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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

Blog Topics: 
Jobs & Making Money


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...

For two years, 2012-14, I worked as a legit secret shopper. I was given assignments for gas stations and department stores. I did the assignments, sent in my reports and photos as proof, then within 7-10 days received a legit check for my wages. It was easy work but little pay. Never did I get a check in advance. Now that's fishy business! What legit employer ever pays for labor in advance?

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. 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


I got an email May 3, 2018 from Walmart, Inc. <> 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 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

These are useful details for a complaint. Please report this to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

The messages you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

I received check on $1000 today.But first I check the company which was Hearing Advantage inc.Later I did my research online and here I am.I see that I am not alone with this scam.Im glad that I do nothing with this check .Thanks for all informations.

Yeah. Got an e-mail asking if I wanted to become a secret shopper. I replied. They sent another e-mail letting me know that they would be sending me my first assignment with instructions. I received it a couple of days later by Priority Mail. For 1,840.00. I was deposit the check in the bank, give it a day or 2 to clear. then to go to any one of the stores listed, buy 3 reloadit cards. Put $500 on each. and send them the pins in an e-mail and send in the answers to the questions regarding my shopping experience. Send the report by e-mail and then wait for an address to send the cards. Anybody else have this. I did report it to the Federal Trade Commission and received a Ref. #. But it doesn't show up on the site. This was after I contacted the Intouch/Insight company. They told me there was a scam out there using their company logo

They tried to scam me , luckily this post save me. They asked me to connect on linked-in and told me about the mystery shopping job . I agreed and 2 days later I received a $2900.00 check . My task is to deposit the check in my account then use the cash to buy I tune gift cards up to $2500.00 the rest is mine to keep. They asked me to crash off the pin and numbers , take a picture and text to them. My husband is a cop and I tell him about this job . He said to me this is a scam.

I received the same thing but they start asking me tobget and iTunes cards and give them the number off the back of the card. But I went to my local police department and showed them the check. I called the number they gave me and told them I lost the check and said hold one and when they found out I was a the police station they hung up in the office face. Be careful people

I did apply to be a secret shopping. I have been getting emails and text messages about it. They sent me instructions on exactly what I needed to do. They are to be sending me a check for $1450 to buy to Apple cards for $550 each the told me I get $300 plus $50 for logistics. Also told me that I would send them the codes. Company is Marketview?? Have any of you heard of this company?

Received a cashier check for 2,900 wants me to deposit and buy gift cards .. then take gift cards and purchase apple products from the store then a person would come and pick up the merchandise. Marketview research

Heb, I currently have a similar experience with Marketview, with a similar purchase and compensation amount. I would like to know what you'd done, and if this company is legitimate?

I received a package in the mail today with 3 $900 MONEY ORDERS
and they want me to survey a local apple store. The guy listed on here is Dave Ewers with Polarbay Analytics INC. No such website nor person. I typed in the phone number 323-840-1332 and it brought me to this page. Thank GOD I researched, the money orders were written on Community First Credit Union.

Thanks for posting this. I received this fraudulent offer yesterday via overnight mail. I assumed that this was to good to be true! I really appreciate your verification that my instincts were correct.


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