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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 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.

Received an email on my school account about LITTORAL CONSUMER METRICS. I signed up for it and received a check for $2950 and deposited it. Started to get suspicious about the legitimacy of the check and called the bank it was issued by. Fake check! Immediately called my bank and told them the check was fraudulent and i didn’t know. BE CAREFUL AND DONT TRUST LITTORAL CONSUMER METRICS!!!

Don't Fall for Fake Check Scam. I got a check for $2,890.00 to buy 2 gift cards to Apple store no way. Check was out of Ohio. If you get a gray or white package with a fake label on it and a person name from anyone in USA, not a real cashier check. These people buy check's online and used their own computer and printer to SCAM you out of your money. Don't do it, waste of time for someone to Steal your hard working money. Just because they are to lazy to get a JOB. I also got one last year too. I took it back to post office or take it to your local sheriff office. don't answer the phone or text messages just delete them right away. BEWARE OF FAKE CHECK SCAM. AMERICA HAS TO FIGHT BACK.

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?

I just received a check for $2,850. From National Shopperslink. I was told to buy 2 apple gift cards each for $1300 and to keep $250 for my wage. Also to scratch the codes and send pictures along with receipts. Names they gave me were Mr.Raymond Ward, Julian Conard and the number on the paper and also the one that's texting me is 775-505-4558, also the emails are shoppers@ national shopperslink. com and shoppersworldca @ Red flags all over. These people need to be stopped.

Hi,
Just received one today but due to them asking me to deposit into my own account plus scratching so they can see ( on the pic I'm supposed to send) the number on the Ebay gift card that I'm supposed to buy, I got really suspicious. On top of it, the letter does not have a company name and looks very unproffesional.
I do understand that it's easy to fall for this scam, especially if you're younger and not sure what to question.
Glad I found this info.here.
The check will be shredded quickly:)))

I just recieved a check in the mail. They saying to email them and let them know that I have recieved the check. They will email me back on instructions what to do. The banks adress is legit. Just wait for what they tell me to do. Is there a way to report them and maybe try to catch them??

So glad I checked. This was the exact scenario from Forrester Research to shop 2 Walmart stores and the same/copy and give numbers. My husband was mad that I stopped him from depositing the check as we really need the money. Thanks for everyone’s comments.

I received the cheque for 2900 dollars from James Smith and asked me to deposit it. Send them back 5 500$ gift cards from Walmart. Luckily I googled and got to know about the scam. I didn't fall for it. Thanks

I got a check in the mail today for 2,985.00 together with a mystery shopper instruction list. The list reads to purchase 2 Apple gift cards for 1,300 each and my “salary was $335.00 and to text 305 8538782 as soon as I’m done for further instructions. At first glance I saw the check and it seemed legit so I googled the return address and it seemed like a legit office space. but it just seemed sketchy. The fact that they’ll send you a check for such a big amount. So please do your research before you do these type of jobs!

Ardent services inc. Tried to scam me. My bank kept bit didnt cash the fake check.

A friend was contacted by a Linkedin contact about a mystery shopper position and he forwarded the info to me. The company is called "Signals" and I filled out my info. Immediately received an e-mail saying I was accepted as a mystery shopper and a check would be post and mailed. I was immediately suspicious and did some online research, so I knew it was a scam before the check even arrived.

I received the check via Priority Mail, and the check was from someone named Maureen Rigs and the bank was CHASE in San Juan Capistrano, CA. The address on the check was San Juan Capistrano, but the return address on the envelope was Lose Angeles.

Then I received an e-mail with instructions to purchase gift cards from Wal-Mart and/or other stores.

I informed the CHASE bank and and the account is a real account, though I'm sure the check is fake. I gave them all the info they needed to shut it down and give law enforcement evidence.

I just recieved a check for 2,350 and was asked to deposit it into my checking account and take 2,000 to two different walmarts and get several 400 dollar gift cards and then scratch off the numbers and send them to a individual from wh6i have looked up and the advice I received from my bank this is most likely a scam

I received a blessing order in the amount of $1,000 a blank money order a blank postal money order in the amount of $1,000 I'm sorry I am to receive 200 out of this 1,000 800 is 2 gift cards from the store CVS Walmart Walgreens this day is not to talk to me Kroger Best Buy hours since Harrison Teeter add to cash this money order at the counter of my bank and proceed with the assignment the daily I have to purchase eBay gift cards worth 800 with cash or debit card Andy and blow off of a guideline to follow to follow while purchasing the eBay gift card how long it took name on smartness of the staff customer service professionalism and so on are about 6 questions after all this I am too key detail make sure that the cards are activated when I leave the store open it and the silver scratch off gently capture images of car front and back and purchase receipt iPhone cameras are acceptable I accept it after filling the silver scratch off the car take a clear picture of the pinkos take a picture of the gift card one by one do not discard the card as they will be used for my subsequent assignments I'm supposed to email my information to update evaluate the value report which which is update ezal report 20019 at outlook.com the same for at yahoo.com sincerely @2019intershopinc Consult EvaluationServey Team Los Angeles CA

I traced back the sender’s info , the address on the envelope they sent the check in was some Thai cuisine place in Lakeport , CA. That’s when I was like “umm”

I received a email Saturday with instructions on how to cash the check which was through my bank. In the email it stated to go buy 3, $500 gift cards from different Walmarts. The first alarm for me was, the check had simply management center, the return address said Consumer Services. No one and I mean no one sends you free money. When I googled this was the first site that showed up. Thank you for confirming my suspicions

They offered a cashiers check which I could deposit and wait until it cleared before releasing the furniture. But then said they would add mover's fee to the check and I could pay the movers from that. I knew it was a scam at that point: a check for over the amount and then they get money from me & I have a bad check. Texted from 404-902-3789.

Just like previous comments, I also received a priorty mail envelope with a check for $2456.25 and instructions on buying Ebay gift cards from a series of stores. Immediately I knew this was a scam. I googled the name Ardent Service Inc and saw that FTC identified this as a scam. I think they got my name from an invitation email from Whole Foods to be a secret shopper. Don't fall for these scams. Check them out before you do anything stupid!

My mom clicked on a clickbait text and got a check for $3050 overnighted via FedEx from the "Walmart Survey Service." After looking it over, and researching it I advised her that it is a scam but she wants to open a new account and deposit it to see what happens. It mirrors everything said previously but This time they want you to evaluate my bank by purchasing a $50 cashier's check and make it out to the American Cancer Society, sending it with the report. of course, they want a few $500 Walmart cards scratched off.

I remember back in the '00s my Dad getting mighty ticked off when he received a check out of the blue (with the last name misspelled) a 30k. I researched it and came up as a scam but he still rushed it to the bank, wanting to deposit it. I intervened and told them to please verify that it is legit, talking over my dad, which totally ticked him off further. I didn't care and accepted the polite cussing out. After 10 minutes the cashier came back and told him that it was fake. His jaw dropped and he turned to me "I'm sorry Sonisha, thank you for looking out for me." He never doubted me again when he got unsolicited checks. he would plop it in front of me and say, "check this out" and would be resigned when they were all fake.

I just received a check for $1900 and was asked to go to a local Best Buy and spend $1600 in gift cards and text the person with the info within 48 hours.

A company using the name MarketVision Research used my college's site to get to students to sign up as a secret shopper and get paid up to $300 each trip. As soon as I signed up I received two checks in the mail for $2395 and numerous phone calls that showed the caller as possible scam to confirm my receipt.
I looked up the company and there really is a Market Vision company and I am sure this is not it.
They asked me to deposit the checks then go to the Apple store and purchase 2 gift cards for $1300 each and a verified agent will then pick up the cards or merchandise (second trip) at the store. The $335 is mine to keep and $50 will be for the next purchase. Who pays someone $300 to go to a store and purchase a gift card. Scam all day long! Returning these checks to sender.

I received a letter, text, email etc from "John Harvey Survey LLC" with a check for $1890. I was instructed to be a secret shopper at Walmart, purchase 3 $500 gift cards, and send pictures of the scratched off numbers back. The remaining $300 would be for me to keep, and an extra $90 if I did it within 24 hours. Anytime anyone asks for gift cards like that, scam alert! I also was suspicious of the language in the contact. There were grammar mistakes, weird punctuation, random capitalization in the letter. Businesses usually don't make these mistakes. I called the bank the check was printed from (Solutions Credit Union) and they verified it was fake and they are aware of the scam. When in doubt, always call. I was excited at first, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Just got a check today for $2800.00 with the same shipping instructions. Do I send this to Walmart? Take it to the police? I am obviously not going to cash this check.

Watch out for communications from Charles H. McCurry, Brenda
Henderson and Michael Storm. Sprout Shopper Retail Survey. Got a check for 2950. Asked to send back money orders.

received a letter with a check for $2800.00 written on Comerica Bank via USPS today, Saturday 11-2-2019.
i checked it out on the FTC fraud blog.
the account pretty much described the instructions in the letter i received.
thank you for saving me from falling for that. the financial damage it would have hurt me quite a bit.
i noticed, as i read the letter, that the spelling of behavior was the british spelling (behaviour).

When I got home today there was one in my door. Priority Mail with a check for 1,600.00 that looks very official any nicely typed letter with instructions on what to do and then and then a few hours later followed up with a text message Lakeland Florida

I just received a check for $1950.00 from Huntington National Bank, mail to me from Jesse Elmer, 1269 27th St, San Diego CA 92154.

I signed up and even deposited the first check before finding out it was a scam. Now the check is still processing but what if the bank rejects it? Would i one then the $3,000 on the check? Even if i haven’t used a cent of it? Or would it just reject the check and charge me a small fee ?

I am an Amazon / Whole foods shopper . I was sent a text regarding a secret shopper surveyor for Whole Foods . The Steve Carter (scammer) sent me a check for $2,450.52 & told me to purchase $2,000 of Ebay gifts cards . This not what signed on for & did not sound legitimate. I have not deposited the check .

I received a USPS Priority Mail last night with a $2,450.00 check from California Bear Credit Union, the company on the package is Coinflux LLC in San Francisco, CA , the letter ask me to go buy $2,000.00 of E-Bay gift card and text them the photos on the numbers. I can keep the $450.00 different. It sounded too good to be true. Total Scam!

I’ve learned a good way to tell if checks are good or not is the company that is on checks won’t have a phone number on them and same with bank info good checks will have this information

I just recieved a check for $2,000. This is the 3rd time they have tried to get me to do this. All under different names. The name this time is Billy Price. It's really sad that people do this to others. It's a big epidemic. It's terrible that they take advantage of someone's kindness and of there situations. We as humans think this is a valid way of making money. We all can use the money. They should be able t track this people and arrest them. They not only scam but they make it hard for legal on line jobs to succeed. I wish a class action lawsuit could be formed but they are untraceable and that's the sadness. Everyone please watch out and investigate everything that seems like easy money because money don't come that easy.

got the same fat check today from HR MGR John Simpson SCAM

I just received a letter and check for 1987.77 as part of a secert shopper job it ask to donate money to the cancer society then purchase eBay gift cards worth $1600.00 and to send picture comformation.

A few weeks ago I received and email about becoming a mystery shopper. I was suspicious but curious so I mailed contact information (I hope this was not a mistake!) and a week later a letter was in my mailbox from "C. Bunn" in Sedalia MO. The letter contained a check for $1,270.00 and instructions asking me to purchase Walmart gift cards and of course, to send some money back. Sound familiar? The check was drawn on an Oklahoma bank and the logo on the check did not match the bank's logo (I checked, of course). Also, there was no BANK PHONE NUMBER o the cashier's check (a real check would have a phone number). All this added up to a rather unsophisticated scam. After another week had passed, I began receiving anonymous phone calls telling me that I needed to cask the check immediately! Hopefully this info will help somebody!

I just had this exact scam. Some guy writes official sounding emails claiming to be from the Wesley Group named James Speight (though I have no clue if that's even legit) mains me a check for $1950.00, instructs me to go to my bank's ATM and deposit the check, wait a day then go to the nearest Walmart and buy 3 $500 Gift Cards and email him a pic of the scratched off gift cards and the fake survey he sent. Nothing about it made sense. Why would you send someone to do a shopping survey just to have them get gift cards unless you're pulling a fast one?

I just received a check in the mail for $1850, I was told to cash the check keep $300 for myself as payment and shop at 3 store near me buying 5 $100 Amazon gift cards from each store then send pictures of each card front and back to a number. I did nothing with the check and I'm debating on destroying it or taking it to the police.

I was sent 1450.00 from option outpost I was to purchase 2 500.00 gift cards then receive 350.00 and save 100.00 for the next assignment once I purchase the cards scratch the numbers and copy the receipt to Brian the check was drawn in DC I was to text them when the check would clear the bank then I was given a small servey to complete with no followup to send it back there was a few red flags did my research threw the check away

I received a check from them today. I wasn't fooled. What really makes me sick is this scam goes on and on and the people that do this have absolutely no concience. No guilt or remorse. That's not even human to benefit financially from some else. No work no effort. Simply cheating a foolish victim. Ah but there is a Hell.

Watch for secret shopper...scam. Chase Bank remitter Mario Gross. Forrester research inc. Nestor Garcia. This is a scam that's beneath all pond scum. I hope our investigators can stop the crime and put these monsters behind bars. Ruthless spiteful and greedy people. There is a hell!

I just receive a motherload of money from a possible secret shopper company thru Wal-Mart. How do I find out if this is real or a scam?

How do i Find put it this is a scam? Check from Wal-Mart 1950$
Secret shopper

I feel for this once before. Desperate for money to pay the bills and out of work. The little money I had, I used to buy gift cards to WalMart. Scratched off the code on the back of the card and text photos and receipt to the scammers. An hour later, I checked the balance on the cards I purchased. Figured I would use them for Christmas presents for my family. Of course, the cards were all depleted. The check that I received from the scammers bounced. So an additional $35 fee on top of the $1200 I spent. I called the scammer's number. No answer. I texted. I got a response of "Hello." I just received another mail and check and this time I called the bank that "issued" the check. No check exists. I expected that. I'm just trying to figure out who to report this to. I have saved the checks, letters, etc. I don't expect I will ever get back the $1200 + $35 I lost. But I'm hoping that some authority can catch and stop these people. From what I've read, there are many people involved. Warehouses of people making calls, sending texts, sending emails and letters. At this point, if I can help bust just one of them, that's the most I can ask for. Does anyone know who to report these frauds to?

I was sent a "cashier''s c h eck" in the amount of $1998.00 and told I had 2 jobs to do one at Money Gram at Walmart and Money Gram at CVS and the balance, $500 would be mine as long as I wrote a report on the customer service. After doing some checking, I'm sure it's a scam.

I received the same, glad I held on to the check, they keep texting to deposit and get Walmart gift cards, thought it was too good to be true, will definitely report this to bank and FTC

Yes, this is a real scam. All of the information shared in this website is accurate of what happened to me. I was sent a check for almost $3000 and told to deposit it right away. I too was told to buy gift cards and send pictures. This sounded like a scam for the go get, so I texted the company and they tried their hardest to convince me that it was legit. DON’T FALL FOR THIS COMMON SCAM. This company was titled “Home viewsurvey. ” but the website didn’t even exist! So sad these dirtbags still crawl around doing this to people. Don’t fall for any of this, the old saying of “if it sounds too food to be true, it isn’t”. I gave my letter and check to FedEx since the scammers used them for delivery.

After applying for secret shopper job, I received a package via USPS Priority Mail from Michael Smith with Balanced Growth Market Research containing a check from Chase Bank, in the amount of $2,555.00, and instructions. Steps to evaluate my bank in the process of cashing the check and purchasing a cashiers check for Thornwell Orphanage, shop at 3 to 5 stores from list and purchase eBay gift cards in various amounts discreetly, send picture of front and scratched off back of each gift card to 219-250-8488 and 779-901-0266.

This is an obvious scam. I hope this information helps someone.

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