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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

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.

Got 2 checks today for 988.00 each told to go to Apple store and purchase 2 gift cards for 813.00 each and 300.00 was mine plus a 50.00 bonus if I completed in 2 days thank God I felt uneasy and looked this up or they would have got me too. It's called Glad Stone Survey Inc. Mark Anthonio survey co-ordinator and envelope from Sheri Green in Tampa, FL.

Please watch for the name CRC - Mark Jackson

Thanks guys! I'm so embarrassed that I fell for this. I am so thankful that didn't cash that check... I knew there was no way someone would send me a check that large on good faith... there was not credit check, no w9, no i9, no w4, nothing. I hate for people to play me like a sucker!

Theres a lot of trust fund scams on Twitter lately. I just fell for one today like an idiot. I filed a complaint immediately after seeing the check issuers name being "Toys R Us Delaware"...which obviously went out of business and not the name of the girl on Twitter. She asked for my mobile banking info, which I gave because I have no money in my account anyways. She did a mobile deposit for $1758.00, which is still pending. I told her to cancel on her her because I know the check is now fake and it was too good to be true. She threatened me, I told her to cancel the check, she agreed but still shows as pending, she called me a thief, etc. I reported her to Twitter, filed a complaint on here, emailed my bank as they are currently closed and do not have a 24hr hotline number unfortunately. Her story was that she has a trust fund but cant widthdraw any funds so it has to be transferred to another account. She offered to send 5k, I send her back 3k, and I keep the 2k as payment. Well, I'm dumb and believed it. Long story short, don't be a gullible idiot like myself. No one is that generous. Wish me luck!!

Look out for @BossyKendraa on Twitter.

Is there any place we can send these as there is theft in this and is illegal right?

I recieved $1800 deposited it in my bank. Received cash 3 days later. Read these stories. I really needed to pay bills until next payday. Spent $500. Found out check was bad and now my payday check is here. I paid $500 and my bills are paid. Smiles all around.

I received something similar. A text mrssage telling me I had been accepted as a Secret Shopper. The text told me to be on the lookout for a UPS package and to text a gentleman at another number to let him know I received my packet and that everything was intact. Lo and behold not even two hours later I received a UPS envelope containing a check in the amount of $2,900 and a letter providing specific details about depositing the check in my bank, acting on my first assignment at a WalMart financial department to purchase three money orders and prepare a report on my experience. I was to purchase three money orders totalling $2,500 and send them, in blank with receipts still attached, to this same gentleman at an address later to be revealed to me. These people chose the wrong person to attempt to scam. I am a retired Revenue Agent of the Internal Revenue Service. I have been trained to detect fraud. This "job" had fraud written all over it. First off the account name used for the UPS mailing was different from the scammer's name. The account used was a candle company in Illinois. The enclosed letter was supposedly written on "WalMart" letterhead: it had "WalMart" printed in blue at the top but was missing the trademark symbol and the WalMart logo. There were numerous grammatical, dictional and spelling errors throughout the letter. The letter was printed on both sides of one page and poorly aligned. The letter was not signed by anyone. The check looked legitimate and even had a watermark. The only problem is that the check was drawn on the bank account of another company's (e.g., NOT WalMart) pension service fund at a bank in New York. It waz clear to me that this was a scam. I went along with the scammer to the point of depositing the check. That's where I stopped and called him on his game explaining everything I had detected and my status as a retired IRS Agent. I told the scammer that I would give him a break and just shred the letter, check and envelope they came in. Instead I contacted UPS's fraud department and explained how one of their valid customer's account was being used to perpetrate a fraud. I'm waiting for UPS's response and will most likely notify the FTC and DOJ on the matter.

I received a check for 2895. I was supposed to cash it and to go to Walmart and buy three gift cards in the amount of $400 each I was to go to another Walmart and buy three more gift cards in the amount of $400 each and then send a picture of these cards via text msg. I would receive a report with my next instructions on what to do with the six gift cards I am so glad I googled it thank you everyone for your help I almost got scammed. I contacted FTC and I am waiting a reply. I have saved all of the numbers,check and emails along with the certified mail envelope...which has a different address than the check. Dustin Taylor was the name ysed for my scam. A law firm out of Georgia.

So glad I found this article. Almost got scammed with a similar situation. A legit looking check asking me to deposit it and buy a $1000 apple gift card at the local apple store. In return I would get $300 or an extra $50 if I acted on it within a couple days.

I received a check for $3,500 from Accion research and was told to buy $2,000 worth of gift cards from CVS and text the barcodes to Jessica Brooks Senior Coordinator Accion Market Research
Website: www. accio nresearch.com Email: jessica brooks @accio nresearch. com Alternate email: accionr esearch @ gmail. com Mobile: (806) 680-6760 I have reported this to the FTC and will not be cashing the checks. Hopefully people don’t fall for this scam!

I received two checks today both were for$995! I was told to deposit the check and then go purchase two gift cards from my local Apple store in which the Town I live in doesn't have an Apple store!These checks look unbelievably real!!This company is called Glad Stone survey INC and the contacts name is Daniel Lawrence!!I wish this was real but unfortunately I guess it's just too Good to be true!!but seriously these ppl have nerve and a heck of alot of courage to scam ppl like this!!My advise, Don't Fall for it!!As for you scammers,get a real JOB!!!

I received a cashiers check for $2,390 from Prosperity Bank which had no address or phone number on the check. The remitter was Jennifer Young and had two authorized signatures on the check which above that it said it needed two signatures. I was to go to 2 different Wal-Mart in my area. I was to buy $100 in personal items and send the receipts in to this guy named Raymond Green Jr. By the way the companys name is blink research. They asked to only communicate in text message ONLY.. I was to send him $1,090 in money gram transfer from Wal-Mart and another transfer in amount of $850 and my pay for assignment was $350. I do not know what to do here should I take this to local Police?? Please help..

I got a 3350.00 check today. Thank the Lord I knew something was up and I found this site.

$2450 from
Charles Cole
VOCAL MYSTERY SHOPPERS INC.
213-374-1589

Priority Mail Sender Address:
Dylan Terry
RAJ RENTAL
23124 E Williams Road
Mesa, AZ 85212

Long story short. Mistery Shopper make $300-$400 per week. Got a check for $2,895. I am to buy two apple gift cards for $1,250 I then send them a picture of the receipt plus the # on the cift card, complete the survey with in 2 days to earn an extra $50.00. Insight Survey Service (415) 854-4340 George Wilson MBA. Check remitted Spencer Smith. Follow your gut feelings.

I got a similar Priority Mail two days back for $3000. Seeemd like a Scam. So, Googled and found this site before taking the check to the bank. Thanks everyone!

I also alerted my neighborhood group mails, and family and friends. Wish the authorities will nail these crooks, since it is spread across the country.

Meantime, I got text msgs, so here is the name of one of the crooks: Peter Jerry from Mars Research Evaluation, his number 860-782-0088. Alert your neighbors!

What a hoax, I just received a check from Angela Patterson in Jackson, Mississippi in the amount of 3450.12 written on Security Service Federal Credit Union in San Antonio Texas. Says the Drawee is Wachovia N.A. Of Buford, Georgia. With a remitial name of Bill Smith.
Now if this isn’t filled with RED FLAGS, I don’t know how many more warnings you need. First off, you aren’t going to be issued a check out of the blue asking Yuit to purchase prepaid cards and send them photos of them, along with a bogus survey. Would you send someone you don’t know a check for 3450 dollars and trust they are only going to keep 450 and send you gift cards totaling 3000? Probably not, guess what, neither are they... don’t fall for this cheap scam, if it sounds too good to be true, trust your gut, it is!
In this case, there are multiple states named in the document itself which is completely ridiculous. After Googling the issuing bank, I found that Swcuriry Service Federal Credit Union is in fact in San Antonio, Texas but immediately discovered the routing number on the check does not match the touring number of the Credit Union.
If you receive one of these bonus scams, do some research and save yourself from being victimized, don’t fall for these too good to be true scams.

I got a check for 2700 and disnt even know it came until someone started texting me if I received it- the whole thing didn’t seem right as I have been a secret shopper before, the mans name was George Wellington and Shirley Eplen was the remitted on the check- the part about the Amazon gift cards and taking pics and scratching off the back was what actually made me think it was a scam- I never went to my bank and texted Mr George Wellington that I didn’t want to be a part of bis scam

What happens if you cash money order at your bank?

Knew it was a scam the minute they said deposit the check then send them something from it.
Check was 2950 and name Eric Robinson

I got the priority mail envelope today. Return address was a John Schill - red flag right there. Fake check on Comerica Bank for $2,800. Same info, deposit check in my bank, take $300 as a “salary”, but something for $50, then $400 worth of Walmart & Google Play gift cards. Gift Cards - second red flag. Glad I Googled it. Will drop it by the police station tomorrow.

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