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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
Scam Tags:  Job Scams


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.

Your first clue should have been that your only contact was via text message. If somebody's going to hire you for legitimate job, the initial contact might be via text message, but at some point they're going to want to talk to you. Also, a legitimate employer is not going to just send you a check for $2,300, and tell you to keep three or four hundred dollars out of it. A legitimate employer is going to have you sign a W-4 form and verify that you can legally work in the United States. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is 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.

So glad I saw this post I got a check for 7995.99 claiming to be a settlement from a class action lawsuit from a car I bought. My husband was mad I ripped it up and threw it away but now I can show him I was right!

i was recently scammed as well it was called the new mystery shopper. i received a check in the mail for 997.32. They wanted me to give 10 dollars to Charity and then they said for me to take 200 out for my salary. For the rest that was left they wanted me to purchase gift cards from the Apple Store. I took the check and deposited it into my new bank account and the check bounced and the bank closed my acct. i even told them it wasn't my fault and i was a victim of a scam, i even provided the letter they sent me, but they still closed my account. I don't believe that the Gov't is doing enough to stop these crooks!

You can report a scam 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.

You can also report a scam to the website where you found the ad. If the check came by postal mail and you have the envelope, you can take it to a post office.

This just happened to me. I was sent a check for $2900 for the “Kroger Mystery Shopper or Evaluation”. I was to deposit the $2900 in my bank, take $400 for myself and use the rest to purchase an eBay gift card for $2500. Then I was to open the pack, peel the silver scratch off area and take a picture to send back along with the store name, address, date, time, etc. etc. If this really was a Kroger secret shopper, they’d be concerned with their actual store items, employees and cleanliness of the store...not an eBay gift card!!! The guy’s “name” is Bill Smith. The e-mail he gave on the paper is billsmith1831 @gmail. com and phone number is (302) 754-0304.

This exact thing just happened to me, only his phone # has changed. Same email address, but the # is now 765-507-3604.

I just got another e-mail from “Target” (offer @target .com). The e-mail reads: “We are accepting applications from qualified individuals from all-over the United States to become Reviewer. There is no charge to become a reviewer and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials from us. You will receive a free gift card of USD 300 per assignment. No commitment is made on this job and you would have flexible working hours. We will provide you the funds for all of your evaluations.At least 2 evaluations a week will be assigned to you because this is a part time job and we think this job suits you.”SCAM SCAM SCAM!!!

Just received a check for $967 drawn on from Windmill Farms Nurseries, Zolfo Springs, on a Wachula StateBank Florida check. Letter has a whole spiel about secret shopper for EBay Cards. I almost fell for it until they said deposit through ATMor phone deposit. Also, about two weeks ago I got an email from Kroger Stores asking me f I wanted to be a secret shopper so I didn't think anything of it. Who do I turn this in to. This is also Postal Fraud?

I just got a priority mail package containing a check for 2430.0. I get 430.00 and 30.00 for expenses and am supposed to go to two Wallmarts and buy 5 gift cards for 200.00 at each one. Scratch off the numbers and pin and send them the pictures. I really need money right now because I lost my job... how disappointing that it’s just a rude scam. I had almost felt hopeful things would be okay.

I just wanted to say that I did receive one of those checks and I got taken for $2,400. That was before I was aware of this site. They were from a company called customer 1st. They told me to do a Walmart to Walmart transfer for $2,200 which I did do and lost that much money-- what scammers!

Hi, Today I received a similar piece of mail along with a check for $2070.96. I was offered a Mystery Shopper Job that included going into a Walmart store and gathering detailed information, such as the cashier's name, the cleanliness of the store etc. I was to deposit this check into my bank account and put aside $400 as my commission fee. There were several different steps following including purchasing gift cards, scratch off the back, taking photos of the cards and emailing them. The awkward thing was that the check was from Angelo Iafrate Construction Company, Red Flag! After reading some other stories here it helped me to realize that this was a scam. It is really sad that people would try to put you in a situation that would end up hurting you financially as the end result. I am really glad to have found other stories similar to mine. Also, glad not to have participated in this fraudulent activity.

I got a Check in the mail. what would happen if I went to a check
cashing place and tried to cash the check there.

The same thing happened to me I received two checks in the mail one made out to myself and another made out to Heaven Butler. With instructions PMA evaluation form for me to go to Walmart as a secret shopper buy gift cards iTune cards Etc. I recognize this right away that is a scam. It's a shame how far people go to just to scam other people for a dollar

Did you try it at cash checking place, if so did it work?

Got email and text. They sent check by UPS in the amount of 2,380. Keep $300 for myself, purchase 1 item for $80, and purchase (20 )$100 itune cards.
Then send pictures of cards.
I won't be depositing chec. It just was unbelievable

Got a cashiers check from VPPA LTD today. No way will I deposit invisible money!! Scam!! I can not evwn research company.

Received a “cashiers check” for $2380 from Comerica bank. Was told to text received to 585-318-7464. I was to deposit the check then go to Walmart, text “at location” to the same number, buy anything for less than $80 along with 20 $100 iTunes cards. Take pictures of the receipts and the cards to surveyhunterinc2 @gmail. com. I could keep $300 as my “salary”. There were also instructions on what to look for during the evaluation. Glad I found this post!

I had this happen with Gladstone Survey Service Inc. Luckily I did this research before I deposited the check. Thanks for all the advice.

I recently got a check from these scammers as well. They are based in the Houston area. How do we notify law enforcement about these people?

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

Before I head for my surgery the scammer name James Anthony 1-662-314-6134 ask me to buy itunes cards $1400 on credit card and he will pay my 1 credit card off. I trusted him and did it. He also sent me numerous of checks I deposited I'm out over $3000 my account was closed. After that he ask me to borrow money from friend I said no then he threaten me and he will come after me and do things so I can go to jail for life. I also report to police but they say is not there problem. I report to FTC,BBB and to General Attorney but they don't do much foe me. I'm now on disability and don't have much to pay back to anyone. I think the bank and credit card should help me they know is a SCAM but no is my fault. Lesson Learn

I was told I was selected as a mystery shopper for Target. I received two checks, each for $1,000.00 . The remitter is listed as Brad Coleman and it is signed by someone named Kelvin J. Harris. They are telling me to keep $500 (they are generous cons) and purchase $800 of ITUNES gift cards in one store and $700 in another store. Of course, I’m to scratch off the codes, take pictures of the PIN numbers and email it to Brad Coleman. He left the phone numbers of (310) 697-7924, 461-4187, and 299-4070. I knew it was a scam because of the ITunes cards and the ridiculously high payday since secret shoppers usually pay $10-50.

Received a check for $2950 on Monday and told to purchase $2500 worth of Itunes cards. I was then expected to send a pictures of the PIN #'s.

I was incredibly skeptical considering given the cryptic, flimsy letter, and the lack of contact. Nevertheless, the Priority Mail package threw me for sort of a loop (5% believable). Moreover, I was introduced to this group via a contact on LinkedIn (another 5% of believe-ability).

While I was 90% doubtful that this was legit, it still VERY scary to imagine that there was a 10% chance that I could have lost $3,000.

the letter is what threw me off too! No contact number, hardly any information about the deal whatsoever. I'm SO glad I didn't deposit that check!

Yep, 3 "personal money orders", each for $800 to go and purchase 2Apple store gift cards for $1050 each. Sure looked real...mostly. Of course there was no address for the "bank" name, just a typewritten name for the bank (Fidelity Bank) with "Right By You" just below it and the fact that the "amount" of each of the "money orders" written in digits at the bottom of the check wasn't anywhere to be found nor were the digital scan codes at the bottom of the check either, but other than that, it looked pretty good.

I'm sure it'd fool a lot of people. Luckily, I'm not one of them, thank goodness.

Oh, yes, when I typed in the "USPS Tracking #" on the official looking "priority mail" label on the "priority mail" envelope, it showed that the envelope was delivered on the day I received it in San Antonio, TX which was really strange because I live in WA state, half a continent away. Oh, yes, and that label also said it was "Priority Mail 2-day" that ws shipped on 3 Nov with expected delivery of 7 Nov. Missed the heck out of that time frame!


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 The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.


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