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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

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!!!!

I just received a cashier's check for $2620.00. Letter from a company called Intershop inspired by tomorrow. telling me to cash check and shop at walmart then buy gift cards scratch off numbers and send pics to a phone number.

Just got a priority mail package with a chec k for $3,450.42 from a Bank in Orlando FL - Centerstate Bank made out from an ADP Surfaces at 841 Drive Buick Ave, Orlando, FL 32808. Buy Walmart gift cards for $3,000 and keep $450 as my commission. If I finish in 24-48 hrs a commission of $150! I then get a text from 9805331843 asking me if I got the package. Damn they are good. Told them its going in the trash and I'm going to the police department and to remove me from their list. Idiots!

Thanks to so many people reporting variations of the same exact scam. How is this being allowed to continue for so long??

$2900 check from Alabama Credit Union
Ronald Bales
2 page letter (no typos)
Phony Walmart letterhead
Instructions to deposit check
Buy money orders at Walmart, keep $500
Send money orders via FedX
Include a report on customer service
Follow up texts asking for updates

Sound familiar?

I received a check for $3950 I was told to go to Walmart and go do The assignment and get three money orders for $1000 leave them blank and send them back to him and keep the remaining money as my assignment

Just received a check from Southern Heritage Bank with remitter Kathleen Fair for $1994.90. Instructions were to deposit check, go to Walmart and buy $1630 in gift cards then send picture to them of scratched off card. Person's name on the letter is John Edwards, phone # 904-414-6125. The check was dated July 15,2019.

Got one for 997.60. I am supposed to keep 297.60. The rest I am supposed to buy Walmart gift cards and Walgreens s gift card. Totaling 700.00 dollars and scratch off the silver number and tame a picture front and back and send to him. He told me he was law abiding citizen. And a Christian man. The number is 909 264-8506.

The LinkedIn referral seemed legit. I even replied to my contact via LinkedIn and the response came back with a thumbs up to indicate that everything that I read was supposedly correct. Fast forward and I receive a series of emails priming me for the task at hand. When I receive the package it lacks some professional appeal. The check looks real but the packaging was not up to par. I suggest really looking at all your connection platforms and securing them properly. Hopefully LinkedIn can do something.

Thank you. I just received a check with instructions on a secret shopper task. After reading this, thank you. I’m reporting the check and hope the person who sent me the check gets caught. Which I honestly doubt. Thank you again :)

I can confirm that this is a scam. I would take check to bank and they would verify that it was worthless (a fake).
Have check or money order verified by bank prior to use. PLEASE BE CAREFUL

I got 3 money orders from a company called Chazy surveys services. I looked it up and there was a website. I tried calling to let them know that I was going to report them. they still texted me to see if I had completed the task.same scam purchase 2 Apple Store gift cards for 1200 and 1300. the number included was 802-585-2982. came from someone in El Paso, Texas.346-242-8829. Big Scam.

I was just trying to find a job, some way to survive and I found this to good to be true offer for work and it was just a scam. So messed up.! Luckily my ever so smart aunt saved me before I stupidly committed to the evil plan so there’s that. But unfortunately I’m still a hard working man in need of work. And these people prey on that. Beware and be vigilant.

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.

I got the very same thing today. Looks so real but cant get ahold of anyone there

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@

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