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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

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.

Jan 11,2019 Same sob story guys . Almost had me to.want me to deposit $2950.00 in my account keep $600 for my portion then wire the rest back to them. This came to me by UPS mail from the state of Tx.the person number is 209-509-4932. I’m going to the authorities this morning. To aid in catching this bad boy.

We received a check from this phone number as well. From Westminster Development LLC. FRAUD

I am so glad I decided to look into this before I did anything. I got a check for 2950.00 in the mail from Prosperity Bank (the check looked fishy), it was a cashiers check. Yes it looked like a real check but truly it isn't. It was sent with a "letter". the letter has shopper instruction/guide and assignment objective and then guidelines and format to use while writing your report which has a report thing attached to it.

Payment and asssignment summary

The letter stated: The envelope contains a total payment of 2950.00 which you are expected to cash at your bank (if your bank does not release to you the cash immediately, you are to deposit it so it clears in 24hrs or less. The moment it clears your deduct your upfront pay or $350 then you take $1550 to the 1st Wal-Mart gift cards that you are purchasing at the 1st store, then you proceed to the 2nd store with the balance $1050 to purchase 3 Wal-Mart gift cards in the amount $300 each and a 4th card in the amount $100 while you also shop with $50.
It is important that you remain as discreet as possible, they should not have any idea that you are conducting a survey on them which is the aim and objective of this assigment. Discretion is a big part of the secret shopping code. NB: to get the proper profiling and bonus, send a text to the contact number as soon as you withdraw cash from your bank and ready to complete the rest of the assignment at Wal-Mart also to capture actual assignment timing on your profile.

It then gives a breakdown of what how to do it.

I knew this was fake when I opened up the envelope. I really hate scams. The information on it does appear to be real but it isnt.

I experienced the Same. I was sent the link via LinkedIn via a professional colleague.
2 weeks later I recd a check for $3000.00 from Santander Bank and emailed instructions to purchase 13 $200 gift cards.
The correspondence had no phone number or address.
I asked them to verify the company. because I have supervised folks that have been criminally charged for their involvement in “jobs” like this.
I’m a Felony level Probation Officer.

I seem to have found myself in this mess..
No purchases have been made on my end so I am going to the bank to report the check.
Is this the right choice, or should I file a report with the Police Department?

Just got a scam cashier's check in a priority envelope for $2950 and instructions were to deposit and then purchase 2 $1300 apple gift cards and 1 $50 iTunes card from the Apple store. Glad I decided to check the net. The check is from Chase and was contemplating on taking it to the bank to see if they could tell me if the check was real and if the funds were really there - they keep track of that stuff. Remitter is Din Din Ng. Survey evaluation coordinator is Peter Verrill Ph.D.

I too was "referred" by a friend, clicked to learn more (not committing to work for them) and one express post later, I have a check for $2.7K and official "instructions" plus follow up emails. the tel # in the letter and emails always goes to Google Voice. Beware the names "David Schmidt" and "AccionResearch.com"

Hey! Just got a check for $2420.00!!!!
Just gotta spend $2k on gift cards at Walmart and send pictures of both sides! Then I get to keep $420!!!
Where can these dirtbags be reported?

The method of reaching me was different in my case. I received an InMail notification from a very respectable looking businessman. I couldn't click on his name so I searched it in Linkedin. I reviewed his profile and it looked good so I connected with him and sent him a message asking if he had contacted me about a mystery shopper opportunity. He had not. A really good way to check for scams on Linkedin is to hover over the user's name. If you can't click on it, it's a probably a scam. If you CAN click on it, it does NOT mean it is legitimate.

got 1 for 840from cigna h &l ins com to do what everyone is doing. yeah right

I just got a check and knew it was a scam as soon as I saw it, checked and sure enough it is a scam.

I got a check from a mystery shopper job the other day. I was also being messaged by a guy named George. I took all of it to the police and confirmed that it was a scam. He then explained if I deposit the check it will come back fake and I will be responsible for paying the money back. So I went home and tore up the check and I haven't heard from anyone since then.

Does anyone know how or if this can be reported to the FBI? I have the same issue and the contact currently thinks I’m going to deposit the check. I’d like to get him caught.
FYI - this is a Whole Foods secret shopper request from LinkedIn. Asking me to buy Google Play Gift Cards at any store which was a red flag. I got a check over $3k!

I received a check for $2,900.00 with same instruction but buy 2 $1,000 and a $400 money order then send them Fedex and contact Ronald Bales and give him the tracking information. I was told to include the receipt of purchase for the money orders. If I do not respond to him to tell him I received this ups package then a TASK FORCE team will visit me and retrieve the envelope. Now they are sending threats out with the letters. This envelope will be in the hands of the local police department today.

Received a priority mail package from ExtraPack Shoppers Inc. Had a bad feeling about the whole thing from the beginning, so I am yet to follow through with any of the instructions from this fraudulent organization. The check was for $2450 from Georgia United Credit Union. Will be destroying the check. Glad I didn't fall for it.

I received an e-mail offering a job as a Mystery Shopper . The e-mail address is or was henrystrootman 1969 @ gmail. m ,this happened today. I open the envelope send to me a 2 day priority mail letter with a check for $2850, with instructions to deposit in my account, get a $30 cashiers to confirm that check is cashed, that is silly. Anyways, go to a Wal-Mart get 5 gift cards of $500 each, take my $300 plus $ 20 for fuel and send the cards numbers to them or they via text at 347-879-0196. All of this sound to good to be, my English ain't perfect but I been around the block. I am writing here because it is a very cowardly crime from some worm in a cubicle or cheap motel. Be aware, if I could help to contact or apprehend this worms I would anyday. Be careful, stop trusting others most people are good, not all.

Yeah I just received my $ $2740 In the mail today with all the same directions It's pretty pathetic that they'll go through all this trouble to get your money it's ridiculous be careful out guys And gals I think we should all continue to sign up and they keep sending money grams and spend the 6 or $8 priority mail maybe they go bankrupt :)

Got priority mail today with a cashier's check for $2,950 and instructions to cash or deposit it in my bank. From there I was to buy several Wal-Mart gift cards and send pictures of the numbers. Of course I was to keep $350 and spend $50 at each store. Great deal!! Not going to lie, I was tempted but nothing comes that easy so I had to do my research. So glad I did. One reason I thought it might be legit was because I did respond to an article about making money doing surveys recently. I'm sure that's how the scammers got my info. I'm so sorry this happened to others. People are so cruel. Who should I report this to even though I didn't fall victim?

Goodness, secret shoppers only get paid $15-$20 per shop. I just got a "money order" for 998$ to buy Walmart gift cards and yes.. send pics. no way to contact anyone. And "text only" numbers

Is there a class action lawsuit going on? I was scammed $5k, lost it all. Checks cleared and I bought the gift cards at Apple store then later to find out they were fake.

I received a check for $998 and advised to buy google play card at Walgreens, CVS or a store near me that sell them. Well, I went to bank and was told it was a good account number, but still suspicious. I sent email to the where I suppose to send the survey explaining bank got hold on money and did not receive a response back. Then, I called the GBI office and was told that they are not working on no case. It sounds not legit, but some secret shopper stuff is legit. So he could not make that decision and told me to make it. I waited a couple more days and received a text . I advised that I should be getting the funds on Monday and go shopping then. Then I got a text Monday and asked me when I should be finished shopping. I checked my account and the check was returned. SCAM! I have the letter, texts, email, and mail it was sent to me from as my proof and the contacts I made to make sure that it was legit or not. The bank representative told me to just pay back within 30 days , but no jail. They see this all the time. They can't see if the funds are in the account, but only can say if its a legit account. Cashier's check with water mark. However, the address was a post office box on the check and the bank actually uses their physical address. Thank God, I did not purchase all the cards at one time and they giving me time to pay the money back for the cards that was purchased. The SCAMMERS did not get the money either. Glad, I took my time and did not fall into rush 24 hours to complete the assignment. And, would have been stuck with $998.00 plus bank fees . I only saw this post after all this took place. But, I did research and this article did not come up because of the words that is used.

yeah I'm glad you guys came here to tell your story, I received a cashiers check from a "company" called consumer survey service and I got an email from what I thought at the time was the school itself, (it ended up being a student email with the name job services). They asked me to purchase 2000 dollars worth of apple gift cards and sent a cashier's check to cover the cost and give me pay. Thank you everyone on this board for assuring me this is a scam.

I also received an email from a staff member at my college and it seemed legit. I am not sure how they were able to hack into the email system and pose as a staff member. The link they sent us through email is now deactivated. A check was sent in the male and I was to go to Best Buy to buy gift cards and sent pictures. So awful.

I received a check for $2450 for assignment for Walmart. Called the bank the check was written from. Told the check was a fraud.

Boobear, you are smart.
I wished I had that spark to have called.
I did not. I was taken for all 2871.75.
I commented below and shared my story.

I sadly just fell for this scam. The email inviting me to be a secret shopper came from "jobs@ target. com". I interact with Target often, so it wasn't a surprise to hear from them. Unfortunately, I searched "secret survey agent" AFTER I deposited the check, purchased gift cards and texted a pic of the gift cards w/ PIN scratched off. Even my local police dept was surprised at the legitimate appearance of the email!

Ok so i believe i just fell for the scam! I got a cashiers check ,with exactly those instructions mentioned on scam schemes above, for 3400 to go purchase Wal-Mart gift cards totaling 2950 and the remainder was my salary. Looked totally legit with first class mail letterhead and check. I did feel somethings up but thought if it was fake my bank would know right then and there. The only good thing is i have not withdrew from my account and have yet to receive a message that funds have cleared for availability. My question is what do i do now that i believe it was fake? And am i facing some kind of trouble or going to face a penalty for it?

Do you have any updates on this? What did you do with your bank and what happened? I’m in the exact same situation right now and am super nervous about it.

I received my check from Peter Verrill (614) 699-3310 for $2950 to shop at Apple. The bank is Henrico FCU. The whole package looks gimmicky as it was printed from an ink jet printer with some minor misspellings.

They are everywhere!!!!! I just received my package in the mail today and there was a check in the package for $2,950.00 drawn on an Erie Federal Credit Union out of Erie, PA. After I read the instructions I became skeptical because I was to go to my local Apple store and purchase gift cards in the amount of $1300.00 and then another one for $1350.00, take a picture of the cards and show the numbers from of the back of the gift card. The "representative" that I spoke with, his name was James Richard and his number was 1(323)840-7344. I called to get information on how this work. First, he asked have I deposit the check? I told him no and he told me to read the instructions and contact him once the survey was complete, no information or anything. This guy sounded as if he may have been Nigerian or of Indian descent. I have not deposited this check nor will I ever participate in any Mystery Shopping programs!!!! I'm glad I researched this some more because I would have lost a whole lot of money to this scam and the name of the company was Nationwide Marketing Research Program.

I just recieve a letter, same thing but i always verified scams on internet
An found this and several other similar scams.

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