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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 received a check and a text a day later with the tracing number via USPS. This group is very talented with superb follow-up! I was approached via Linked In and when I discussed this with my friend at Church he confirmed it was a scam with several others texting him as well. The scammers will actually answer your questions on linked in as they are able to hack the account and answer questions via linked in in mail. Be sure to speak directly with these folks that are hacked or ignore completely! I must admit, they are quite impressive with their scam! I wish they would use these superb talents in a much more constructive and less costly manner!

Received a job lead to become a personal assistant to a gentlemen named David Best. Sounds legit. Emailing back and forth- received a large check in the mail for $3850 for my $400 upfront payment then the rest for supplies for a seminar. Ok- not fooling me. I called The back in California, the account in question on the check was flagged for fraudulent activity. So as the story goes, I am playing a long with him... I totally Missed my calling as an FBI agent. He texted me and asked me to let him know when I deposit the check to receive my list of supplies! Stay tuned.... he messed with the wrong person.

I received a check for $2450 I now know it is a scam can I simply ripped this check up? But first I would like to report this, who should I contact?

Received a 2900 check in the mail today after I got something in my email about becoming a secret shopper. I know people who do this thought it be a great way to make extra income.
While reading my “ assignment “ I knew it was a scam.
I was to keep 400.$ of it. And an extra 100. For gas etc.
I was to go to Walmart and get 3 Blank money orders, $1000.$ 1000 and one for 400.00 . I was to text them through each step. When I safely got the check. That I deposited the check, and that I will the next day get the money orders and send them right off after the secret Andress From my supervisor Ethan Knower.
I am so wanting to have fun with this.....
I hate scammers. I hate thief’s.

A while back I applied for some mystery shopper job online which appeared to be a legit company. I received a check in the mail along with instructions on completing a mystery shopper task in a store after depositing the check. The check cleared, completed task as requested, the document stated I would get a bonus if completing it within 12-24 hours (which I never received), after a couple days the check bounced and there was nothing I could do. The phone number was fake, and they never responded back to my texts or emails. Already made reports with authorities, bank the check came from and attempted to find the people behind this. I am wanting to find them and take care of them.

I highly recommend everyone to tell everyone about this horrible scam to avoid anything to do with sending pictures of gift cards, sending money orders to “test” the services, or anything with payment services. It’s a trap and you will never hear back from them and I wish there was a way to find them and make them pay. They are robbing from hard working people who work hard for the money they make and they’re stealing it from us. Something needs to happen to these people that are creating and sending out these scams .

I just recently fell for this scam. Needing extra income, I thought it was legit. Even sent in priority mail. Now my boyfriend and I are negative in our account 1,950. Hoping the bank will side with us. How did they not notice it was a fake check?? Any advice?? We have all the evidence and made a report with the local police.

So what do I need to do if I already deposit the check?

Let your Bank know ASAP - and don't spend any of your "fake" money. Report the scammers.

I received formation and a check, but my bank and the bank the check was supposed to go through noticed it was a scam and did not cash it, I'm glad that none of the other stuff happened.
Unhappy person

These definitely scams. Just got a USPS Priority Mailer with a check for $2490.84. They asked to deposit the check in my account and for me then to buy 2 $1000 money orders from the post office and I am to evaluate the post office on the service I received. Then to leave the money orders blank and send them via FedEx Priority Overnight...blah, blah blah. This envelope came from a person named Linda Webster in Dayton, OH. The "supervisor's" name is Kate Avon. The email is avonk and the phone numbers are 646-974-1499 & 914-206-4916.

Scammers even have my phone # and text me a congratulation about being accepted as a secret shopper. Text back "who is this?" with no response. They sent a check the next day in the mail. They want me to deposit then shop at CVS buying Best Buy gift cards in CASH. Email scam address is retailsurvey . Mail fraud too as check sent through USPS.

I just opened a priority mail envelope with a money order of $998 in it with a letter of assignment as well. I also received a threatening text message stating that they were going to send the authorities to me for using the money order for my own use. I responded informing them that I hadn’t used the money order because I just opened the envelope. After there response to me, in caps, I realized that this was truly a scam, so I decided to mess with them. I asked why they were so angry and that I don’t appreciate them using all caps in the text messages because I haven’t done anything to them. They stopped using all caps and stopped texting altogether. Lmbo!!! Isn’t there anybody we can report them to? Is there no way for computer geeks to find out who the hackers are? The text messages are coming from 1-307-622-6318.

my God I received the check last week, I deposited the check back there they contacted me and I deposited again as it came back I decided to search the internet and came across many stories here like mine what I do now

Since it’s a scam. Do that mean I have to actually do what they say? Can I just cash the check and keep it lol? So what if it comes back

Just got a check written on Comerica Bank for $2,800. Instructing me to cash at my bank, etc. and shop in Walmart. Same old scam. Sad that this is still going on. I may be a senior, but I am certainly not falling for this garbage. Very sad.

Just received a check for $2250 to buy gift cards from Walmart. The check came via UPS. It was from Forrester Research, the bank was MT Bank. Signed by Nestor Garcia. Couldn’t. Verify website. What a scam. So glad I researched this.

I.received a check in mail along with letter telling me what they wanted. I didn't do anything I knew it was a scam. If something sounds too good to be true it usually is. Why some people do this is beyond me. People r struggling to make ends meet and then these scammers come along.

Who do we report this to? Same story, LinkedIn friend I trust messaged me, then I got an email saying they’re sending me a check for $1900, $350 of it for commission, and I’m to buy 3X$500 gift cards from either Best Buy of Walmart, send them pics of the scratched off codes. Email is sig-services and the phone number is 011-503-7476-7799.

Check from first international bank, williston, nd for 2,490$ ...remitted deserie Shull... check from Linda Webster, Dayton Nv ...for secret shopper job. Wanted 20.83$ in cashier check .

I just got my check for $2985.00 that was actually written on a Bank of America check! It's a good thing that my wife can smell a scam from a mile away, so her skepticism made me do a little research on the internet. Once I found this page, I knew for sure that I was being scammed. Like the old saying goes, "If it's too good to be true ... hold on to your wallet and run!"

Here's the number they texted me from (510-972-3217) and the fake name was Nicholas McElroy from WeCheck LLC (which is actually a real company that the scammers are using).

Same thing happened with me. I fell prey to this stupid scam. It looked suspicious from the beginning but I was too naive. Is there any way I can get my money back. People who've fallen to such scams, is there a solution to this misery?

I just received a priority mail with check for $1850 from Secret Customer (??) supposedly the name of the firm. I was urged to todeposit the check, then email Charles Bates,, Field Agents Inc. to confirm deposit and get my "assignment"!!! How I wish it was legit as the money is welcomed...but NO WAY....THIS IS A SCAM!!!
The check is drawn on the Horizon Trust Company Inc in Albuquerque, NM but also has another bank name: on it; BankUnited on 5th Floor Avenue (??? hows that for a made up name) in New York, NY. BEWARE...do not fall for this.

I was contacted through LinkedIn by a former colleague, offering an opportunity to secret Shop. I assumed it was mystery shopping Assisted Living Facilities, which was our connection, so I expressed interest. I was contacted by a company named "Grass Roots Mystery Shopping, LLC" and sent several text messages and a survey about my qualifications. All communications were via text message, until I was approved for my first assignment. Just today I received a Check in the amount of $2,985.00 from an unknown person in Texas. Not anything to do with Senior Living and not at all what I expected! There were instructions enclosed, stating I am to deposit the check at my bank, purchasing a $20 money order, and wait for the funds to clear. Then I am to visit the Apple store and purchase two gift cards totaling $2600.00. I was told the second instructions would arrive shortly after, which will instruct me to visit the Apple store again , use the Gift Cards for purchasing items for $2600. Then the items plus cashiers check for $20 will be collected by a verified agent outside of the store. This is a TOTAL SCAM! I am reporting GRASS ROOTS MYSTERY SHOPPERS and will turn the check in at my bank to report FRAUD.

So I received this same type of scam and the person asked me to deposit this check and then send money through the post office to see if their services are blah blah blah....how do we report these people?

I just got one of these checks. It’s started with a emailed job offer that sounded legit but instead of instruction and paperwork I get this check with the same instructions deposit the check than get 2000.00 in Visa cards. Once that was done I was supposed to send them a picture from my phone. Do people really fall for this. The check up front should send all kinds of warnings bells.

Same scam here. Rcvd a Treasurers check from Triangle Credit Union for $2,852.30. Instructed to purchase $2500 of reloadit gift cards from 2 stores & keep $300. Found this article so knew it was a scam. Shame on these scammers!

Received a check for 3,519.66 today and was told to but reloadable cards with 3,000, pay for cards and keep $450 for myself. Decided to look up scams and decided to contact the authorities after the holiday on the 13th which is a Monday. So glad I decided to check k this out. Please watch out for these scammers especially if you are a senior which I happen to be 75yrs old and not stupid. If it sounds too good to be true, it is especially when there is no company name and the check has a different name than the contact person (John Taylor) Do not deposit the check.

Received notification from David hall with congratulations for being chosen as a mystery shopper for Walmart, Target, Best Buy and CVS. The message was sent to my message site with instructions to notify him as soon as the check arrived. I deleted this from my messages. The next morning, there was indeed a check, $2999.00 from David Hall, which had been delivered by FedEx. When I read the letter which told me to purchase these eBay gift cards, take my $450.00 off the top, and take pictures of the back of the cards, mail back to him, I was perplexed. The name of the bank the cashiers check was printed on was Wellesleys bank. I googled the bank, the situation also, and finally this site and I see the scam is fairly common. The heading on the bank is Technology Insurance Special Risks 28 Haven Rd. Wellesley, MA 02481 The signature looks suspect, not really lik e David Hall. The tele, 316/330/9069 Email: davidhall
The letter sent from the scammer was very difficult to understand and I had to read it several times to understand. Such a sad way to steal from innocent people.

My husband got an email from a job posting site. He is currently home and answered the email thinking it was an opportunity to secret shop. He received a check today from IQ Credit Union-Po Box 1739, Vancouver, Wa 98668 in the amount of $1459.52. A copied note was inside telling him to go purchase $1000 worth of eBay gift cards, scratch off the silver and send a photo of them to surveyevaluationreports@ . My husband's name is on the check along with: Brenden S Larkin. So glad I looked this up. It's terrible how this can happen and scammers get away with it. What is wrong with society anymore? The signature on the check is from Yelly Geluadu.

I received a check today for $1967 and a "confidential" letter telling me to get 1600 in gift cards. Scratch off the back and send a picture. It's an obvious scam. Glad I didn't cash the check!
I DO work with some reputable companies doing "secret" shopping. I wonder how these folks got my address.

I wish you had where I could attach the scam mystery shopper letter, address, phone number, and fake check, so all could see. Just got a priority letter,with instructions and a fake check.

Just received a UPS hand delivered check for 2543.78 to buy EBay cards totaling 2,000 keep 500.00 for myself and use 43.00 for gas. The check was drawn on Carrico Implements which is a legit tractor company in KS with three stores no phone number on the check but the website is on line, definitely a scam! Thanks for this website.

Glad I checked this out before depositing the check. I am on a fixed income and there is no way I could cover this big a loss. These people should be ashamed to take advantage of people like this!

I just received the fraudulent check in the mail and I have not deposited it this person posing as John Taylor will never get a dime from me however i want to know why they can trace all the information he sent to me? The checks these banks are supposedly coming from are legit banks. I looked it up.

I received a pkg by ups with a 2500 dollar check with an assignment to shop at Walmart. From Las Vegas, NV. Forrester group. Evergreen pkging company.

I received a text earlier today stating that I was receiving a secret shopper package which arrived in Priority Mail envelope. The envelope contained a check for $2467.00 and letter asking me to purchase $2100 in Ebay Gift Cards and ti keep the $367. I am then supposed to scratch off back to expose numbers and send photos of front and back of each card. It also says that I must complete this in 2 days. Is there an agency that we should report this to and provide the documents?

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