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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 just got my assignment in the mail. They wanted me to go to Walmart and get cards. If they send scams through the mail, isn't it a federal offense? They give contact information, can they track them?

I received a check yesterday for 2900 from Matthew Evans for a secret shopping position I did not inquire about.
Tennessee

I got sucked into the same scam. You can turn in all the checks and USPS envelopes you want. Have you ever heard of anyone getting caught? They'll make millions and be on their way before anything is ever done to stop them. You can't trust anyone.

Received a fake check for $2,450.00. The company name is Elitelligence Research Inc. The phone number is 916-270-8244. POC is Santos Mayer. TOTAL SCAM. Thank God I am smart enough to know about these type of scams.

I just received a letter/check from this company today. I started doing research & it brought me here. Sad, sad, sad.

Okay last week I was online looking for online jobs and I came across an ad for secret shopping. So I filled out an application, and they had their own website everything looked legitimate. So I was awaiting my first assignment, I went and checked the mail, and there was a priority mail envelope that had two pieces of paper and a check for $2,950. So I'm clicking my heels the whole way walking back to my house thinking oh my God this just saved my life, my car broke down yesterday, I'm a single mother, and I'm currently pregnant again. So I really could have used this money. So I video chatted a family member so I could ask their opinion and show them what I had been sent. And of course they tell me that that's a scam that even if the check gets approved and cashed at the bank that was in a week or two the bank will realize it's a fake check and I will get a felony charge and have to pay all that money back. Because I guess it makes me look like I personally knew about the fraudulent check so I'm on the hook for it. so I look up the company which on the papers it says modern century survey Inc and this website with everyone's comments was the very first thing that came up. So after reading all of your comments, I see how fake this is. The only difference of mine from your all's stories is that they want me to keep $350 for myself as my pay, and then they want me to go to two different Walmart stores. At the first one I am supposed to take $1,550 and shop any item of my choice worth $50, and then purchase 5 Walmart gift cards worth $300 a piece. Then they want me to proceed to the second store with the balance of $1,050 is what's left over and they want me to use that to purchase three more Walmart gift cards in the amount of $300 each and a force card for $100 while I'm also able to shop for another item of my choice worth $50. And then of course take pictures of the scratched off cards blah blah blah...... SO LOOK OUT FOR THESE::: Modern Century Survey Inc. ,Renee Riding 586- 213- 3430 email for reporting to them is Sophiayates 2016@ , website is www .cardsurvey .org

I just received a check today for $2100 but wasn't planning on doing anything with it because it sounded like a scam

The zip code from where it was sent doesn't exist. Yes they used someones real name and address, but the phone numbers where all from different states. And these people knew that I rec'd the package, so they kept texting me to cash it in my back and tell them when I have the gift cards, to send them pictures of the back with the numbers scratched off. But I researched the bank and called them .. and all they said was "What's the amount?" and they knew, bc they've rec'd tons of the same calls. Even the website seemed real , until I noticed only 1 link could be opened. /www. international shoppingstores. com/
PLEASE BE CAREFUL - IF it seems too good to be true - Call the bank where the cashiers check was issued. - I have copies, screen shots of everything from this .

I received that exact letter today with a check for $2,800. Of course I immediately googled the name “John Simpson Scam” and saw this article. Even though I knew it was fake I wanted to see what the scam was. Thank you for staying on top of these idiots!

I received the same thing in the mail today! I pulled the check out of the envelope first-and all the red flags went up in my head. I glanced at the letter next, and then headed to good ol' google. Here I am! Thanks guys!

Thanks for all this information!
I got fraudulent check and for sure this going to garbage

Help!!!!! what do I do I fell or the scam . Cashed 2 checks bought 4000.00 worth of Gift card.

What do i do if i deposit a check but didn’t send no money? My daughter didn’t know and she deposited it but i called the back right after and they still put the money on the card

Take the money back to the bank and pay for the check that was deposited!

Now the new one is a babysitting job contacted through sittercity.com, don’t fall for it, without even providing our address we got a check in the mail for $1910.65, maybe they got our address from
The account created on the site or through the IP address after having email
Communication, this people are nasty, they gave the name of a company they supposedly work for, I called that company and there won’t be a job as they described in the state where I live, their phone number you can only contacted via text is a voip #, the address here as they referred as an apartment in their generic emails is not an apartment it’s a house and it’s not for rent.. with their cute story about their kids and the one on the way and their very badly translated “proper English” we got the red flag on it and stopped communication to now have received a check and they said we will receive but NEVER we provided our address.. beware of babysitting job scam!!

I just received "the package" for my first assignment which included a "cashiers check" for $2,375. Please be aware that Credit Unions do not accept corporate accounts. I am calling the credit union to make them aware of this.

I would like to get in touch with Linked In and let them know that their site is being used to perpetuate this fraud.

The package was mailed by Nick Mackey in Nashville, TN, and the letter signed by David Schmidt. The "check" is on Nuvision Credit Union in Huntington Beach, CA.

About 2 weeks ago I received an email from the career services office from an Ivy League school I attended a summer class at last year. The email said I was selected to be a mystery shopper and many students find this a fun easy way to make additional cash. I filled out the form, as it looked very legitimate, and came from an official university email address and forgot about it. Fast forward to today and my mom brings the mail in and says that I have a letter. The letter had no return address, but upon opening it there was a message that stated I was to begin my first assignment as a mystery shopper and had to cash the attached check worth $1980. I was supposed to buy 2 gift cards at Sephora each worth $750 or $800 each, (if I completed the assignment early I could keep an extra $100, hence the $750 amount), but I had to text the 413-232-1132 number and email addresses with the scratched off redemption codes, receipt and my survey report. Fortunately, these scammers had a few typos on the letter, a small misprint on the check and provided no survey report, so I was suspicious, but still unsure about the validity of it because I had received an official looking university email prior and have heard about mystery shopper programs like this in some of my marketing electives.

I ended up calling the number provided and no one picked up, but I creepily received a text message right after saying they missed my call and wanted to know if I completed my assignment. I said no, and after a few more queries on my end, I now realized this was a scam because they had horrible spelling, improper English and dodged any questions I had about their legitimacy. I ceased communication with these creeps after fibbing that I brought the check to the bank and was told the check was fake and I’d be escorted away by the police if I didn’t leave hahaha! I then blocked their number and decided to report my incidence here to hopefully help others. Really sad people have to do this.

The Scamers are sending more false checks

I’m a mystery shopper fraud victim. I received a check for $2,350 and instructions in the mail from market force strategies llc. I thought they got my info from Sinclair Customer metrics (a secret shopper company). Anyway, I cashed the check, bought 4 $500 gift card, a $20 money order, and got a profit of $320. 2 days later my account is overdrawn of all that money due to the check being returned. The number I was contacting is no longer in service and guess what? All the gift card balances are ZERO!

I called my bank, they opened a claim. I went to the bank and they put a block on my account but the lady said I most likely will not get that money back. I was advised to go to the police department to file a report. I will be doing that this afternoon.

Moral of the story... if you get a big check in the mail— it’s not real. Take it from me who fell for the big mystery shopper scam. They totally took advantage of this single mother of 3.

Just received one of those checks offering me $300 if I cash convert 2600 out of the 2900 into money cards. The guise; "mystery shopper". Be careful people.

Yesterday received a cashier's check for 3250 priority mail 18054966986 is the number I called no answer there's a letter of instructions I am to follow assignment is Walmart I knew it was a scam here's information to watch out for Charles Benson Task Supervisor 805-496-6986 www smarten dmystery shoppers. Priority mailed.

I received "an assignment" along with a check for $2,375.90; $350. of which would be my "commission" for the secret shopper task, the rest to purchase gift cards from "STEAM WALLET", and report back on my experience to ACCIONRE SEARCH. I asked them for more info to show they're legit, and they tell me they're a member of MSPA Americas, which is a trade association representing the customer experience industry thruout the Americas. Website: mspa- americas. otg/. Pretty slick. I have not cashed or deposited the check they sent. Posting this for others to beware.

Revived check for $2340.00 need cashed 24 hours then to buy reload it cards with cash 4@ $500 and e-mail them numbers. NSSN NATIONAL SHOPPING SERVICE NETWORK . NOTE I would not even take time to check the cashiers check. They try so hard to steal your money! I know some people fall hard and lose the money!

I recieved a check and did make a copy of it. The word "void" was not written anywhere. The sad thing is that there are secret shoppers so this scam does seem realistic. Even if you don't see the word(s) void after copying, still do not cash it!

Got a secret shopper scam for Walmart with a $2450.00 check and a bunch of texts making sure I got it.

Just got a fake check too, where do I report this ?

This just happened to me from a Michael Haywood from a company called Navex Global who I called and they no nothing about it. His number was 716 391 2441. I received 3 money orders that look legitimate in the amount of 800.00 each and was told to go to an Apple store buy 2 1000.00 gift cards that’s 2000.00 350 is my pay and the 50 left over will go to my next task. When I buy my gift card text them at that number for further instructions. The local authorities have been notified for bank fraud.

Forgot how I encountered this seems to be legit job offer for "paid research survey" as it said, there was even a brief intro of company business so I filled out contact info. A few days later received the Fedex Express package with a cashier's check for $2,600 and two pages of "Instruction" for the "First Assignment". Asked to deposit the check then withdraw the entire amount cash only, and purchase four (2) (the inconsistency of the written number raised a red flag) money order $1,000 each totaling $2,000 from Walmart as the remainder of check after deducting $500 compensation to me for the survey as secret shopper "agent" and $100 for gas, transportation and fee (said there will be a fee when deposit the check at any of my bank branch). The rest of the process is the same, Fedex the envelop with the four (2) money orders and receipt, text to "your supervisor" upon the receipt of pkg and completion of assignment, and email the detailed survey/comment about my experience during the transaction with a Walmart associate. The details about the names and address they used is not important and probably untrue anyway, but I took pics of everything. Decided to keep the pkg for now. I only have 48hrs to conduct the assignment, if I delayed to make contact and confirm the pkg, "there will be a call to be put through to me and our TASK FORCE Team will follow up at the address on file to retrieve the pkg". To confirm, the check remitter is not in the same name as on the Fedex return address, otherwise the check looks legit, the check# even matches on top and bottom. It indeed sounded a bit scary though at first, I was thinking about leaving it out at the door where I picked up so they could "retrieve it", now I'm not going to do that as probably there wouldn't be anyone to come anyway. Also thought about reporting it to the Police, then realized it might only put them at loss, thinking of reporting it to Better Business Bureau or the US Postal Service as mentioned here. Thanks for all the comments, figured I should contribute my portion as well. Good luck dealing with this folks!

Received cashier's check for $3250.00. Advised by bank not to cash. Scam by Smartend Mystery Shoppers. BEWARE don't be fooled.

Received a letter ... pretty official mailer.. but letter lacked in proper and through instructions.. that was my first clue.. and found a typo..
check was for $1,900 WesBanco Bank - said I keep $300 blah blah
And I needed to purchase $1600 in eBay gift cards - scratch off backs and take pics of codes..
I thought I should look these folks up CB Survey Associates, and this is the first site that popped up ! I knew it smelled BAD!

Received a priority mail envelope today, I forgot I had looked at something awhile ago in ref. to jobs at home. First I pulled out a check that looks very authentic from Los Angeles County Children & Families First-Proposition 10 Commission
750 N.Alameda St. 300
Los Angeles, CA90012
In the amount of 2, 450.42 reason I’m giving all this information Incase anyone else received the same envelope. I went straight to my computer to look up the email they provided on a photo copy of the instructions....and so glad I did. THIS IS A SCAM!!!!! BEWARE!!!!

Received a text saying I'd be receiving check in mail for $300, to deposit it as soon as I did. To purchase a money order for $30 made out to Walmart, n a Cashier's check for $30 made out to Walmart, allowing$10 for the purchase, and my compensation is $210. Once I completed my purchases at Walmart to notify them n their in-store rep would get the purchase before I left store. Then to notify them once my eval was completed of my visit n they would notify me of where to send my eval. Does this sound the same as the other scams? Company name-MIS, located in TX. Thank u for any response!

I’m so glad for everyone you posted comments !!! thank you you’re saving a lot of older people from these scams

I also got “selected” to be a secret shoppper. Through my school email a Kimberlin Botello reached out saying I could make $1,000/week, depending how many assignments I get done. Then I received a check for $1,700 and that my payment was $400, but could get paid an extra $100 if I bought the eBay gift cards within 24 hours of receiving the check. Once I visited either any walgreens, bestbuy, target ,CVS, Kroger or any other store around me (HAHA any store?!) Then was instructed to scratch the back of the gift cards and send them pictures of the gift cards! WHAT A SCAM!!Then I received an email and text from a “Lee Jerry” from 701-335-8180. Both messages saying “kindly confirm the receipt check $1700 and letter delivered via USPS let us know if you have received it or not. We will be here to assist you on this evaluation so you can get double commission after we review your report / feedback. - @ebay shopper” . The company name on the check is Gomberg Sharfman P.C and the bank is from MB Financial in Chicago, IL. I want to report them; however, not sure if they’ll even get caught. Oh well.. I really hope other people dont fall for this and also hope Karma gets them haha.

Hello, so I applied through Linked Application that was posted at our Airforce Base. I had placed the application and then someone by the name of Gail Serra got in contact through email a couple days later. That person then messaged again a few days after saying the check would be arriving that day or the day after. The check was going to be of $2890.00....$40 was going to go to the first assignment, $350 as the weekly commision, and then 2500 dollars would be split into 13 different Walmart gift cards. The person asked for us to scratch or peel the grey part of the gift card and send them photos. The place seems really legit since it's by sis international and I have already cashed the check into my account but have not used the money. Is it a scam or could it be real? And if it's a scan what do I do?

This sounds like a scam. When someone sends you a check and tells you to send money back - or buy gift cards to send - it's a scam. Scammers can steal or copy the name of a legitimate company to their offers sound legitimate. If you really do get a check, you could contact the legitimate company to ask questions.

You are responsible for the checks you deposit, even if you don’t know they’re fake. It can take weeks for a bank to discover that a check was a forgery. If you deposit a check and take money out right away to send, but the bank later finds out the check was no good, you have to repay all the money you withdrew.

From everything I can find on the Web, this is a total scam. You should report this to (at least) the on-base bank and even to the base legal department and/or commander. We need to be careful and watch each others' backs for these scammers! (USAF ret.)

Hi, I just wanted to know if anyone had an experience with this scam where they actually deposited the check but didn’t spend the money? I got an email for the mystery shopper from my college’s career center and signed up. I got the check and letter in the mail today and being the desperate broke student that I am, I didn’t even think to look it up as a scam first. All I saw was quick way to make cash. It wasn’t until after I deposited the check and started reading over the letter again did I notice there were too many mistakes and misspelled words to be legit and looked it up. My bank is closed till Monday, but I’m worried about whether or not my account could be accessed by someone else now or what. If anyone has any info or maybe works at a bank and could give me some info, that would be helpful.

Got a chashiers check in the mail for 2450.00 dollars from a bank in KY. Wanting me to buy Wal-Mart cards and to keep $300 and buy from 2 different stores and send pictures of the cards.

Just got a package in the mail and there was a chack for $2950. With one side page with the logo of mysurvey asking to be a secret shopper. The instruction said to buy two gift cards and that there was a bonus for doing it before 24 hr. Right away I though it was a scam but no I am sure. Pretty ingenious scam thank god thats the internet.

I received a check from TopView Market Survey for 1893.00. They want me to deposit check then purchase E-Bay gift cards. Taje picture's of the xards and scratch the back off and the 300.00 as payment. The check is from a Solar company in California which i googled. And i called them which i gave them all the info. I dont plan on doing this because i know its a scam. I hate this pray on people what is this world coming too.

I received an email yesterday from international shopping. Com regarding a survey for secret shopper. I will receive check and instructions day after. I Confirm received. Today, I received a cashier's check for 2625.00 and instructions for assignment. I am to cash check. Take 500 for myself. Go to 1st Walmart and purchase up-to 100.00 in personal items. Then purchase (2), $500. Walmart gift cards, 2 different locations for 2 Walmart gift cards. Totalling 2000.00. I am to scratch off, take pictures of cards and receipts and send to info1@ international shoppingstore. com. Then they will send survey asking about Customer service, name of cashier, cleanliness of store and cashier, how long it took, etc... I went online. The internship is online. I contacted the bank. I do not feel they helped with my questions. Did not cash cashiers check.

i just got the letter today and deposited check, but contacting bank now to let them know, thank goodness I did not buy the gift cards

I received a letter with a check for $1450. I knew immediately it was a scam by the way it came and reading the letter telling me to purchase gift cards. Be very careful of these scams. If you get to deposit the check it can shut your account down because the check is fake.

I just received a cashier's check for $3517. Supposed to buy $3000 in gift cards and send them pictures of the codes. Ha! Not to mention the check is from TN but came from OH.

I just got one yesterday 2,420.00 I’m sure glad I looked this up before I went to the bank. Thank you for posting this

So I received an email through my school email stating I could make $300 a week filling out surveys. I entered my school email address, thankfully, instead of my personal email. And a priority mail envelope shows up in my mailbox with a check for $1840.50 from a Times Federal Credit Union in Honolulu, Hawaii. Along with a letter that states, $300 is for compensation, $40.50 for transport and the $1,500.00 is to buy Amazon gift cards from a Walgreens. Immediately, my suspicion began. I hate people who take advantage of others. So i'm posting this here to maybe something can be done about it. The company name is Consumer Insight (which I can't seem to find it anywhere on the internet). With a contact number of 916-572-5143, email shop@ consumersinsights. , from a John Swickerath, task manager.

My wife received one of these but it didn't seem right. The "person" who sent it didn't live at the address we had looked up (Las Vegas) and the bank the check had listed on it was in Texas. Then my wife started receiving suspicious text messages instructing her to do weird stuff involving going to local stores and antagonizing the sales clerks to see how they react.

So. I got one in priority mailer today after receive two or three text messages about being randomly chosen to participate in a shopping survey. With a check attached to the instructions red flags turned up every where. $2450. ...does this constitute postal fraud?

Chazy Survey Services. 3 money orders. $950.00 each. Otero Federal Credit Union, New Mexico. Is this a scam? Anyone else heard of this. It's a secret shopper at Amazon where we have to buy 2 gift cards which will be used on your next trip to apple. Call to tell them you have completed task and they will come to you to pick up what ever.. We keep $350.00.
Kellie Arnold survey evaluation coordinator.

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