I figured it was a scam. That check looks pretty real. Can't believe everything they go through to get a buck. I wish they could catch all of them specially the ones that call all the time.

I received a check for $2800 and told to go buy (5) $500 gift cards at Best Buy and send text messages with pictures of the cards as "proof" that I went there. I was instructed to keep the rest of the money. These people are idiots! I was texted by someone calling themselves Paula Pereira from 423-225-2298. I threw the check in my shredder and told these idiots to not contact me again! What a joke!

my son receives an equal check with work for best buy, I think it was very far deposit and now his bank account is being closed, tell me what I do? where I denounce

Hello.
Just received a "cashier check" on the amount of $2,835.00, payable to my name, along with instructions on how to accomplish the task requested.
Instead of depositing the check into my account, went to my bank trying to cash it without avail. The check is a fraudulent one!

Just got a letter on the mail with check to deposit in my bank account for 4,900.00. Phone number to text is Gary Howells @ (304) 207-0156 an email of feedback @

Just got a check for $2930 with instructions to buy Ebay and Wal-Mart cards, scratch off the seal and take pictures to send to email: shoplivework@ 505 916-1299. So then they use the cards while you are stuck with the overdraft on your account. *** Putting their info out there so no one gets duped by them. I accidentally sent info because i got a false email from a friend. Glad i didn't totally fall for this.

They are now posting ads through indeed.com seeking shoppers. Everything done through email. Sent me a cashiers check for $3500, told to deposit check and send them a copy of deposit slip. I was to deduct my $400 salary then they would tell me what to do. Check was sent via express mail from California, drawn off a Oklahoma Bank, on a Credit One account. Scammers name was Chris Hutchinson and Barnard Mcintosh. Their English is terrible, they are very pushy and try to intimidate you. I threatened to turn over to USPS fraud department and authorities. Have not heard back from them since.

Just received a check for $2,350 and it had the typical instructions and $300 was to be my compensation. I was excited then sceptic and I started searching online. Typed in the name of the supervisor ‘John Swickerath’ and this site popped up. Read the stories and decided to call the credit union that ‘issued’ the check and they said that there was no account under the name on the check or account number. The check itself had $0 balance on it so it wasn’t good. This a a smart scam but thank God I’m smarter.

I just received a check for 2400 along with a statement on how to spend the money. I would need to buy gift cards for ebay totalling 2100 and an extra 100 for me if I did it in 24 hours. The so-called company is Straut Survey LLC.

Got one today wanting me to compare Cash App and Zelle App. Sent Check for $2450 saying my portion was $450, deposit rest and then of what is left $1000 into each app and transfer to where they say. I am supposed to write a review of each App. Sounds like a new version of the same scam.
Just a thought, deposit check and wait 3 weeks to make sure it is good to verify. Scammer will probably not agree to that.

I got a check yesterday from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union for $2450.42 to do the Secret Shopper SCAM. Bank couldn't tell me if it was real but she said who ever issued that check could do a REVERSE DEPOSIT! In other words, the scammer can get the money from my account even if it bounces AND I get a fee for it all!. The letter accompanied with the check is a form letter. No phone numbers, my name isn't on it and the website they said to go to doesn't exist... www. evaluationresults. The reason they want you to purchase the eBay cards within 24 hrs is because their fake check won't clear and they know it. So they want you to make purchases before anyone has a clue. On the check it says RE: Brad Williams. Im in Upstate NY...just for anyone's info.

I received the same letter as the above with a cashier's check for $3500. I was instructed to keep $500 and then purchase $3000 in E-Bay gift cards. I called the bank that "issued" the cashier's check to verify that it was a valid check - it was not. The cashier's check did not have the issuing bank's phone number and that is something that all cashier's checks must have.

I also received a text message and an email the same day. I have reported "phishing" to gmail, "spam" to T-Mobile, and will take this to the post office to report mail fraud.

This scam could easily financially destroy families and individuals.

I received a check for $2480 to secret at Walmart and western unions and I wanted to make sure it was legit. Found out the funds weren’t available days later. Thank goodness I didn’t spend a penny from it! It was from the website Indeed jobs!

I received a check for 3,450.92 in the mail which is mail fraud!! I called on the check at Michigan State University Credit Union, and of course the check isn't good! These people should be caught and thrown in jail!! I'm a senior and disabled but I'm not stupid LOL!

I just received a letter and check to spend on gift cards. Once I asked the name of their company, I haven't heard from them. How do we do we turn them in?

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