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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 recieved a Cashier's Check for $1,840 from Intouch Insight, drawn from University Federal Credit Union, PO box 9350, Austin Texas......They wanted me to buy three Reloadit cards for $500 each... and keep the balance about $300 for my gas. It seemed fradulent. Is there anyone I can report this too?

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

I just got a check about 20 minutes ago out of our mailbox. It was sent priority mail. It was made out to my husband in the amount of 1,967.00 . Like others here, he was instructed to CASH the check at our bank, go buy $1,600.00 worth of EBAY gift cards from different stores. Doing this as a mystery shopper.....
The instructions then said to scratch the back of the card to reveal the PIN#, take a pic of the front and back of the gift card and send it to an e mail address of ebaysurveyreport @gmail. com
I immediately called the bank this cashiers check was written on Pacific Commerce Bank. I explained what we received and that I was sure it was a scam. I was transferred to the fraud dept of the bank( which that bank is no longer operating under that name anyway) and was informed this is a SCAM and they are investigating this now, since other people have contacted them as well. She ask that I shred the check. She didn't have to ask that, I intended to do that. I am going to send this information to EBAY as well as everyone else the other folks here have listed. Thanks so much for all of you taking the time to warn the rest of us.

Received offer as secret shopper to my student email account. They had my ID number which was very strange. I was mailed a check for $2936 and asked to buy $2600 worth of gift cards to scratch and send them pictures via text. Here is the scammers number and address. 318-480-0262 - 980 NORTH FEDERAL HIGHWAY BOCA RATON, FL 33432. SCAM ALERT!

I also received an offer to my student email account and this is what made me think it was legit. It was sent from a student email and only students are supposed to have .edu addresses. The check is for 2965.00 from Market Research. I have been instructed to deposit and "wait" till the check clears and go to Apple store and buy two gift cards. I have not yet been asked to scratch and send numbers. The bank is First Financial and appears to be legit with routing numbers and all. I'm going to report this to the school.

I received an email from school too and thought it was legit that is why I participated, just got mine in the mail, what happened with you?

I just got a email saying a person need target gift cards and told me to buy 5 $200.00 gift cards from target and scratch the security codes on the backs and take a copy of the front and backs of the cards and text them to that number for a guy named Bill.

They keep sending me checks, I got 2 today,and they are cashier checks and they come up, smh

Rec’d two checks for $1000 to deposit and be a secret shopper for Target. Supposed to deposit checks and purchase $1500 of iTunes gift cards using two different Target stores — NOT happening!!’ Watch out for Brad Coleman & Target Secret Shopper !!

I received a check today from 'auditor service improving the clients experience' it's a company located out of Mexico at least that's what the website indicates. This check was from Union Bank in the amount of $1770.00, same scam. I'm ripping the check up, the letter attached was full of inconsistencies, misspellings, different fonts etc. I was savvy enough to tell right away this was a scam but worry about those who are not. The letter has a PO Box in Hawaii, was sent from Ohio, return address from California, and the check is from WY. Hope this helps!

I just received a check for $2900 with a letter congratulating me for being a Kroger Mystery Shopper. I am to deposit the check and go buy $2500 worth of ebay gift cards. Then scratch off the back numbers and email copies. So glad I checked into this!

Received a Facebook friend request from a Sani Danliti. I added, within seconds the person popped up with a DM having a casual conversation.

Next time I knew I was being presented a business proposal.

Here is the Facebook Messenger conversation:

great idea
i have a nice job proposal for you
it's all about evaluating and commenting on customer service attendant professionalism in your area
all you would have to do is to act as a normal customer at the shop or outlet which i would direct you to and request for services
you will be paid $1000 weekly
it's a 30 minutes job daily
can you do that?
on what would I need to comment on?

we have been getting reports from customers over the slow services at the money gram and we would like to know how true they are

Your job will be to evaluate and comment on customer service in a wide Variety of shops, Stores,restaurant and services in your area. Survey Assistant are needed throughout your area.

You'll be paid to shop and dine out-plus, you can also get free meals, free merchandise, free services,free Entertainment,Free travel and more. Great Pay, Fun Work. Flexible Schedules. No experience required. If you can shop-you are qualified! Survey Assistant It is Very Easy and Very Simple No Application fees

We are a company that conduct surveys and evaluate other companies. We get hired to go to other peoples companies and act like customers in order to know how the staffs are handling their services in relation to their customers. once we have a contract to do so, you would be directed to the company or outlet, and you would be given the funds you need to do the job(either purchase things or require services), after which you would write a comment on the staffs activities and give a detailed record of your experience Examples of details you would forward to us are

1) How long it took you to get services.
2) Smartness of the attendant
3) Customer service professionalism
4) Sometimes you might be required to upset the attendant, to see how they react to clients when they get tensed.

And we turn the information over to the company executives and they would carry out their own duties in improving there services. Most companies employ our assistance when people give complains about their services, or when they feel there are needs for them to improve their customer service. your Identity would be kept confidential as the job states (secret shopper) you would be paid 10% for every duty you carry out, and bonus on your transportation allowance, and funds would be given to you if you have to dine as part of the duty Your job will be to evaluate and comment on customer service in a wide variety of shops, stores, restaurant and services in your area. No commitment is made on this job, and you would have flexible hours as it suits you. You will get your payment in form of Bank Wires

do you understand the job better now?
Sounds to good to be true. But, I am listening, for it is something I would do if I owned a large business/corporation so as to insure Quality of Service.
May I ask why you chose me? Random?

i can across your profile here on FB and since we just started recruitment in the Belize i believed you would do the job perfectly
any further information to verify legitimacy?

you can go through our website to see it's a legit and real job www.secretshopper.com
Secret Shopper - The Premier Mystery Shopping Company
Let us Mystery Shop for you. Mystery shopping programs provide a detailed competitive analysis. A leading mystery shopping company for many years. Mystery Shop for us.
secretshopper.com
what stores in Belize would I shop at?

we have been getting reports from customers over the poor services at the money gram and we would like to know how true they are
you would be required to evaluate the money gram and get some reports back to you us
Examples of details you would forward to us are

1) How long it took you to get services.
2) Smartness of the attendant
3) Customer service professionalism
4) Sometimes you might be required to upset the attendant, to see how they react to clients when they get tensed.
can you do that?
so you would send money to me via moneygram

i would me making a transfer of the funds you would need to carry out the evaluation and your salary to you through your bank account
it's been transferred so your cover as an evaluation agent won't be exposed at the money gram
how about paypal?
or Western Union?
I don't deal with banks.

so if you are to be carrying out the evaluation as the sending agent then you will be eligible to get the correct informations
do you know anyone who has a Heritage bank account so i can transfer the funds through the account?
I would have to check. So, once the transfer is completed what do I do with the money? Just go and shop and report to you?

once i make the transfer to you then you have to withdraw the money and deduct 10% from it as your salary for that particular evaluation and use the rest to carry out the job at the money gram and report back to me
so what happens if someone decides to just keep the money? How do you protect yourself against that?

we have an insurance company who would take care of such cases but we don't pray to encounter such
Why not send a money order?

when you run a business you check for losses and gains
the bank account is preferred so you can know who you will be sending money to and can contact the bank for personal details if the person runs away with the money
I will get back in touch shortly.

i will be waiting
Chat Conversation End
Type a message...

It happened to me as well today. I got a couple texts saying watch my mail for a check and instructiona for the assignment...and today I received a check from that David guy for 2950$ with instructions to purchase gift cards and send them back. Being I am am experienced mystery shopper, I know you don't send the merchandise back to the company. So that's fyi. Also you don't get money BEFORE doing a job, it's generally a month after.

This type of scam has been circulating regularly on SurveyMonkey the past few months. I report them every time, but SurveyMonkey isn't interested in cleaning up their site.

I received three Money Orders from Fidelity Bank for $995 each. Told to deposit and then buy two Apple gift cards for $1400 and $1250. The balance would be my salary. Those were to be used to buy merchandise and do a mystery shopping at Apple store. As soon as I bought the cards (I never did), the scammer asked for photos of the cards and to carefully peel the silver strip at the back neatly before taking the picture. I texted him that the cards would then be useless to me and that they could use them. I never herd from him after that. The "Money Orders" were turned over to my bank's fraud unit.

I received an email through school so I though it was legitimate. They're using the name Insights Survey LLC and the evaluation coordinator's name is Tony Hoovers. I was instructed to visit an Apple store and purchase $1400.00 in gift cards, The $300 leftover would be my salary. I knew it was too good to be true, I am so glad I researched it before depositing the checks.

Recieved a text message today : +19046005257 Hello, this is Geoffrey from Gartner. This is a confirmation that a task has been approved and processed for you. An envelope will be delivered to the provided address today which contains a cashier check (funds needed for the evaluation and commission) and an instruction letter. Kindly confirm you received this message. - Geoffrey

The letter was a Customer service evaluation assignment with a cashier's check for $2900.42 remitter: Richard Fels signed by Donna A Brand or Bland not sure. Issued by Golden1 Credit union P.O. Box 15966 Sacramento, CA 95852 issued November 05, 2018 with instructions to purchase any denomination of Google Play cards from $50-500 and after purchase of card open pack and gently peel the silver scratch-off area on the card , capture image of card front and back; please do not discard the cards as it will be used for your forthcoming assignment. Here are the details we will need from the SURVEY: - store name address date and time of visit
-name of cashier/attendant (if visible on Tag)
-did the store clerk thank me upon completion of the purchase
-what was my overall experience with the staff in the store
-how long it took to get check out
-captured images of card front and back after scratched (Phone camera accepted)
REMINDER: At any store chosen for your GOOGLE PLAY GIFT CARDS, under no circumstances should you acknowledge that you are evaluating their services as that will deter the purpose of the whole program, so if asked if you are a secret surveyor kindly answer NO as stated above. As soon as the evaluation is completed, kindly have all the details above emailed in your report. Email completed report to - info@ evaluationresuts. org
Regards Mark Jones (no signature) (misspelled words on the instruction letter left as seen on letter)

I got this same thing!

I just received a check for 2,950.00 via FedEx from an "Apple Story Mystery Shopping Survey Assignment" and red flags and ringing bells went off in my head.
First there is no company name, but some man named "Benjamin Hartford Ph.D.
Second, no legitimate company would send me a check for near 3K without checking my background etc.
Third, I've been secret shopping before and it was totally different.
If it sounds too good to be true it often is a scam.

I received an e-mail that I had been selected as a secret shopper. My job was to purchase Google Play gift cards. I was sent a check from Connex Credit Union for the amount of 2,900.42. I was to deposit the check and then buy 2500 dollars worth of cards. I got a text from Timmy Gomez saying he was from the EBAY evaluation company, asking if I had received my package. I called the number and did not feel comfortable with the gentleman on the other line. He hung up on me when I told him this seemed like a scam. He then proceeded to send me two threats. Remember we have your information, if you don't complete the task wait to see what happens to me.
Info@ evaluationresults. org is the e-mail, someone named Mark Jones signed my letter and the person texting threats to me is Timmy Gomez. I am posting the details so this does not happen to anyone else.

Literally just received the Priority Mail envelope with the fake $2490 check and very legit-looking survey assignment to buy the Apple Store gift cards. Came from James Richards & Jeffrey Colleen with a Greylock Federal Credit Union Cashier's Check.
Thank you for posting -- careful out there, people!!!

Got the same Apple Store scam that others here have reported, and didn't fall for it either. One dead giveaway was the poor grammar, plus the letter was printed diagonally on the paper. Lazy scammer spent money on Priority Mail but couldn't be bothered to properly print a page.

Got scammed for 2600 I am 62 and am desperate for a job so went for it. Can’t find any way to get the much needed money back

I fell for it, got scammed just today

So far two for two.
Keep getting them by mail and fedex.

People don't be a victim of scammers, I receive a check for $3350.49 with it a letter it said that I have to deposit the check right away then shop at walmart to spend $3000 worth of gift cards. Scratch it and take a picture with the receipt. From that letter alone and the check, I start thinking who will give you money for that amount. I google the address of the sender and I found out it is a shack. Check the name of issuer of the check does not match at all. Then I received a text that once I received the check deposit it right away. Then I respond to the text "not to bother me I know you are a scammer and already traced your cellphone and report you to the authority. Thank you scammers!!

I’ve just received a check for 998 from, Mystery Shopper. On the paper it said 150 for a Walmart gift card and get three of them. Than it’ll be an 450 fee an than this man text me probably a fake name Collin Hickman says his is the manager than he told me to deposit it an I said I’m going to Walmart an get the cash

Just received a check for $2450. Read the letter that came with it. It didnt make sense to me, so I googled mystery shopper scams. Glad I did. I torn up check. Vocal Mystery Shoppers Inc. Charles Cole Task Supervisor 213-275-0506 Www. vocalmysteryshoppers. com Check was from: First Choice Credit Union 1065 South Congress Ave West Palm Beach, Fla 134056

Hi Carmen,
I just received the exact same thing in the mail for $2450. I was looking into all the info and noticed the name is different on the mailer and the letter. The mailer says Charles Greaves with CG Associates and the Signature on the letter says Charles Cole, Task Supervisor. I'm glad I found your comment. What did you search when finding the fraud info? This is the mailer address below. I'm going to search the address as well.
Charles Greaves CG Associates 16464 W. Virginia Ave Goodyear, AZ 85395
Letter Signature Info: Charles Cole Task Supervisor
213-374-1589 www. vocal mystery shoppers. com
That's for anyone who receives this from these jokers. Pretty dang sad.

This is the exact amount I received by the exact same company and exact names.
Signed by a. Patricia Duncan
I checked with the bank they confirmed it fraudulent. Thanks.

Also received a check from this scam. The check was written from the same amount, however, the bank First Convenience Bank was used.

I received a check for $2460 from Paul Gabriel 406–480–6975 of Amusement Advantage Inc. Email address: gabriel_paul62 @yahoo. com My first assignment was to deposit the check into my bank account, wait two days in immediately withdraw but take my $300 secret shopper fee out! Then I was to take $50 and head to my nearest Walmart and buy any item I wanted. Then I was told to go to the US post office and purchase three money orders and the amount of $673 each and send them to then I was to take it $50 and head to my nearest Walmart and buy any item I wanted. Then I was told to go to the US post office and purchased three money orders in the amount of $673 each and send them to O Nojeem 476 South 10th St Newark NJ 07103. I was told to UPS or FedEx them overnight. Something didn’t seem right and I’m very happy that I check this website. These scammers should be prosecuted.

They got me. I searched the company and the name, even added ‘scam’ and ‘legit’ to the search hoping to find an article like this. Unfortunately I didn’t find this until today - after the fact. Thank you Search Engine.
I was blinded by thinking this ‘opportunity’ was an answered prayer or a blessing and it’s obviously anything but. Now out about $2000 just before the holidays.
Hope you all are well.

Received one by priority mail with a more than $900 money order and a list of instructions. They included purchasing Amazon Gift Cards and then sending pictures of the front and back of each with pin codes revealed! The part that really raised a red flag for me was when it said complete the money order myself and the name I should put on it. I thought to myself why didn’t they do it prior to mailing if it’s legitimate. Thankfully I researched and found this information. I do work for legitimate mystery shopping agencies and they do NOT pay this much for one assignment. Also, you are generally paid after the shop is completed.

Just received from LinkedIn connection. Not falling for it!
We are referring to the online application you submitted Via a LinkedIn referral working as a secret shopper. Welcome to the work of being a customer service undercover evaluator in our sales/marketing division as a probationary employee until successful completion of your first secret shopper assignment, which will not take you more than 30mins.

This is some of the simple questions in your shopper's report :
• Were the employees friendly and courteous?
• Did you receive prompt service?
• Was the merchandise displayed neatly?
• Would you return to this store/restaurant?
• Was it easy to use the service?

The answers to these kinds of questions are extremely valuable to any business and they we willing to pay top dollar to find out what consumers really think. You will be providing important information that will be used to improve the quality of businesses everywhere.

Where will I be mystery shopping? The companies we deal with mostly represent large chain stores and popular franchises with hundreds and thousands of locations across the United States.

This is to inform you that your first (Secret Shopper/Undercover) task has been assigned. Funds needed to execute the task will be issued to you in in the form of a CERTIFIED CHECK and sent out along with specific instructions outlining your assigned task. The envelope with the needed funds and work assignment is on its way and should arrive at your home address in a few days.

Watch your mailbox and contact us as soon as you have received your assignment and payment. We will inform you of the things you will need to do, services to evaluate or items to purchase at the stores... Please take note that your assignment is subject to change if our needs change. Please signify your interest with a Yes, I'm Ready Best regards, Anthony Patton H.R MANAGER.

PS: You are also advised to check your email often because updates will be sent when needed and swift response is always required! 2018 & eBay Inc© Store Evaluation Employment Department.

I received an envelope from the USPS. The attached cashier's check is from Comerica Bank, and is worth $2900.00. The letter is signed by John Stevenson from Survey Hunter Inc. They wanted me to buy gift cards from Walmart and sent the photos of the cards along with the receipt. My salary was $350.00 and an item by a value of $50.00. Fortunately I investigated and read this website before going to the bank. Do not cash the check!!! Destroy it!!!

Same bank name on the check I received...and fell for. :(

I bit their lost leader initially, replied to the email. Instantly went on the net and found it was a Scam. Started getting text messages from Paul Davidson at 213 443 8162 (feel free to blast him with text messages and calls). Replied to 4th text to say STOP TEXTING, then got a check via priority mail for $1900. Isn't Mail Fraud a pretty serious offense?
I'm going to call the appropriate number for the FBI and see what happens.

I just received a cashiers check from Bank of Texas and nearly fell for this. This close to the holidays for a struggling single parent this seemed like an answered prayer. But I wasn't born yesterday so I started googling and here I am. Ian Bergon is the name of the "recruiter" I apparently answered and I've saved all the messages and emails along with the check to properly report it.

I received a cashiers check for 2450.00 to be a Wal-Mart mystery shopper buy gift cards totaling 2000.00 and keepfpur fifty of it seen them all info on gift cards they name on the contact person is Anderson hunt the bank American b.s. k and trust comp opelousas lousianan it's sign by two peoplearlene Morton jie deplechi something like that was scared by Bodien a couple months back the thing that busted this bunch with me is the package came from Austin texas not lousianan and that address when u google it says it's a missing address I love my google y

I juat recieved a check for $2,900 but it was through a job offer through indeed, I never deposited the check cause it felt like a scam, I told him I did to see what would happen, then he told me to go to Walmart to purchase gift cards, but he originally told me the money would go to a charity, which then turned into a foster home that he was never specific about. Havent told him I know yet, still kinda in the middle of this, but I will take the check to the bank today to notify them it is a fraud.

Glad I Googled this! Just saved me from losing $2400! I received a priority mail package from Ann Watkins AB022 Urb Valle Arriba Height, Carolina, PR The letter is titled "customer service evaluation assignment" with a Secret Survey Assignment for Google Play & the instructions to email info @evaluationresults. org

I received a check from SURVEY HUNTER INC. asking me to cash a check for $2, 380.00 and instructions to go to my local Walmart and purchase 20 iTunes gift cards at $80.00 each. Then send a photo of the cards along with the Walmart receipt to:
John Saddie HR Manager surveyhunter2 @ gmail. com Text or call 585-318-7464 DON'T BE FOOLED BY THIS SCAM ATTEMPT!!!

These scammers going to send me a dog on check for $1967 and right there they go until you deposit in your bank account really I took it to the right people they said they will take care of it

Just received my check for $2300.00 Community First Credit Union Santa Rosa, Ca. Signed by Patricia Duncan. Post marked Nicolas Turay Columbus, Ga. Letter inside says text to 650 area code in the Bay Area of San Fransisco by someone named Brian Daniel . Turning it in Monday Dec 17, 2018.

I receive the wall mart mystery shopper letter. Scam scam scam..check for 2350. From a prosperty bank in Washington .shameful that people do this. If it is too good to be true than it usually is

Is Arrowedge shoppers one

I got this letter to with the check and when I told him I wasn’t going to do their scam he threatened me with lawyers. This is how far they’ll take it. Don’t be intimidated. I sent him this website so he can see that I knew it was fake.

Got a M0 special USPS delivery, $998.00 instruction to deposit it, then purchase 2 $400 Gift Cards. Send them the scratched off codes and photo copies of gift cards, keep $198.00. I plan to let my bank have the originals, and give PO Fraud unit a copy and FTC a copy and LA FBI unit a copy. Sadly, no one will actually act on it. I am sure the senders address is a decent person who is used as a legitimate sender, but knows nothing. Ghe phone given to send info to is probably a burner, it is used for one days worth of sent MOs. But its so big the authorities cannot keep up,but as we speak they are working on their next scam. Just keep telling folks and don’t believe anything. I just hate that they have tracked me down as desireable to attempt. Ugh!

I just got a check in the mail for $988. Wanted me to go to apple store. My profit $300. They wanted me to deposit in my checking account. So glad I googled it first.

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