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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 just scammed. I read the comments below. And I feel so stupid for not doing my due diligence like what you all did. I was able to encash the $2495 check. Bought the eBay gift cards and scratched and sent a copy to the scammers. Is the bank going to go after me?

Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to you within certain time. But, just because some money is available to you doesn’t mean the check is good.

It can take weeks for a bank to discover that a check is a forgery. Until the bank confirms that the funds from the check have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check. If you withdraw money based on a bad check, you will have to repay the bank all the money you withdrew.

I applied on indeed, which of course the ad is no longer listed, and was text thank you for your interest in becoming a Walmart retail mystery shopper. Same scenario as everyone in here only my check was issued by Capital One. So what type of check is that? A cashiers check?? I was told to withdraw my funds first of $250 and then buy 2 $500 gift cards from Walmart and evaluate the employees it seemed legit. Am I going to be held responsible even though once I discovered this was a scam I closed my bank? I don’t understand why it isn’t the bank’s responsibility to make sure that check is good? I had a personal check written to me for $10,000 and the bank held it to verify the funds and the next day it was released. Obviously that wasn’t a scam though. But I feel as if the bank should be held liable when I applied for a job and received instructions. How am I truly able to know that a check from a company I have heard of isn’t real? I’m so frustrated I can’t even sleep over this....

Just got my check for $1000 today from Ricky Ford, Intouch Insight Customer Metrics, #1 Employer of Mystery Shoppers. Problem is Intouch Insight is a legitimate company with addresses in Fort Mill, SC; Chicago, IL; Ottawa, ON; and Laval, QC, BUT my package was sent by Benmar Construction LLC, 200 NE 25th Ave, Ocala, FL 34470 (NOT one of the addresses the legitimate company uses).

My $1000 check is an apparently fake money order issued by Arizona Federal Credit Union in Phoenix, AZ.

I was instructed to deposit the money order into my account and evaluate an Apple store. However, the con man forgot that he had said Apple store and sent me instructions to buy gift cards from Best Buy.

So glad I Googled it first and found this warning (not that the mixed up instructions and the issuance of a "money order" instead of a company check hadn't already tipped me off).

DON'T BE FOOLED BY THIS SCAM ATTEMPT!!!
I got a priority mail envelope with a check and instructions to complete within 48hrs from:
Contact: Peter Parker (lol) (608) 999-5386 admin @ optinresearch the check was made out to me, RE: Michael Teague
check is from "MSU FEDERAL CREDIT UNION" from Murray Kentucky for $2,475.00.
(I'll be calling this credit union to inform them about the fake check from their bank) Given Instructions: Mystery Shopper opportunity Go to local Walgreens, Walgreens, Targets, 7/11 etc... buy $100.00 ebay/visa cards Your compensation for survey is $300. After completed, text picture of store receipt & scratched gift card # to: info above

Ha. I just got the exact same letter today. Same bank, same contact , same instructions. Probably same numbers on check. Lol. Called number, of course no answer. No website reachable.

Is there a reason the banks are not liable for anything. I am sorry and yes I do believe I should be held liable for the immediate funds but the bank did release the whole other funds within three days. With this being the time of wire transfers and immediate pay why would they not have flagged the check and never deposited it ??
It seems a little to best for them. I am filing police charges and all but as long as the bank clears the check it should be on them for the remaining balance over the original release cash . I am being told well your a good banking customer and we wanted you to have access to your funds. Well I’d rather you have done your jobs and cleared all funds before releasing to my account
American eagle Credit union bad bank

I've had a few different people send me those checks all over $2000 with similar instructions. I deposited 2 of them waited I think 2 days and the funds were in my account. Before I had the chance to get to the store my bank froze my account and they ended up closing my account with them. I'm glad I didn't spend any of it but still caused problems because most of my bills come out of my account so I had to change banks and get all that fixed. I still have had other people send me checks since at least 5 but straight in the trash is where they go right away now...

I WAS ON INDEED AND SAW AN AD TO BE A MYSTERY SHOPPER FROM 1 X SHOPPER INC FILLED OUT THE APP AND THEN WAS TOLD TO TEXT A NUMBER AND THEN THE NEXT DAY GOT A CHECK FOR 2470.00 AND WAS TOLD TO KEEP 470.00 AND TAKE THE REST TO ANOTHER STORE AND PURCHASE EBAY GIFT CARDS FOR 2000.00 AND SCRATCH THE BANK AND TEXT TO THE NUMBER I DID BEFORE. GLAD I LOOKED THIS UP THOUGHT IT WAS LEGIT.

Accidentally discovered this same scheme. In my case, the priority mail envelope had a return address of MY address but someone else's name. The intended recipients had moved or the addresses were incomplete...so the letter was returned to sender (which was my address). I hadn't looked closely at the envelope when I opened it...then discovered the scam and the address issues. I have 3 of these priority mail envelopes in my mail stack now. None addressed to me...but had my address as the return address.

Is there anything I can do or something I should be worried about due to my address being used as the return address?

You might want to talk with someone at your local post office about the envelopes. They might keep the envelopes for an investigation or have other information for you.

Just got a "Cashier's Check" in the mail for $2,800 via USPS Priority Mail for this shopping scam at Walmart. Instructions letter came from a "John Simpson" at 585-714-2921 surveyjobs099 Thanks for the post here, won't be responding.

Wow i got a check after signing up for a secret shopper and i got my first mission well the check was fake luckly i didnt send him anything but i did pull out 180 for myself and now i find out from my bank that the check is fake and his name is Matthew Burke +16467419067 and the site is the #1 employer or retail researchers

I got a check from Dustin Taylor secret shopper for Walmart scam same crap as usual I tore up the check

I guess I was the sucker I deposited the check and withdrew the funds then my bank calls saying I have to bring the money back my account is closed and I'm-1800.00 dollars what do I do

I just recieved an envelope today with a check for $2350.00 and was supposed to by 3 gift cards for 400.00 each and then at a 2nd walmart 2 gift cards for 400.00. Good thing i looked online for scams! Thank you so much for saving me from a nightmare of hell!

These scammers are preying on college students, they somehow find out your home address, your number, your email, first and last name ... how isn’t this publicized on a bigger scale? Luckily I research almost any and everything. This scammer that’s going by the name of Richard Greco has been emailing me and texting me about being a secret shopper , wants me to purchase $100 worth of miscellaneous items (that I get to keep) and $1400 worth of eBay cards with the “certified” check he provided in the mail. On top of getting paid $400 for just shopping... which I knew sounded too good to be true! I hope to see better control on this issue in the future. Good luck to everyone

These scammers are getting creative and more realistic. This isn't the first time I have been approached to being a secret shopper. The instructions are very well though out. Clear and precise. Even give you a Ref#. Same thing wants you to purchase 2 reload packs of $500 at 3 different stores with a list of store locations. They sent me a cashier's check of $3519.76. Which give me a payment of $500. And promised a $100 bonus if assignment is carried out within 48 hours of delivery. I received the package last week and opened it today. I've tried to reach the person who supposed to be in charge and report back to but can't contact. Email address no longer exist or can't be found. So if you get a secret shopper job claiming to be from Walmart or a person named Ian Bergon. Most definitely be a scam.

I received a check for $2950 with the assessment form. The task was for me to get a money order from USPS and perform an assessment of the post office & service. I shredded the check.

My husband and I just got our checks in the mail today! $2,488.00 each with a request to buy gift cards and to scratch the back and send pictures of the scratched cards along with our thoughts on services and etc. at the store.
We live paycheck to paycheck and are not as financially secure as we'd like to be but we weren't born yesterday!!!! I'm curious how they got our names and address and why these people aren't arrested for mail fraud or for making and sending false documents?
Too good to be true.... Not falling for it!!

I received one today and because I got an email form my school edu asking me if I wanted to apply for secret shopper job I totally fell for it and deposited the check, so now I am reading all these things and I guess I won’t be spending anything , just keep it there until it all goes down hill and they want that money back , unless anyone has any other suggestions ?

Same thing happened to me. I’m not cashing the check, but they prayed on me through my school email too. Sad world

I am recent victim of this scam for $1600 dollars. 7542163217 is the number i received a text from on the assignment. I wish I ran into this post earlier, could have save me this huge amount.

I applied for a job on a well known job site (I should have known company name was all lowercase). Got a response a week later, then another a few days later. Well I reported them to the job site because it’s wrong to use vulnerable people who need work with this garbage. Just this morning I get a text telling me I will receive money, $4374, 550 for me. I knew then No thank you. I told them I have no bank account and a relative that works for police. Did that an hour ago, bet I don’t hear back!!

happened to me here in arkansas! so sick of this how does this happen??

If it sounds too good to be true—ITS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!

I received a check from Heart foundation it is a scam, I have the check. I called the bank that issued it, no such account. Kindly advise how to get these people prosecuted

Thank You

Jim Kemmerer.

Just got my packet with the $2,800 check yesterday. But that gift card thing got me thinking. So I checked this site out, and seeing so many things in common, like John Simpson and Wal Mart gift cards, I just drop it all off at the State police office. Of course I will text that to 585-714-2911.

I just received a check 2800.00 and letter with instructions to be a survey agent (secret shopper) to go to 2 wal-mart stores and buy 3 walmart gift cards on each store for 400.00 each for a total off 2400.00, I should keep the rest of the money 350.00 for my time doing the survey and 50 that I will buy in merchandise.
Of course I did not deposit the check in my account, this SCAM is to obvious

I received an email from what appeared to be The Ohio State University's job placement and student services about part-time employment so I hit the link in the email to apply. I got a text saying they would send the first assignment with training material. Today it came along with a check for $1950. Immediately suspicious I googled Michael Haywood with Navex Global and saw this warning. I have alerted student services at OSU ... I thought this was legit at first because the email came from within the university's email system - it was the check that tipped me to do some research.

Just happened to me and I deposited because I also got it from my school email smh , I guess I will contact my bank about this!

I am so freaked out. I deposited a 2950.00 check into my account. And did everything I was suppose to do. When I sent my completed message to 5862133430, I got a message stating I was suppose to call from the store. That were suppose to guide me through. When that happened I got scarred. Went online and found these scam reports. So I spent every penny on those gift cards. I figured if I had to pay for it. I should be the one to spend it.

So I guess they are up on the fact that we All know about the gift cards and them wanting the numbers in a pic as proof..
So now they just want you to buy a item, no more than $50..

But still send money orders..

And this came from a supposedly legit site Survey Squad... Uggggggh.

I got into this sometime ago maybe like 2010. I had lost my job and was trying to do anything to save my home and keep my car. I was told to deposit the funds into my account. ( time sensitive) as they want to hurry and get their hands on the money before its found to be fraudulent. So I did and then was told to Western Union the cash (the evaluation) and keep 20% for my pay. Needless to say I ended up owing my bank $2300 and was put in check systems until I paid it back.

I recently responded to an email (supposedly from Walgreens) looking for secret shoppers and just got a priority package with a cashier’s check for $2,800 from COMERICA BANK and a letter with no letterhead & generically addressed giving me all the instructions on how to purchase several Walmart gift cards & retain $350 as commission, and then asking I send them a pic of the cards & the receipt to 585-714-2921 or to surveyjobs099 . I immediately googled it cause IT HAD “SCAM” WRITTEN ALL OVER IT!!! What fooled me was that email from Walgreens looking for surveyors, it looked totally legit!!! What I’d like to know is what should we do about it: is there an email where we can notify about this???

Got the same Comerica check and instructions. May as well have had FAKE stamped all over it. Name on it is John Simpson 585-714-2921. surveyjobs99@ Beware!

I got the same thing today! Thank you for posting about it. I will NOT be depositing this cashiers check.

Exact same thing came to me today!

Received the same today after signing up a while ago. Just didn't look right. Glad I found your comments!

Received the exact thing in the mail yesterday. The lack of business letterhead and horrible grammar was a dead giveaway. I'm embarrassed I even responded to the email.

I received 2 money orders for 1000.00 each today from someone named Nicholas Sailor, the bank named on the money orders is City National Bank, 887 CR, 1280, Amber, OK 73004. This money was suppose to be my first payment for Wrapify Car Wrapping Service but the only information I received was from a woman named Karen Thiry on behalf of the hiring manager David Houser. I have no intention on cashing these money orders because I know this is a scam.

This just happened to me! The check was from a credit Union on Tinker AFB. After I told them that I won't deposit their check into my account until I have it verified they quit texting me... To bad tho, I really could have used the $300!

I unfortunately was taken in by this. I deposited check and then I was taken into hospital. told this person I would complete assignment after I got out. I had expenses and used part of this money from check which I was intending to pay back. the check was deemed fraudulent. and I am out money. bank account overdrawn. is there anything I can do?

I answered a mystery shopper e-mail. (first mistake) Nothing happened the way the e-mail stated. I received a Fed-ex with a $2,900 cashiers check, and task instructions. e-mail was from Tennessee. Fed-ex was from Indiana. Check was from First Entertainment Credit Union in California. The scammers wanted me to send 3 money orders from WALMART, with name left blank, totaling $2,400. I contacted the credit union by phone and e-mailed a scan of the check, that they requested. They never responded. I followed up by e-mail again, no response. The instruction letter from scammers was riddled with typographical errors, as well as poor English. They do this on purpose, so us smarter people do not go forward. They want idiots to do their dirty work. If you ever get involved in something like this, do what I did, and forget about it. DO NOT FOLLOW THRU. You will lose your hard earned money.

My brother received a check for $2350 from George Wellington and included secret shopper survey instructions to buy 3 Walmart gift cards at $400 per card from one store then another 2 gift cards for $400 from another Walmart store. That's a total of $2000 and $350 will be his to keep. I think he deposit the check and is now trying to stop the check from cashing it. Please be careful everyone. If you do not know who sent you the check do not deposit it. My brother is young and a bit naive.

I reached out to someone o linked in about being a mystery shopper. I was sent a text message saying I was accepted and to look for a fed ex pkg in the mail. I received the pkg with a check for 2950.00 and a letter attached saying to purchase 2 apple gift cards . My fee would have been 350.00 I was immediately skeptical because they asked me to deposit into my bank. When I told them I was comfortable. I would take it to the bank it was drawn on, which was liberty county teachers credit union, which happened to be affiliated with a credit union I pay my mortgage too. I had some business to take care of yesterday. Out of curiosity I did ask the teller if the account was valid, he said it's a valid account and check. I texted the guy back and told him the credit union wouldn't cash the check and where do I mail it to as I was no longer interested. He said " you should have put in your bank". That was yesterday afternoon, so far havent heard anymore from him since.

I got two separate $2600 checks in the mail, asking me to go to Walmart and purchase a crap ton of card gift cards and sending a really clear picture of them cards, and I should have the rest of the money in my bank account as my payment??? Is my checks fraud??

I recently received the offer to become a mystery shopper. The check and offer letter came in a priority mail envelope extra postage and all. I took it to the local police station do they could put a bulletin out.

Just got a check last night in the mail. Sad cause I could have used it. Don't even know how the found me.

I received this morning (second time ive received this package, except this time they sent it via UPS not through post office) another one of these scam letters/checks. Both times they were for walmart secret shopper assignment and included a check for $3450. I was instructed to deposit it keep 450 for my fee and buy ($200×15) walmart gift cards worth a total of $3000. Obvious scam but interesting enough email on letter is stated as: info@ walmartevaluationreports. com to which i was to email when i received the package and a number of : (316) 462 9672 to text once i started the assignment. The check was written on Comerica Bank in Texas I'm in North Carolina so not a local bank and the business on the check is weird it is listed as: SAI Business Associates, Inc. DBA Quick Mart #3 out of Fort Worth Texas, but the stranger thing was the package itself was mailed from SPA,Inc out if Milford Ohio now come on scammers your definitely making yourself out to be known there.
Where can i report this stuff too? I am tired of receiving these and this needs to stop!!!!

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