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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 a check today from Kelton Research from a Timothy Castagne for the amount of $2,475. I’m supposed to deposit it within 3 days of receiving it and go to my local CVS or Walmart and purchase 3 American Express or vanilla MasterCard gift cards. The $400 is what I’m to be paid and the $75 is to cover transportation costs. I’m supposed to take pictures of the receipt and cards and text them to (213)814-2560 or email them to surveyreports@ It’s not going to happen.

Cashier's Check for $2,452 from Oregon State Credit Union, signed by Richard S. Hein. Part of "The Penny Hoarder Survey Program". Used contact numbers 402-699-8291 and 281-636-0036. Am I meant to believe the actual president of this real credit union would sign an incorrectly written check? Farce.

This just happened to me but I misread the paperwork because ive been penniless so long I thought it was my stimulus I deposited it and started shopping now rhe bank is threatening me as well as the frauds who sent the check what do i do how do i recover.

Shopper/Store Evaluator LLC
NancyOliver sent me a check for 1950.46
To be a Walmart store evaluator. I deposited the check and then a couple of days later the funds were not in my account due to check fraud.

This is a SCAM I RECEIVED THIS CHECK AND OPENED SAVINGS ACCOUNT AND CHECK DID NOT CLEAR ITS A SCAM PEOPLE

I received 3 separate checks for $820.00 for a secret shopper job and to purchase gift cards from CVS or Kroger’s. Received the email to sign up from my college student account email for a part-time opportunity. Thankful I’m older and new this was a scam and i googled scams for secret shoppers. This could have caused true hardship for a person who really needs money, thank goodness I didn’t get scammed.

I have a check is it real

Today, I just got a check sent to me from this place for $1,847.00! Then they are asking me to go buy $1,500 Best Buy Giftcards ! Of course the first thing I did was Google the company name and I found alot of bad information!!

I recently cashed a check for over $2000 so I could become a mystery shopper. I deposited in person at my bank and they put a 48 hour hold on it, ok so far so good right? 48 hours goes by and the check clears! Yay My first assignment was to go to wal mart. Nd buy gift cards scratch em take photos and send the photos via text so they can cancel them. So I made. What was left over . Great I’m thinking a few days go by and my account is over $2099 in the hole !!! I about dropped, my bank says I’m liable even after they put a hold on the check. Now that told me they took that time to investigate the check to verify it’s authenticity? Apparently not.. what was the 48 hours for then? Why do I pay bank fees to have an insured bank account I would expect? Nope I’m liable.. it all started with me filling out a on line application for a regular job at Walmart. Are they liable. I know somebody has to take the hit. But I don’t think it’s me. Any help would’ve greatly appreciated . I’m trying to get my credit back in order and I was almost in good credit. This will be throwing my life into a trash can. The bank needs to use there insurance that I pay into. My opinion..

I just received a check for $2,340.00 sent next day air. I knew I didn't sign up for anything or give my address. Mystery shopping scams was the first thing I looked for. Thanks for the heads up. C

I just got a envelope in my mail with a Check and a letter I need to purchase 2 American Express cards $500.00 each . Nope I’m not deposit anything in my bank .. check going in the garbage.

I got one of these and have changed my mind... something smelled fishy...

Got a check for over 2,000 from Brody Copper asking me to buy Ebay cards and take pic of front and pack of cards and send to survey reportevaluation@ . Didn't fall for it. Glad I saw this website to confirm.

Was sent check for $3550, and told to shop at any drug store, buy what I wanted. Then they wanted me to wire $. I deposited the check but then started to question things when I noticed the man emailing me (Leon Tremblay) isn’t the same name from the check. The check is from McCarran Construction In MA, and there’s no info online for them. The return address for the letter is for a vacant house in Detroit. None of it adds up. Calling the bank in the morning to void the deposit.

I received a check last thru. For 2'4900.00 and have not cashed it. I'm not sure what to do! It does not ask me to send cash anywhere. It has a Chase JP Morgan Chase bank stamp on it.And a Brescome.Barton..worldwide..Sterling stamp on it.

Seems like Indeed is the new feeding ground for them to get potential people. I've been sent 2 different checks in the last week. One was regarding the Walmart Secret Shopper and the other was in reference to an Administrative Assistant position!!!!

Got text from whole food market with check for 2420 they wanted to deposit ckeck and buy gift cards and send they the picture of cards scammer name scott potter

This just happened to me but I discovered it was a scam before I took any action. I was already suspicious so I called the bank to ask if the check was cleared and they told me that it on hold because checks from this bank (Jefferson Financial) have bounced before. I texted the scammers and told them the finds were not available. They tried to get me to withdraw today and I just replied if you want me to buy the 4 money orders @ $1000 apiece, then I will only do it with YOUR money not mine.
I was about to report it to FTC and I see it's already here, which is also very sad for the people whom they have already scammed. The Scammer name was "Mark Chris" 304-508-2441. I have reported it to my bank as a scam. They already flagged the check, thank God, but I just wanted to make sure they have all the information to protect people in the future.

I was emailed asking if I want to be a mystery shopper ,they gave me the details of what I was supposed to do ,I emailed back saying yeah sure ....u kno easy money ,right? ..So today I receive a letter in the mail with a check for 2500$ and I'm like omg wow this is real so I show my bf and he tells me to RIP it up that it's all a big scam they had it on eyewitness news about how they scam ppl. So now I'm scared and not gonna do it ....wow yeah thnk God I have him cuz I'm naive...but yea ppl if this happens plz becareful

Received a check $1470 for Mystery Shopper $1200 in gift cards rest for assignment for Walmart. Text Perry Hamilton P &S Survey Group. Had to do assignment within 2 days of deposit check. Today is the 3rd day and check still not clear. From reading previous comments, if check clears, I'll just ignore it. The catch is check comes in Fedex enevlope with a return address in AR from a law firm Bowen Law Firm so reciepent thinks all is legit.

I just received a check for $2,950.52. Instructions to buy Nike gift cards and take photos of the cards both front and back. They said for me to take out $450 for myself. The check was from BBVA USA Birmingham, AL.

I got a check in the mail today for $2,486.09. This is supposed to be for secret shopper. The letter they sent me tells me to go buy for gift cards for $500 each. When I get the cards I'm supposed to scratch off the black on the back side of the car and find the claim code and take a picture of it and email it back to them with the front and back of the card. They also give me a name and a phone number to contact. I'm supposed to call Julius Watson at 202-852-9502 the letter also has email addresses that they want me to send it to the first email address is surveyjobs700@ also another email address surveyjobs700@ . I hope we can get these guys busted before someone Falls for it.

I ALMOST fell for this. Something kept telling me to google it to make sure it wasn't a scam. Thank God, I did. And ran across the FTC site. My check hasn't come yet. When it does, I'll turn it over to the FTC!!!

I just got one for 2900$ and guess it will get filed in circular file . Started with a text from +1 (330) 641-1722 for Whole Foods secret shopper

Got a check for $2462 from Richard H Price from MCU in New York. I was to buy $2100 of Ebay gift cards and keep the rest. They always insist you deposit the check IMMEDIATELY. Their email is surveyreportevaluation@

Just received one for 2480.00 to change keep 350.00 and go shop walmart gift cards for 1000 and another walmart 1000 . I guess throw it away?!

Guys, I got a check for 4,770. Told me to do 4 different money orders, then keep the rest. Too good to be true. I satellite viewed were the checks were to be sent, run down apartment. Where check came from, address didn’t exist. Address on check had no BBB. I wouldn’t cash it. Took to my bank and they had red alerts to never cash checks. Be careful and tell anyone that may try to do this to be smart. If it’s a scam they will ALWAYS ask for money orders. Don’t do it.

I received a check yesterday for $2,950.52 to purchase Nike gift cards. I am told this is 100% legitimate but do not trust this. I will not do anything with this check!
June 25, 2020

The same thing happened to me today. I was sent a package that stated for me to deposit 4,700 into my bank account. Go to any two Walmarts and get two money grams for 1000 dollars each. And I had to call a supervisor at every step. It seemed kind of fishy to me. So I decided to look up scams under the name. And it lead me here. I'm glad this was here and I decided to look more into it. Sometimes when it's too good to be true, it's too good to be true. Please be careful.

I just received a fake check with the same company.

So, I wrote back to the company and here is a copy of what he wrote:
We are a legitimate and reputable company in the Mystery Shoppers Industries, so we are not among those fake Mystery Shoppers people you learned from the FTC website. Please note that, we already mailed out your first assignment package and it would be delivered to you tomorrow or on Monday the last so keep on the look out.
Thank you,
James
On Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 5:29 PM <xxxxxxxx@ > wrote:
I'm no longer interested in your fictitious job since I learned you are a scam from the Federal Trade Commission!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-----Original Message-----
From: Customer Research Inc. <shoppers.customer.research.inc@
To: xxxxxxxx@ Sent: Mon, Jun 22, 2020 5:25 pm
Subject: Re: Approvals: Congratulations on your First Assignments!

Got a 4,7700 check today with a secret shopper job at 2 Walmart’s and a ups. Was to cash check from Fresh Insights Survey and get 4000 in money orders. Send them thru ups as quickly as possible. Check looked legit. Had Rabonank on it and ACT Commodities-both real. I would get 600 to do this. Luckily, I found this website.

I'm so glad that I checked this out first. What you described is just what I received today. I got the info from a text.
These people are serious and they will do all they can to make their info look professional, but when you have to deposit checks or money orders, its always a red flag.

I received an email saying that I requested to participate in a store review project and they will pay me $300 if I complete the assignment. The person that emailed me is Ted Greene and he assigned Daniel Cook as my consultant. He said that I will receive the money check in the mail (priority). I received $1890 and an instruction paper. They wanted me to cash the check in my bank and keep $300 for myself and use the rest to shop. They want me to visit 3 stores and buy ebay gift cards worth $500 in $100 and $200 denominations. Once the task is complete they want me to email Daniel for more instructions. The instructions also said that if I was asked if im a secret shopper, to answer NO and if asked why Im purchasing gift cards is to say that they are raffle items.

My wife received the Priority package today with a cashiers check allegedly drawn on Naval Air Station JRB Credit Union (Navy Federal) for $1900.52 and instructions same as all others, but to specifically buy Sephora gift cards. I am taking this directly to them as well as reporting it to the FBI as this is a Federal issue and military jurisdiction may apply as well. DON'T FALL FOR IT!!

I got one today from Mark Herderson with a Whole Foods logo. They want people to buy Nike gift cards. $2,950 was included.

Prexius Surveys do this as well

I was just hit 2 weeks ago check in the mail deposited did what they asked I'm on the hook for the three grand just got another one in the mail today with legitimate looking emails the check written on a established Bank Bank

I 'joined' a group in AL back in Feb. 2020 to be a Wal-Mart mystery Shopper. Their $2617.00 money order was no good. Took our bank and myself weeks to clear up that fiasco. Online one night in early June, I signed up for one using the heading 'Consumer Resource Center Unit. Never heard back from them but got home from work on Mon.6/30 to find a cashiere's check for $2630.00. This time, I went online, got the phone number for the banks' main office in Roff, OK and called them. They said the check was fraudulent. I wish it were possible to shut down and penalize ALL scammers.

I got a check from mysurvey.com 502-625-8995, not sure what to do

We recieved one in the mail today addressed to our minor Grandchild.
Sent Priority mail. Turned over to USPS. The odd thing about it is this Grandchild doesn't live here just visiting. Be careful police said lots of these scams out there.

I got an email from "Walgreens Secret Shopper" offering me a $50 gift card to shop at Walgreens. I was drooling and responded with my phone and email address. I got a follow up text from "Alex Tyler" saying my assignment packet was mailed. I called the text number and no one answered. I received a USPS envelope today with a check for $2350 asking me to buy gift cards at Walmart and photograph the cards and send the pictures to them at shoppingonlinealways101@ . The very real with a watermark cashiers check is from Hunnington Bank in Ohio. Thank God I goggled secret shopper scams and found this website. Guess I will not be getting any free Depends. :(

Unfortunately, I have gotten scammed a couple of times. I I deposited a check and it cleared my bank and unfortunately I am in the hole For about $2600. My checking account has been closed and I am no longer able to open a checking account. They are saying that there is fraud listed under my name. I am disabled and am still receiving Receiving checks and money orders. I have learned from previous mistakes and reported this to the banks and USPS. In all I think I have received a total of $10000 in checks and/or money orders. There are some evil, dishonest people in this world!

Rcvd a check for $2420 to be a Secret Shopper for WholeFoods from a Scott Potter. I had previously replied to what appeared to be a legit advertisement for a secret shopper job. I was glad I took the time to research this because it is obviously a scam. They wanted me to buy $2000 worth of Nike gift cards. DIRT BAGS!

Same thing occurred to me today out of the blue. I had already said all of this when I read the scam note. You really have to put the pieces together 1) you deposit check 2) Shop and get Gift Cards then scratch off the information and give it to them 3) They have all the info they need to shop online 4) Check doesn't clear and you're on the line for thousands. These people never stop with trying to take advantage of people. They actually wasted money and time by sending me a priority mail envelope.

I received a check for $2800 to buy gifts cards at 2 different Walmarts after I deposit it. I was then to take pictures of the cards to send to a certain number. I was to use some of the money on personal purchases for payment. Fortunately, I was unable to complete the task and tried to notify the sender that I had a problem. No answer on any numbers or emails. The return address on the letter is the wife of a state representative in a northwestern state.

Just received a check also contacted Walmart as to how to handle I saved the envelope

I just received a Priority Mail Envelope by USPS with a $2,420.62 check by SAFE CREDIT UNION, RE: Bruce Foggy along with a Customer Service Evaluation Assignment.. Which stated for me to follow these exact steps.. first confirm the receipt a package at the email they provided to me second deposit the check at my own bank third complete assignment within 12 hours will earn me $250 bonus and within 24 hours will earn myself a bonus of $150 next I need to visit Family Dollar, Sams club etc. And purchase for eBay gift cards at the amount of $500 each. Then after I purchase the cards I open the pack and pull the silver scratch off area on the card capture the image of the card front and back it says please do not discard the cards as they will be used for forthcoming assignments and then I am to give the details of the store name address date and time of visit name of cashier. And I am to give all this information along with the pictures of the eBay gift cards via email they provided to me. and they also said to not let the cashier know that I am a secret surveyor if the cashier asks.. the email which was provided on the letter I received with the check is (surveyreportteam@ ) Knowing that nothing comes free to you in life I am not going to do anything with this check at this time but if any of you could respond to me and let me know if you know for sure this is a scam I’d really appreciate it , Thank You

Got a email from them today actually was a text message beware

I responded to one text, got 2 checks. $2600 and $1995. Very adamant i complete the assignment right away. David Murphy speaks terrible English, can only contact via text. Not suspicious at all. Asked him why so anxious, is it a scam? He stopped texting me, lol. Other one has good English skills, insistent I do this right away. Told him waiting until check clears. See how long he will wait.

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