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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 got my "payment" in the mail. Copied the check, "void" all over it. Told me to get gift cards, take pics, buy something and send pics, etc Put the check in a baggie and taking it to my bank so they can investigate it. I'm not falling for that crap. Lol. Sounds too good to be true?? You bet it is.

I just received a $2450.00 check to purchase 20 - $100.00 gift cards or 40 gift cards for $50.00. The worse part is they are going to pay me an hundred dollars for doing this within 24 hours. This is a Walgreens shopper scam. Please, be on the lookout.

My son got hoodwinked by this. Thankfully the check was never deposited and nothing came of it. #717-438-4536. Check from “Capitol Federal” Topeka, KS.

Same thing happened to me. Question is, would it help the FTC or FBI if we sent them what we received in the mail, to help track down the bad guys?

Glad I googled!

Dear Sharyn ****,

We will like to inform you that envelope containing your first shopper task and instructions that will guide you through in completing the task will be delivered to your mail box/house today via USPS regular mail.

You will be evaluating any APPLE STORE in your Area. The technology market is affected by rapid innovation, regulatory intervention, and overwhelming choice. Therefore differentiation and loyalty are major challenges for brands. We help hardware and software manufacturers by providing a clear understanding of consumer and business, needs, behaviors, and perceptions, enabling them to develop and deliver the most relevant positioning, communications, customer management initiatives, products, and services.

Please confirm the receipt of the task envelope by sending a text to (510) 972-3217

Thank You

Senior Qualitative Director

NICHOLAS MCELROY, Ph.D

USA Field Office,
© 2019 Macromill Group LLC

I recieved my first check yesterday I felt like I was laundering drug money or something didnt feel right at all when I got the cashier check. It was from Fort bragg credit union ft bragg North Carolina I called they confirmed it was a fake check they asked me to report to my local police department. It was almost 3k I was to go to a apple store and buy 2 $1300 cards so they have been emailing me and texting me from a California number. So tomorrow going to police new it was to good to be true

Heres what I've been sent... 1st rcvd a text stating I won the job of secret surveyor... sent a check via UPS but in a USPS folder. The check was from a David W Cooper Inc in Ok. City, signed by a different person (signature not legible) a letter (pkg sent from New Jersey!!) of instructions to buy Game Stop gift cards of $500 ea, keep $400 as my wages, plus a bonus if I do this within 48 hrs (thus the encouragement to do it before the bank catches the fake check) & use my own monies.
The letter is signed by an even different person (Alan Price). No phone numbers work btw. The check is from Simmons Bank, but the pkg was sent from
Beware folks!!!

I just received a cashiers check from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. The sender was ARBNET CORP INC. 1589 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94115-1546. I was asked to purchase EBay gift cards and keep the money leftover for my survey work. I auto deposited the check in my account. Will there be any repercussions from my bank when the check is found to be a fake which I am sure that it will in a couple of weeks?

Ha! The "payment" went up to $450 and if I complete the assignment within 24 hours - I will get a bonus of $150...or so they state. The assignment - purchase eBay gift cards worth $2,000 from 2-3 stores and send the survey (and of course pictures of front and scratched back of cards) to confirm the completion. Free cheese is available only in mousetrap as we say in Russia. Same structure: the name on the envelop is different vs. the name on Cashier Check vs. the name on the text message (Matt Davies at (503) 406-8516). I have a shredder and can put it to good use. Cheers and stay safe!

I wish I would have thought to come here.....I didn’t really think there was a issue, as I researched the name of the company on the cashiers check, and it was a legitimate company in good standing, and the guy responded to me stating my report was great and was sending me another assignment. I received it the following day with two more checks....by this time, my bank had sent the check back advising the account could not be located. Now I’m out $1850.50 and overdrawn.

What is frustrating, is if this was an issue with several people, for a year at least, my bank should have been notified with armed flag that the check I was attempting to deposit was fraudulent. That would have saved me from now being $1850 in the hole with absolutely no way to recover financially

I also received a cashier’s check for $2750 that is clearly printed on an ink jet printer. This is from Consumer Market Survey, Inc in Texas from a fraud named Kevin Reed HR Manager using #763-301-8566. They asked me to deposit it and make EBay gift card purchases totaling $2450 and keep $300 as payment. They also ask me to send pictures of the scratched gift cards. How horrible that they prey on hardworking people! Definitely beware and stay far away!

I just received an email from an email address at my college. It looked legit because it says it is from Job Services. The website looks legit as well but it goes through the same process as a lot of you mention. You fill out an application, they send you a package with checks and your assignments. I checked it out because it went into my spam folder and the person's name was not familiar. Glad I read these comments!

Hello,

This Job is currently recruiting. A Job that will not affect your present employment or studies, fun and rewarding. You get to make up to $300 weekly, I tried it and i made cool cash.
If you are interested you can visit their website at worthing survey services to apply and read more about the job.

Found the scam through LinkedIn site. They sent a check from Michigan State University with RE Brad Williams, however, the text messages were from a number in Jacksonville, FL. The check was for $2,450 and asked that I purchase eBay cards worth $2,000, send photo of the cards front and back after I scratched off the silver space. I could keep the $450 and if I did this all within 24 hours, I would receive an additional $150 bonus. The letter was from HR Survey Shoper but the email was from Retail Customer Affinity. I tore up the check and letter.

I just received a check from City National Bank for 2350.00, all telling me to do the same things people below are saying. My question is, how do they make money in this scam, I don’t understand?

P jenning128, what they do, they profit off of our ignorance. First they tell you to do this within a limited time. We know in some cases it takes 5 to 7 days for a check to clear especially if its a big amount. In some cases they get you to purchase gift cards, take a picture front and back or whatever they tell you to do, they copy the information use it on line to buy what they want after you have deposited the money in your account. You are basically paying for it. Or they get access to your baking account and fraud you. They can't be traced and the number they use to contact you is not legit. You are also giving them free gift cards with you own money, or money you will be in debt with your bank. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM! I IGNORED IT AFTER I SAW WHAT THEY REQUIRED OF ME. they say its a secret so you wont reveal what they are up too.

Got an instruction packet in the mail today with a $2350 cashiers check inside. Wanting me to do a survey at 2 Walmart’s of buying 10 gift cards totaling the amount of check. I’m crazy but I’m not a fool. Nice try folks.

I received a check today from a bank account at arkansas federal credit union. It was in the amount of 2490. It had instructions, but there was none to send any money back to them. The job was to be a secret shopper for walmart. I called arkansas credit union, and verified it is indeed a scam. Luckily I did not deposit the check.

I answered a part time admin assistant job
that was listed on Craigslist. First response
seemed professional after that misspelling
and seemed like different people different
story each time. Need you to do shopping and mail where told.
Will send a check. It came UPS today.
Tracker says it came from Sacramento Ca
Written on return was Bellagio Las Vegas Blvd.
I took it to the postal annex.
I also called FTC to report. Never even opened it
Return address

It just happened to me! I deposited the check but started feeling funny about it. Wal-Mart verified it was a scam and so did the bank. Fortunately I didn't use any money from the fake check

I just received a priority letter from Forrester Research Secret Shopper program. A check for $2400.; re:Norman J. Steiner, the bank listed on the check is 1at Financial Federal Credit Union in Wentzville,MO. They wanted me to get 3 gift cards from 2 different Wal-Mart's. But I have to screen shot the cards and redemption numbers. I was supposed to get $450, plus $50 for transportation. I'm so glad that I looked it up before going to the bank. Thanks for writing all the comments, or I might have been screwed out of $2400, and I'm on disability. I'm also reporting it to the BBB.

I got a check for 184O
Was told I get $300 I did say package came but now I’m nervous so I want to take check and survey form to bank to show them
What happens if I don’t deposit it? I don’t want to be connected to them

I'm so glad I did some research! This morning I was about to deposit the check, but something told me inside, to good to be true! So I decided to look up and see if i found something on oit. Ends up I find all these comments!! I recieved a cashiers check for $2444.08 , that will cover to buy 4 cards of $500.00 and the $444.08 would be my pay. Just now they're texting me to check I started my assignment!

Received check for 2450.00. Contacted bank - thecheck will not pay out. Remitter Betty J Pierson. Michael Plant

It's still ongoing. This week one of my LinkedIn in contacts sent me a link for mystery shopper opportunity. Turns out to be a scam as all of you described. I reported it the actual company and confirmed ignore it. Then the scammer texts me, why I haven't completed my task and that the FBI will investigate. I told them they are scammers and please have the FBI investigate. No texts after that.

I received a check September 23, 2019, I brought it to my bank and with a simple question they informed me the Check is incomplete! The routing number is correct but the account is bogus.

I think this organization is using these poor at home workers stuffing envelopes.

I recently received a usps money order for $1, 000 I called the post office 800 # to verify if it was a legit money order it said it was but that actually money order had been cashed in April it's now almost the end of September obviously it's a fake I didn't even bother to take it to bank.

A company on Indeed did the same thing to me and listed it as “remote part time product tester” The company did exactly what this says above. If anyone is looking here is contact info they used :
“TASK SCHEDULER & CHIEF CLIENT STRATEGIST BALANCED GROWTH CONSULTING® INNOVATION. OPERATIONS. TRANSFORMATION. 410-756-0735 Email: reg 879ineb @

I just received a check, but I have cashed it. What should I do?

Do not buy anything and contact your bank. Tell them it is a fraudulent check so they don't charge you. I am amazed that they have been using the same phone number for this long and google has not stopped it.

Go to your bank n report it.

Has anyone reported this scheme, and work with authorities to set up a sting?

Received a letter postmarked 9/17/19 from Phoenix Arizona with a return address label "Campus Consulting 196 W Simpson St Tucson, AZ 85701" The cashiers check is $1570 dated 9/13/19 remitter Danielle Jones and 'signed' by Kayla Barres and Cheryl Welk. Bank OZK Same scam, deposit check, keep $300 for payment, "purchase eight (6)$200 ebay gift cards, send pictures of peeled gift cards and receipts to (657) 234-2304

My daughter was scammed last week for $2,000. They sent an email from the job placement center at her school for a secret shopper, have an official looking website pagna surveyservices. sent her a $2,450 check and had her purchase gift cards and text pictures to them. Another student was scammed out of $3,500. We've filed police reports and the bank. Our bank says she might get some reprieve since they hacked her school system to access the students.

I received a $2450 check today asking me to send $2000 of eBay gift cards and that $450 of it would be my pay for doing this

I received a priority mail package in the mail, and inside of it was a check for $1500, and directions on who to email once I deposited it, so that I could receive my secret shopper assignment. Definitely putting this in the shredder....my first thought was if I deposit it, they would be able to get my bank account information... also very suspicious, I never applied to be a mystery shopper.

Yeah I just received one of those secret shopper fake checks today for $2400. I was told to go to Walmart and purchase gift cards totaling $1,900, take pictures of the receipt, the cards back and front, scratch off the redemption code and text or email to them.
These people should find another career other than trying to rip off hard working, honest people. Use that energy for something good, not evil. God don't like ugly and they will get theirs in the end.

I strongly agree. Its sad and pathetic.

I just had this happen to me. I was sent a money order and was told to deposit. The next day the funds were available. Bought best buy gift cards as a " secret shopper " Money order was a fake, but didn't find this out until bank called, and I was sent 2 more. Was US postal money order so I thought nothing of it. My mistake!!!! Now trying to see how to get money back to fix account.

Yes they sent me a check for $1,500. I didn't do anything with the check, I just received it Friday. I knew it was a scam behind it with that large amount of money. Glad I got a smart head on my shoulder. I'm a college student and I knew it was a scam first time I opened the priority envelope up. Please stop preying on these college students and younger kids. Its sad. People try anything to get a dollar out on someone.

Glad that I Googled it! Just received a $2450 check from ARBNET Corp inc. They ask me to buy gift cards from different shops in the letter. And, what's interesting, the signature at the and of the letter by Mike Donald, Brandt Group Inc. So be aware, that it is not Brandt Group anyway! The scheme is the same. I don't know if I should go to the police department...

Thank you for posting all of this info. I was about to be taken. I was contacted by Kevin L Reed from Customer Survey. I checked on LinkedIn and looked for a website but nothing. Also I noticed they message they sent came from consumer surveyinc .staffing@ a gmail not a business email. So will take the check to the police or give to my bank.

Received a check from Michael plant wanting me to buy gift cards from Walmart in the amount of 2500.00 they sent a 2850.00 check . Yes it’s a scam be aware

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.

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