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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

Yes i received an email asking if i wanted to be a mystery shopper, if course i responded, next i received a congratulations you passed to be a mystery shopper, so excited to have you on board, you will receive you package by FedEx, your first assignment of many, you are assigned to two Walmart stores in your area couple days later i received the fedex package which contained a check for over #2000, instructing me to deposit the check into one of my accounts, let it clear, then take out $50 go shopping for anything i want. Then next day return back to same Walmart go to customer service desk purchase 3 Visa check cards @ $500. Per card, next day go to the other Walmart purchase one card for $500. Then i am to make copy of front and back if all cards, scratch off the silver box, then send them the information along with my survey on my experience at both stores, and i keep the $50 purchase plus $397 which is my cut. I signed up twice to do this, each time i was sent same info, but the detective part of me kept saying this us too good to be true, don't you deposit those checks into your account, you'll be sorry, so I never deposited any of the checks. I started looking into this more, and came upon this site, so glad i listened to myself that money was sooooo temping. I kept asking myself why are they asking me to purchase cards and to give them the info off the cards doesn't sit well with me. Then also why send me a check, then ask for basically the money back but in a different form. So i was never able to take the checks to the bank. Plus the didn't realize i did this twice, bells really went off then. Because one would think they would realize hey we sent you a check previously and you never cashed it, now your requesting it again, why?

You can report that to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

I received 2 cashier checks both for $2,900 1 was from credit union Becu n Seattle Washington other US bank to get 3 money orders from usps from 3 different locations send back by fed ex karl Rajan was contact person

I received the same thing this last Friday. Same name. He just said to go to one Post Office. I deposited the check but I didn't take the money out yet, so I will be calling my bank tomorrow morning. Thank God for Clombus Day

I received the same thing from Karl Rajan and I thought it sounded fishy so I searched his name on Google and this website came up.

I signed up with the USPS/Walmart secret shopper request and received $2900 in the mail in the form of a cashiers check. I was told to deposit the check and use the money to purchase three separate money orders of $800 each. The check is a cashiers check drawn on a bank in west plains, mo. It all appears to be good but after reviewing and researching this, I see now how seriously bad it could be. The name, Karl Rajan is the same name on my letter which appears to be legitimate. I’m glad I looked things up now! Thank you all,

I received a check for $2850. Kroger mystery shopper.
Said to deposit then purchase an eBay gift card for $2450.
Came from an address Galt, CA. The check was a bank in Amarillo TX.

I received the same “Kroger” secret shopper scam. A guy by the name of Bill Smith (horrible fake name) that was sign number one. He emailed me, then texted me, and now I received a USPS mail with a fake check for $2900 and my first assignment to purchase $2500 with of Giftcards from eBay and keep $400 for me as my fee. Thank God my bother knows a few criminals and they told him it was a scam. Lol

Yes,I just recieved a text with the instructors for 2,350.00 to complete a survey for Walmart.
I'm not going to cash this check. The person just keeps texting me " have you deposit the check?

Yes I just received a check too and they beep texting me asking y haven’t I cashed it. I had no clue what it was for told myself you best leave that alone. Thank god I did. They wanted me go do money grams. But they need to stop texting me. I just blocked them.

I have been online job searching for weeks , I received a check in the amount of $2,300 on yesterday l searched online the name of the company "Endo Mystery Shoppers" and lo and behold they also have a page, I deposited the check into my account with the promise of making $200 if I shop at Walmart and now I decided to go back online since the check has not cleared in my account yet and do more research and comments is what I found smh thank God the check has not cleared yet, I will be taking this check out of my account ASAP

I'm from Mississippi, I received a check today for $2,950 cashier's check to make a deposit in my account 24 hours it would be cleared 350 was to do in the secret shopping. They wanted me to go to one Walmart and purchase five cards for $300 shopping gift cards scratch out the numbers send them picture and give them all the numbers plus the past four digit code on the card. Go to another Walmart and purchase three more gift cards at $100 a piece and it was the same as hearts scratch off they back with numbers send them a picture. And this was only be my first assignments. Also we believe this is a scam. First of all I've never heard of VyStar credit Union. It's supposed to be a cashier check. I need money but I'm not stupid.

I almost fell for this!
I received a check for 2,600. Who does that? I was asked to go to two different Walmarts and purchase multiple gift cards in 350.00 increments. Then, I was to scrape the gift card numbers and take pictures of them. I tried calling the phone number which no one answered. I put my phone down and 2 second later, I get a text saying, "hello" when I tried to text back, the message failed to send. I feel really stupid that I almost fell for this. I would like to report these scammers, I 'm just not sure how to go about that.

How can we report these scammers

You can report this at www.FTC.gov/Complaint.

Same thing happened to me. Do I answer their texts or just ignore it

Same thing happened to me. I called the bank the check was drawn on and the confirmed the cashier's check was fraudulent.

Same thing happened to me. $2600 cashier's check to mystery shop Wal-Mart and buy 2 $1000 money orders to be sent to them. Don't think so!

A friend of mine warned me about this so I got on Google and found out it was a fake this secret shopper I thought I felt was a bit iffy for me I don't like secrets there is always a problem with secrets. Halleujah

I was a victim of this scam, the worst day of my life !!

what are you doing about the scam? i know someone who has fallen a victim to them, what should they do?

If you think you’ve been targeted by a counterfeit check scam, report it to the following agencies:

Thank you for the tips! Did the scammers who sent my $2,999.99 check & “surveyor assignment“ via FedEx break any laws on par with mail fraud? If not, these folks are learning & evolving.

This happened to me today except that I went to a check cashing store they couldn't verify the check I sent a text message and an e-mail didn't get a reply and the check cashing place immediately wanted to call the police and insisted I leave the store and they added me to their do not cash checks list I am mortified and livid. I have been on the phone reporting to every possible place I can report and then I just got a text message back a few minutes ago saying the check is not fake. I said, "you are a fraud, you will be found -good luck.

So was I - happened just a few days ago. I reported it to the authorities. But sadly, the reason why these people have not been caught yet is because the police refuse to do anything about it and the FTC and FBI are only taking reports yet not actively pursuing the criminals.

I received an email from an email address believed to be a principal at another school in the district i worked. I signed up for it and received a text that i would be sent information in the mail. I came home yesterday to find the check in my mail box and very detailed instruction. I immediately became suspicious. I thought who would send me a check for that amount of money trusting me to do the job and send them money an they don't even know me. I texted the number and told them I received the mail but was nervous about the check. I got an text back asking why. I told them I was concerned if it was legitimate and I received a ext stating it was but I'm not that gullible so I decided to do a little more research and found this information... I knew it was too good to be true!!

I have a long list of phone numbers calling for different reasons plus jobs, large amounts of money left to me all I need to do is send money to get it I just write scamer and send back last call I got wants my banking information number is 323-786-7060 no name no information

Thank goodness for the FTC being on the job and alert to the latest schemes & scams. Great job. Thank you!

any scam alerts about skype? I heard you can get hacked by skype easy

Have had a couple phone calls regarding Irs trying to get in touch with me regarding a lawsuit

That’s a scam people pretend to be the irs and charge your phone bill for calling back them they try to get info from you to scam you more

I have had the same call even to my job many times

The IRS will only send a letter, not calls. Do not call back or give information. I reported the phone number and blocked the phone number.

The problem with this is, every time you get this call....it comes up as a different number. EVERY time. These people have some kind of tool to show on your caller ID, a LOCAL number, that way there is a bigger chance of you picking up.

I have had too many to count for that scam. I don't answer the calls and immediately block their phone number.

Are you still doing the lawsuit regarding IRS scam? If you are I'm interested in the lawsuit.

I put my resume on Career Builder and get an offer from a company asking me to be a Mystery Shopper. I checked to see if it was a real company and it was. So I applied. Then when they sent me the 2nd email I knew that they were a scam. They sent me a check in the amount of $3935 and they wanted me to put this check in my bank. I contacted the Local Police Department but was told this is not a crime and was told to inform these people to just stop communicating with me. They then started to threating me. I still have the check and they have now finally stop texting me.

You can Block that number from your cell phone.

Blocking the call with my phone company only allows 5 FREE Blocked calls. Then I have to start blocking them by going into my phone settings and blocking them myself. When that no longer works, have been advised to contact the FTC! Which I have done. Only good thing about these good for nothing people is that there is a place for them one day!

Thanks!

Give checks to your bank for collection. Don't try to deposit them, however. They should ask for any other paperwork that came it and how it came to you and why. It can be send to the FBI. Writing fake checks is a crime. The more checks they get, the chances increase that people will get caught. Do your best to not touch the check much, in case they left finger prints.

I recently had the same thing happen. Do I contact the FBI or let the bank take actions?

Nov.2010, I was new in the country, I didn't know that scammers in USA are more than Africa. I received 5 checks of $970.00 each which I deposit at Chase bank and after 3 days they allow me to withdraw amounts, but they come back to me after several weeks.
Wish to know what we can do when we receive false checks with big amounts??

Some people destroy the fake checks, some people give them to staff at a bank or a local police office. If you receive a check by postal mail, you can give it to someone at your post office, because they investigate mail fraud.

Thanks Bridget for this info. Will be on the way to my P.O. tomorrow with my $2,900.38 check! Hope they will investigate but suspect there are so many of these misfits sending out these big checks there will be little the P.O. will be able or will do! They will eventually be caught though and when they are, I hope authorities will fine them for every fraudulent check they sent out AND in the exact each time that their checks were written for....PLUS jail time!

Even when a real company asks for a Western Union Shop I just delete it. Better safe than sorry.

Thank you for the information.

Fake checks deserve fake gift cards.

Save your used up and expired gift cards. Send them those numbers!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA

I once got a check for the secret shopper job for $ 19,000.00. It was drawn on a Wells Fargo Bank! Not only did I not ” cash” it I went to a Wells Fargo Bank with it. The poor employee went nuts. You didn’t try to cash this did you? No, I just brought it to you to see it! I then shredded it....what a scam!

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