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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 in the mail yesterday which was 2860.i just mobile deposited in my bank just to see if it was real.... because I showed them previous checks early this year...did I do anything wrong....I'm not goin to touch the money just wanna know if it's a scam...can someone help me

I need to speak with someone to see bout getting some financial advice and my money back , I’ve already submitted a claim form.

I received a check for 1,850.00 and " pre qualification" letter for secret shopper at Walmart. I was supposed to send $785 to John Stansfield in Arlington, Texas and $795 to Michael Gamer in Arlington Texas 76012. Of course I didn't and now I am getting text messages to verify that I have received letter and check! Ha! I am NOT that greedy but I am smart enough to take both to the post office and report mail fraud!

I had something similar happen. I contacted the bank gave them the name on the check (which was a valid customer) they verified the funds were available. The company only emailed at first. I then called the bank back and said I wasn't comfortable with this and wanted to know if they could contact the account holder and verify they had actually written the check in the amount of $5000. The bank called me back and asked for more information... then it went to the fraud department, and eventually the some government agency. They told me not to touch the check, put it in a plastic bag, to contact the company and advise them I was having trouble cashing the check as I just relocated to the state and didn't have a local checking account and if I opened an account there would be a hold on the funds. They kept calling me and trying to find out when I was going to deposit the money...Kept them stringing along.Long story short, the gov't agency came to my house took my statement and the baggie with the check in it and I have no idea what happened from there. Hate those scammers!!! This was during the market crash when everyone was desperate for extra income or any income at all!!! BE WARE they are out there~!

I got 2 cashiers checks for less than $1000 wanting to use Walmart2Walmart money gram. I cashed the checks, even told the teller do not deposit, sent the money out at Walmart. Now my bank is deducting the amount out of my account even though I said not deposit. I've got all emails and receipts from Walmart, and the envelopes from FedEx that the cashiers checks came in.

My sweet husband is so trusting. We fell victim to this scam. We received 4 checks: $3,500. $3,550. $3,550. And $3,725. The last 2 didn't get us, but the first two did.
We did the Wal-Mart secret shopping. They got $3,000 in gift cards from that. Then we did a bank "evaluation." We wired $3,000 more dollars. We also gave $50 to the American Cancer Society from all of that. If you've been doing the math with me, that's a grand total of $6,050 that they got from us.
My poor husband is beside himself. He trusted them. He thought he was providing for our family. I trust his judgment, and I should have looked it over with him to give him my input. We're saving for our first home. This really, really sucks.

Watch out for a Secret Shoppers $1800.00 check from "The Golf Station Inc., 1220 West Hurst Blvd, 300, Hurst, Texas 76053" and the email address "CAREERBUILDER1010 @ GMAIL.COM" and "424-244-1124".

This lady texted me the other day saying she wanted me to be her personal assistant and she texted me yesterday saying I would get paid $600 a week. She sent me a check in the mail for $2,475 and said that $600 is my first paycheck and to use the rest of the money to buy kids items and donate them to the less fortunate. Well the check is from TVOP and the bank is Capital City bank, is this a scam and should I be worried??? She doesn’t want any of the money back but I’m confused.

I have an elderly Aunt who keeps getting phone calls from 315-232-8414. They tell her the police are on their way to arrest her! Anyone else get calls from this number?

Haven't seen a comment in a while, so here it goes. Today (01 Apr) I received a priority package, via USPS with a check from $2.324.00. In the package was a sheet with instructions on what I was supposed to do. Basically go to my bank & deposit the check into my active checking account. Then take a picture of the deposit slip. Once I've done that I'm supposed to text/e-mail the gentleman named Robert Payne at either 201-201-4881 or robpayne@ job4u. com so that the funds can be released to cover the check. Then I'm to find the nearest store by going to www. reloadit.com/ storelocator and go to TWO stores and buy a total of FOUR cards. Three cards loaded with $500 each & the last one loaded with $364. Then I'm to scratch the pin area of the card and take the pins & amount of each card & write a report to send to this Rob Payne. This company even has a bonus if I do my surveys within 48 hours of receiving the package. It even gives me a "SECRET FEEDBACK AGENT ID NUMBER"!! (NOW I FEEL SPECIAL) Also FYI the package came from a RUS Industrial, LLC with an address of 210 brookview St., Channelview, Tx 77530 So I did a little investigating and RUS Industrial, LLC is a legit company but it has a different address. Also this address of 210 brookview in Channelview, Tx is the site of a water plant. So they give you just enough info to make it look legit, unless you do some in-depth investigating. Remember the old adage "if it looks to good to be true, IT MORE THAN LIKELY IS"!!!

I. Just received the same but came from Harris County Water District in Channelview, Tx. I knew was a scam when the asked for gilft cards. If you make a copy of the check it will say VOID on it. This is criminal!! So many people losing money!! I am going to call everyone one that will listen and hope to get at least this on shut down!! EVERYONE make a copy of the check and u will see.

My hero husband came to my rescue yesterday when I shared my fortunate "work from home" check as a secret shopper! He quickly told me - babe, it's a scam! Heartbroken, I reluctantly took the $2450 check to the bank and reported it. I wonder, is there such a thing as a legitimate "work form home' job!! Thanks everyone for your input on these cams!! Blessings to you all...

I received an Priority Mail envelope from the USPS with a letter from (JAMES GRANT Email: grantjames9800 @gmail. com
830 282-6344 or 512 515-1711) And a check $2420. They wanted me to deposit at my bank keep$420 for the job and buy 4 $500. Walmart Gift Cards. What idiots!!!!

We received a check for $2560. We were supposed to send back $900 to some clown called Raymond Jordan in Alpharetta. How I wish the police had time to set them up and catch them. I feel for all the older ladies who would think it was legit because it came on priority mail. Thank you to this website for helping us!

I got it from Kroger Surveys which when you looked up the email was coming from an attorneys office James Berman. Total lies. Wanted shops at Walmart, Kroger (which isn't anywhere near me), and Target. Buy ITunes cards which I have no idea even what that is. You get $300 but they will send a check for $2450 and you buy gift cards then send them the cards AND CODES within 24 hours of buying them. YEAH RIGHT!!!!
So watch out for Krogersurveys

I am communicating with Jame Berman as I type this. For a Krogers secret shopper. Any way to report this to the police?

For the past 4 months, I have been receiving diskettes in the mail from someone claiming to be my bank. YES, DISKETTES!! I have no idea what the intention behind them is. But it cannot be good. Has anyone else had a similar experience???

Anyone deposit a check from VPPA Ltd recently (July 2018), written of M&T Bank, Buffalo, NY? Sent check wanting me to deposit and buy I Tunes cards.

I got one today. But bank of america. I am NOT depositing it. Actually im investigating to see if ita a scam.

All great information. Is there any way to recover the funds (insurance, FDIC, etc.) if one falls for the scheme or is it simply a very hard lesson learned?

I received an email telling me that my application to become a secret shopper was approved. I would be receiving my first assignment in the mail. Last week I received it, a page of instructions and a cashier's check for $2,450. I stupidly went to my bank and deposited it, my bank didn't say anything to me about it. I was to purchase $2,000 of eBay gift cards and the $400 was my payment and $40 for gas/mileage, the last $10 for donation. This morning I went to my bank and they told me that check had been 'returned'.

I stupidly deposited the check too and $600 of it was my first weeks payment and the check got “returned” now my account says -$619 .

Just an update/adding my 2 cents. Dead give away it's a scam with the emails is: 1) Very bad spelling/grammar 2) No address to specific store to evaluate 3) Spend over $X,XXX.XX between 2 stores with in 48 hours and email w/ pics the receipt and card numbers. 4) Contact will be done via email/text so as not to 'disturb' shoppers job. There is no way I'm only going to get paid $300 and $50 for transportation to go and purchase over a $1,000+ worth of iTunes or whatever only to give them to someone I've never met. My kids aren't even that lucky!! Mine came from a davinolsen@ myfirm. com.co The .co after .com is pretty solidifying it's a scam. If you're legit, I should be able to research your company as well as find your name in the directory. If I can't speak to you directly. . . Nope.

This just happened to me this week. The check was from SunTrust for $2,350. I was suppose to go to Kroger and purchase 4 gift cards at $500 each. Then they said Meijer. Then they said Best Buy. Took the check to the bank to see if it was legitimate. No it wasn't.

Said she worked for WebShop. Signed everything Stephanie Myers with email address stephsall747 @gmail. com. The priority mail came from Laure Schwartz in Richland, WA. Take a picture of the gift cards then they would tell me what to do with the cards. Scam. Glad I didn't fall for it. I actually led the person on for over a week asking questions, etc. just to waste their time.

Have anybody gotten a ✔️ from AMOCO FEDERAL CREDIT UNION before

I just got a check for $2950 for a Walmart Secret Shopper. Keep $350 for me then buy gift cards at two different stores and report info back by test message to 323-947-2941 for David Moore. Glad we looked this up first. They probably found me because I have been actively looking for a job lately.

Same deal here, got a check for $2800, told me to cash the check and immediately purchase $2500 in itunes cards, scratch off the numbers and send pics of them. Texted me from 646-979-8146, when i refused they told me i had to pay $200 for inconveniencing them or they would get their lawyer involved.

Received a check for 2950 dollars. Suppose to buy two gift cards worth 2600 wait to deliver to appointed sponsor to pick up. I checked the name of the bank on the check....can't find it on the internet? community National Bank Bayton Tn.

So i received a cashiers check for 1.998. Im to deposit it in my account keep 200 commission and keep deposit receipt then send pic of receipt to ( johnsonsap1 @gmail. com. then 2task of going to walmart and money gram once the money has cleared im supposed to email them so i can get the instructions of the secret shopper assignment. There is no company name just the email address and the name Andrew Mann. The cashiers check has the bank name of The Bryn Mawr trust company. Im glad i read every ones story because i was about to make a big mistake. These people should b locked up what do we do about this

was contacted for a mystery shopper job. I also do legitimate secret shopper jobs non pay you $400. And why would you have to send $1000 to judge customer service $50 would do. Check was for $1450 I called the bank it was written on 2 times 1 lady told me she found the account and money was in there. the next lady said she did not find the account? Should I take this to the police? Alos the check was from a out of state bank the person texted me from 2 different numbers from 2 different states and the check was fedex from austin texas , and then the person i was to send money to was in lubbock texas . They told me a name of company but that name not on the check, and could not find online search jerks!!!

I just fell for all this ... please dont do it.ots a scam. I thought I was smarter than this

ANY ONE HEARD OF A THOMAS MILLER OR MR WALTERS

I got an email May 3, 2018 from Walmart, Inc. <job@walmart.com> Subject: Job Opening for Walmart Secret Shopper. I filled out the information. On September 7, 2018 I got a federal express package with a check for $2,380.00 and an instruction guide sheet spelling out just what I'm to do with the money. I was to first deposit the entire cashier's check in my account. Then go to my local Walmart store and shop or ITunes vouchers, buy 20 vouchers @ $100 each. Purchase $80 worth of merchandise of my choice from Walmart and $300 is mine for doing this. My daughter gave me this website for FTC and I'm seeing exactly what I have here on this comment section. It would have helped me a lot if it were true but its fake to. Just like you all are saying its to good to be true. Beware. I texted back to them I don't have a bank to put the money in. I haven't heard back yet but I'm sure they are done with me.

I recently received a call about the amazon org one. Luckily I saw this posting will I researching. I have, also, received the irs one about taxes owed. They say they are from texas litigations. The number is a Florida number. I reported the number and blocked it. I, also, received one about an old account I had. They wanted money up front to settle the account. I, however, said to take me to court and I would settle it there. Never heard from them again. I blocked the numbers of these calls. What really bothers me is that they are preying on the seniors. Many dont check if its legitimate. They paid at irs or a government agency. I've always taken the stance that to research it. Or that if its legitimate to handle it in court.

I got a post office money order from AZ .. and I don’t live in AZ.. and they delivered it on a Sunday. That was already Suspicious. I just don’t know how they got my info tho. Plus once I ready the letter and the grammar was all off I knew. Then got a text asking me about my 1st assignment. I said well call the police they have my Secret shopper evaluation... lol

I had the same thing happen and I told them I’d report them to the police and they said they were already reporting me. What could they possibly report me for? Because I didn’t complete an assignment I never signed up for.

I received a check for $1,500 telling me that my first assignment was for the Apple Store closest to me. They instructed that I was to deposit the check in my active checking account. I was then supposed to go to Apple and buy a $1,200 Apple gift card. I was to keep $300 as my salary. The letter said to send a picture of the receipt and the scratched off number of the gift card. I received this "Mystery Shopper" opportunity through my college email as well. I almost did it because it looked so real but thank you to this forum I didn't.

Just got a check for $2,985 (Cashier's Check) with instructions to purchase at the Apple Store. I was going to take to my bank and have them verify if it was a real check. Glad I decided to do my homework and check on line to see if this was real or not. Just got a message from a "friend" through LinkedIn (got the first one that way as well) saying for me to follow a link to this mystery shopper job opportunity. I emailed her and asked if she had sent ...of course she said No. This is a hot mess and wish we could do something about it.

Some of the Mystery shopping gigs are the biggest ones and also these new ones, to be a debt collector for these forgien companies, they’ll pay you 5000.00 a month and a 5% commission, but you have to deposit that money’s colkected in to account and then wait to be paid.

Just got burned by James Berman on the Kroger shop. Sent check for $2450, bank put hold on funds for 3 days. Now I’m on the hook for $1710 . Check came back as returned. How do we fight this to get charges reversed?

Same thing happen to me. What do I do next?

I was contacted by mystery shopper www. vppa. ltd via text message then 2 days later I received a check for 2922.00 of which I was supposed to keep 320.00 as payment and wire the rest via western union, Walmart2walmart and money gram to three individuals who where also mystery shoppers we were to evaluate the services of sending and receiving the money transfer. Too good to be true. The heck looked legitimate so I deposited sent confirmation of deposit receipt to a urview. pm. me lucky I did not make the wire transfers and only left the deposit in the account. Later I felt uncomfortable and went on line and found out this was a common scam. I called my bank and reported it they said that as long as I didn’t wire the money to recipients I was still in the safe zone but that I would have to go to my bank and report the item. Thank God for internet sites that monitor theses activities. It’s a shame that when you are pressed for money you can become a victimized .

The article has a major flaw. The 2nd paragraph states, "and the bank even tells you the check has cleared."
Any respectable financial institution will never tell you that a check drawn on another bank has cleared. The only bank that can tell you that a check has cleared is the bank that the check is drawn on.

Thomas Wells, Carlos Sanchez
Walking Mart shopper scam
Buy 4 $400.00 gift cards send code on back by text message to
323-417-5776 guardian credit union cashier's check 1950.00 watch ou

Yes I recieved the same scam from this number as well 323-417-5776. With the FedEx check to my door for 2,300.00 this person keeps harassing me asking did I cash the check now there calling me too. I'm going to take this to the police department.

Received a check for $2,300.00, along with a letter of instructions for mystery shopping. Since it was such easy cash and yeah I can use the money, I did old school technique, I googled the address of the bank, got the number,
called and inquired about the check. It was confirmed a fake. I'm so glad I listened to God. This is not money from heaven.

I applied as a secret shopper and somebody responded, sent me a check of $2300. I was to be paid $320. Before i deposited the check, i asked the teller if the check was legit bec if it is not, i won't deposit it, but they couldn't say for sure. They said to be safe, we will put a hold on the check for 7days before i can withdraw. So i told the person i was communicating with through text. Upon knowing this, he did not respond anymore. After 5days check bounced but the worst part, i had to pay a bank fee of $30 for the bounced check. People....BE CAREFUL, SCAMMERS ARE EVERYWHERE!!! TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

My wife just started to participate in this scam. How can I report this to the federal government. These people need to be prosecuted, we could have lost our house over this!

You can report 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. Thank you.

I received a Cashier's Check for $1960.20 on October 2, 2018 from Innovalist Research in Louisiana. Sent to me in a Priority Mail Express envelope. The "instructions" were to go to cash the check immediately. The funds would be available within 24 hours. Keep $300 as my "Commission". Go to Walmart and spend no more than $50 on a personal item. Then later buy (2) $500 Walmart gift cards, and (6) iTunes Gift cards worth $100 each. Scratch the backs and text them a clear picture of the numbers on the back of the cards to (504) 605-0624...REALLY??? SCAM SCAM SCAM!! Where are the authorities "Serving and Protecting" the poor suckers who fall for these scams, and have their bank accounts stripped? All the information is right there in black and white to find these creeps. Research Manager Mr. Steven Longman (probably fake name) Innovalists Research Int. (who opened a BBB file on Sept 29, 2018)
1055 St Charles Ave New Orleans, LA 70128

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