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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 received an email at school to sign up as a secret shopper after i inquired about more information, I began getting random texts with instructions. When I tried searching for the marketing company on line I couldn't find it. That was my biggest red flag. At that point to responded saying I'm no longer interested. Three days later I get a response asking why. Then I received a certified check for $1969.20. The check looks as if it was printed on a home computer with no watermarks. The check listed Houston Federal Credit Union.

I received check also for a secret shopper bank took to bank they told me twice it had cleared did what was told to do now bank wants me to pay 3500

Hi so today I got a check in the mail to be a mystery shopper by text the first time it was for $1,970.00 at first it ask me to deposit the check and buy eBay gift cards the check looks real I try to call the number given (314) 325-9627 nobody answered then after I did I got a text about 30 mins from the same number I told them I didn't want anything to do with the mystery shopper plus the check was from a West Texas national bank plus there was a name Judy ward don't know if that helps but on the bottom it told me to take $300 out for myself plus purchase a total of 8 gift cards from to different stores had to be $200 each plus take a pic of it them plus wait for them to give further instructions don't fall for it I almost did plus the name at the bottom of the page was Alex Jones, fusion researchers inc.

I received the check and a letter today. I thought there was something odd because they wanted me to deposit the $1850 check in my acount. At one point the letter said to take $200 commision and then as the letter went on it said to take 300$ for myself. Was not making sence so I looked it up to see if this was a legitimate company. And it's note. What I don't understand is why no one is dealing with this and go after tjese scammers.

I received "offers" and then "acceptance for a job as a Customer Service Evaluator from ISD-Evaluators. They sent me a check, which was supposed to be deposited. Then, I was told to go to a "Big Box Store", observe their practices, then buy gift cards. I could keep $250.00 as my "salary" and if I completed the job in 24 hours or less, I could take $400.00. Of course, that sounds "fishy". So, I did not deposit the check. Well, I got at least five "urgent" e-mails, expressing the importance of completing this task as quickly as possible. When I did not respond, they sent me a second check! Of course, this came with a new round of urgency to complete this task right away. This time, I waited about five days. Then, I wrote back and told them that I had deposited the checks, but the bank called back and told me that there were either "Insufficient Funds" or that the check was "Bogus". I asked ISD-Evaluators to please send cash and I would complete the task and gladly take my "payment". Seven days later, all e-mails and text messages have ceased! Amazing!

My wife received a letter and a check for $2890.00 from First Financial Bank in Greensburg, IN 47240. Included were instructions to buy a cashiers check from my bank for $20.00 then $1200.00 in Wal Mart gift cards and to scratch off and reveal all numbers and send photos of those to 346-800-3828. This is such a scam, don't be fooled. Bottom of letter had this name and contact# Edward Smothers- 919-584-4620

I just got a check. No letter, sent priority mail, return address STORESPY-CST Inc

I received an email to be a secret shopper filled out the application and received a check by UPS in a couple of days for $3,800 did not deposit did not they wanted me to go to Walmart and evaluate how they give money more orders out I knew it was a scam too good to be true if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

Their still at it. They text me the tracking number. The check was for 2830.00 I did not follow the link in the text so I am not sure what they are asking me to do. Trick no good here. The check looked real I can see how they are still getting this scam off on people.

Got one for $2,676.89, crazy scammers

I received a priority mail express mail. I didn't think much about it so left it in a box of old mail until last night I was looking for my birth certificate and I saw this big white and blue priority mail. So I opened it and it's a survey associate for secret shopper and of course a check for $998.00 I continue to read the letter and look at the check date 05/28/2017. So when I read your comment...I knew it was a Scam. I got this mail last year and only last night I open...Thank you Lord for watching over me. I'd there any way I could send the letter and check to the consumer commission to help catch these bad people.

I got a 2350.00 check the other day with one piece of paper with it that had instructions to deposit , message, keep 500 then email for more instructions for a graphics artist to come bling out the ride"" well luckily our ride had gotten smashed like a week before so I wasnt getting far on foot and missed out on walmart cashing. They were impatient so I went even slower, said I just dropped it in the atm when I didnt yet it's been 3 days now and they're still at it. To keep it honest guys I was also contemplating keeping the money. But I'm better than that I most likely RIP it up and send the

I have been scammed so many times on so many ways...first I was being catfished on dating sites...luckily I never lost any money and now I can catch on if someone is a catfish...almost 10 yrs later and they are still doing that. More recently, including today, I have received emails and text messages from people claiming to be from reputable companies (I’m actively seeking employment) so I have responded to administrative assistant, personal assistant, receptionist, and related positions (remote positions)that I’ve seen on reputable career sites like Indeed, Ziprecruiter and LinkedIn. I was recently sent 2 checks from 2 different “employers” -one for over $7,000 from a Wells Fargo bank and the other was over $3,000 from a PNC bank. They were “cashier checks.” Although I was sceptical and I am intelligent, there was still a part of me that was hoping there was some validity to this as I need a job so bad esp with the COVID stuff going on. I first went to my bank, they said they looked fake but I could check with the actual banks listed. She also told me scams are on the rise cause they know how desperate ppl are these days and they even had an elderly couple come In earlier cause they had been scammed but of course no further specifics were given. So I go to Wells Fargo and immediately they said it was a fake and I asked them if they wanted the envelope it came in and the contact info of the person who sent it to me and they said NO ...that they get these kinds of things all the time and it’s very hard to catch the ppl. So I knew the PNC one was fake too...both check were destroyed and I blocked the numbers of those ppl so they couldn’t contact me again. Here are some tips (in case u have not experienced it yet): 1. Check with the company they are claiming to be a part of to see if it is a legit opportunity 2. They put up fake job jobs on reputable sites until they are caught and then they want to communicate thru mail or text or something like google hangout or Skype (but without video). 3. They conduct “interviews” on google hangout or Skype-never phone calls or zoom /videos. 4. Pay close attention to their grammar and total interaction. They use bad grammar, often misspell words, they get impatient if u don’t answer right away, and they are very impatient and insistent on when u should have gotten the money and are bothering u about updates. 5. Call them on their bluff and see how angry they get! But u don’t need to be rude or aggressive...just something like...can we do a video conference so I can see who I’m working with and for and we can discuss in more detail my duties etc...u pick what u wanna say but put them on the spot while still sounding sincere and engaged! 6. If they wanna interview u on a hangout or Skype, insist on a video or phone conversation interview. In the past 2 weeks, I have been scammed attempted (for lack of better words haha) at least 4 times with 2 included today. One was claiming a certain company and had a link to the company but when I clicked it, I was warned not to proceed for virus issues...so I researched the company on the side and than contacted the company to see if the job offer was legitimate. Of course one wasn’t...he wanted to talk on hangout to interview Monday or Tuesday and sirens and red flags starting popping up so I blocked him...and the 2nd one, I’m waiting to hear BACK from the company. I know this was a lot but this has been happening to me for so many years in so many fashions and with the current economic downturn because of COVID, ppl are getting more desperate and may fall victim to these scumbag loser scammers! Do ur due diligence and share as much as u can so we can hopefully reduce casualties! Thanks for reading and sharing all ur stories!!

Got a check from Sona Back for the amount of $2,676.85,this to be part of Walmart secret retail research paid survey. Have to contact Harry Lewis and send him $2000.00 in money orders overnight.

I got a check for 1800 dollars for a secret shopper job at walgreeens. I didn’t cash The check, and haven’t done anything. But Greg Logan ha texted me a couple of times telling me to let him know if I have received the check. Should I respond or just ignore it? I have a two year old daughter and I am nervous that since they hAve my address they can track me down....should I be worried?

I was just offered an opportunity to be mystery shopper for a survey project, $1,500 per month salary, plus another $350.00 Bonus for each survey that I would complete, around 3 per week. Work only 3-4 hours a week, they asked for bank account information, so checks can be direct deposited into my account, I could also use Pay Pal, and other money accounts for my deposited checks. Does this project has an odor of fraud? Thanks

Hello
I received a check for $2466.08 and was told to deposit check and that I need to complete the assignment within 24-48 hours. My assignment is to purchase 2 $1000 gift cards from Best Buy and Walmart and to keep the $466.08 for me. This is for Mystery Shopper Customer Metric and Jason Lancaster as hiring manager. I have received a text this morning from them. I told them that my uncle work at police and aunt at bank and they doing a background check on the information. I haven't received a response back yet.

I just recieved same bs in mail yesterday . So yeah beware of this. Im in the Southwest part of Missouri. 4/30/2020

I got scammed omg people are cruel and inconsiderate. NEVER NEVER accept a payment from someone u don't know. Luckily my bank was able to fix it. I went to the police with check and e-mails text messages etc. People are heartless an don't care! Stay safe everyone. Watch your websites.....

I received two different checks in the amount of $2,466.08. Both checks were mailed from San Jose California from a vacant home on the market. Each check have a different company name on it the first is from Littleton Colorado, the second one is from Santa Rosa California. I did my research and call the bank on the first check to verify my suspicions that it was fraudulent. I also spoke with the accountant from the first company and found out someone hacked into their system and was using their bank account which they shut down in September of 2019. It is sad though that someone else received a check and they same amount I was told this lady took the check to her bank and the bank did reach out to this company and the accountant was able to let them know that the check was fraudulent. I received the letter along with both checks for mystery shopping which I did not apply for to purchase a $1,000 gift card from Walmart $1,000 gift card from Best Buy in $500 increments and to keep $466.08 for myself for my commission from each check. Yeah right! I my need the money amid this COVID-19, as an unemployed tax accountant I knew something was fishy.

I received a check for $4900 for a Walmart survey scam. I was supposed to deposit in my bank and take the cash out and get four money order $1000 each and mail them to someone. Not to put anything on them with the receipt of purchase sent to them.

Received job offer from Gartner secret survey evaluation. Mailed me a cashiers check for $2400.27. I keep $400 & buy 9 $200 Vanilla gift cards the balance is for future jobs. Then I send pictures of front & back of cards and report on customer service.
No signature on the letter. They never even talked to me on the phone, just sent me a check for $2400... cannot be real.

I received a scam check today on Peaks Island, Maine 04108, purporting to come from FireFlyFederalCredit Union in Burnsville MN. Everything else aligned with the account given here.

I received a money order for $1000 from Walmart to be a mystery shopper. I was to do exactly as it states in the above scenario. I Googled the phone number and it came to this website as a scam. The number was 559.715.4679 from a Troy Northwood in Ft. Worth, TX in a USPS Priority envelope. Very official looking. Beware!!! Don't fall for it!!

SCAMMERS.....INSTANT SURVEY, INC.... Just received a check for $1,970.00 ( not certified,
regular check) USPS Priority mail..... I called the bank and they verified the check number was not their's....... My advice is to call the bank and state the check is issued from and let them verify it......then report the scam.... Be aware the scammers are getting smarter and trying new ways......

This happen to me today but i didnt get the money they froze all my accounts

I have received a check and I'm takin it to the police

I received a cashier's check today for $2,998.98 from BMO HARRIS BANK. Sender is ISD Imperial Service Detective along came a letter of instructions. Abviously too good to be true, so I began searching the internet and nothing they text me from a 323-495-5704 number. I called it and only voice message address exist but no suite number, I texted and no reply thank you all for taking the time to post and alert others. I hope more people search before falling for this bad scam people.

I’ve been scammed I’ve avoided lots of scams in the past but this time they were very clever. They had created a fake account in my uncles name when I was talking to this fake person I legit thought I was talking to my uncle I didn’t realise it wasn’t him. When I actually asked my uncle about it he had no idea he told me about this thing with the RCD the ritual community something and sent me link to talk to a guy called James Marley which is also a fake Facebook account and this guy James was telling me about some money thing and to redeem it to send him google play gift cards which I only sent 1 before I found out it was a scam and but they were asking for 10 cards worth $100. Be careful when talking to people you know on Facebook if they send fishy stuff like that it’s probably not them they’ve either been hacked or their identity has been stolen. If your not sure give them a call or something.

I received a check for $2995 today from ISD Market Research. They wanted me to deposit the check and be a secret shopper for a bank. I am to text them when I have deposited the check and it cleared and send them a report on the customer service I received at the bank. So glad they said not to release my bank information to them or I might have actually thought they were a scam! (Ha Ha). No request for gift cards so they may be moving on from that scam to a new one!

I recieved a check today in a $2.45 priority mail envelope. A check for $1,935.78..on firefly federal credit union. In Minnesota. Googled and it's a legit bank. But still I knew it was a scam because they sent a letter with the check saying they wanted me to but gift cards. That's the red flag forme is the gift cards.. So look out its still kicking.

My daughter got same exact ck amt,same bank. Check looks so real. She got excited. I asked about letter with it. When I read about putting it in bank and being secret about it and buying gift cards,I knew it was fishy. Found all these similar scenarios on this site. It is so sad that these people keep doing this.

I have a check to be a bitcoin shopper I deposited I just heard about this scam what should I do

Just got a check for 2400 dollars asking me to purchase gift cards. and deposit money. This is a money laundering scam. Watch your back. I'm turning into Police tomorrow. They Fed ex the check with directions, then use a fake return address.

This is so funny and I had an idea it was fake. Got my $4500.00 check today in the mail. Actually just got it and read through it. Walmart gift card and wanted me to get 2 from 1 store and 1 from anothr. They then wanted images of the cards. Fake check and everything else is fake. LOL!

received a 2400 check, and had instructions with it about cashing check at bank or depositing money into the account. Wait til it clears and go to walmart to purchse 2000 worth of gift cards.

I am holding the packet in my hands it has what I was going to do and a check for$2600 dollars I keep $600 then get 2
$ 1000 money orders that I leave blank and fed ex to a address I will receive later.

I just got a "check" from PYRITE SURVEYS LLC.
BEWARE THIS COMPANY IS SCAM. Don't fall for this scam, NEVER DEPOSIT ANY OF THESE
CHECKS!. NOBODY SENDS A CHECK UP-FRONT FOR A JOB YOU HAVE NOT DONE!

Just recieved a cashiers check from Genesis Credit Union from a company named P & S survey group. The check was for $2430.00. The letter states that they are a mystery shopping group. They want you to deposit the check then they ask to go to Wal-mart & purchase 5 guft cards @ $200.00 each. Then go to another & do the same. After both stores are done, send a text to a number. Then email the gift card numbers & a picture of the receipt.

I have received at least 5 fake cashier's checks from( 3) for car wraps from Anheuser-Busch and 2 for Secret shopper for Walmart. The checks are fake! If you contact the bank on the checks they will tell you that they are FAKE @

Has anyone received a check from Shoppers Inc. telling them to buy gift cards? Is this a scam?

This is a MAJOR SCAM! It’s as old as the wheel! Do not participate, if they continue to text or email you, take a screenshot so you have a record. Then take a photo of the FTC’s & the FBI’s home screens and reply to their message including the 2 photo’s and say you are aware this is an illegal scam, do not contact me again ever. Remove all my information from your lists!!!

They should get the message.

You can report everything to the FBI, if you want to help stop them for good hopefully and those like them.

Yes its all,scams. Why would someone send you money to,send them money back ? They have you use your money before their check clears which never does then u send them gift card number,and they take all,YOUR money

Received check of 2253.00, went to Google to find company "Brendan Ross Murphy" Found this sight warninget against scam...Check is from my Bank, so I'm turning it into them for investigation

Watch for Jim Mont with a gift card and money transfer scam. Montjimh@

I received an email "confirming my interest in the secret shopper program" and then got a cashier's check in the mail for $2,390.73. I looked up the website www. grocery research since the email was from Simon Brady with an hr@ email address. The site looks legitimate but we've all read how these cashiers check/purchase gift card scams go!

I just received my letter by priority mail from the USPS with a $1950.52 check to be a secret survey shopper. I hadn't signed up for anything so I knew it was a scam despite the legitimate looking cashier's check. I immediately remember a story I'd seen or heard on TV that said a person received a check cashed it and several weeks later found out it was fake and guess what.....they owed the bank the money. That's not gonna happen because I'm not falling for this SCAM. Oh how I wish I could string this con artist along. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or patience to play his game. If anyone out there wants to have fun....his email is storesevaluation@

Walgreens has sent two 2 checks via Fed X and it is a scam. Both checks are in the amount of $2500. The email is still on my device if needed. Thank you. Judith Joyner

I got a check for $2235.32 today. Like someone is going to just hand you that amount of money. Can you say SCAM?!

Mine is from USPS, a priority mail with a $ 4944 check, ask me to deposit it and then go buy 4 money orders from the post office $1000 each, don’t write anything on them and send them out. Also I have to text someone and let them know that I received the check .

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