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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.

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June 08, 2021

In reply to by CancerNation

Oh my gosh! Me too! I just got a check from "Robert" saying the same things. I knew it wasn't right. So glad I didn't do anything with the check!! I wish these people would use their energy for good instead of evil!!
October 22, 2018

In reply to by Char1

Thanks for post. I got exact same scam with same name .I could have easily fallen for it if not for your story
March 19, 2019

In reply to by Notmyrealname

I got the same check and unfortunately I didnt realize it was a scam until it was to late.i deposited the check into my account and let it clear.then I did as the instuctions said.five days later the check if found out to he bad but it was to my checking is froze with a balance of -$2949.99
April 09, 2019

In reply to by Lgodell

It happened to me also.. I received a check 2780 and instructions from walmart.. the amount appeared on my account. instructed to me to send money orders of 2280 to thomas michael at new jersey.. then after 3 days. I checked my account.. the check was bounced.. and our money was gone..
October 23, 2018

In reply to by Char1

Thanks you for the info. I just received a check for the same scam. I knew it was good to be true!
December 04, 2018

In reply to by Char1

Wow, thank you for posting. I received an email to my college email as well with same instructions, good thing I did my research first. I really need a side job right now and thought this was perfect. Can’t trust anyone these days. Thank you again.
December 08, 2018

In reply to by Char1

I got hit to. But they didn't get the money either. I played on some bills to later find out i had 2 pay it back 2 the bank.
January 01, 2019

In reply to by Char1

Johnson City New York. I just found out that I was scammed out of 1,975 and I’m not a college kid so I have to figure out how to pay the bank back!!
January 12, 2019

In reply to by Char1

I recently got a check of $2,950 with instructions to do the same thing, got the email through my college email, I deposited the check yesterday into my moms account and the teller didn’t say it was suspicious, did the check ever clear for her to use the money and buy the gift cards? I told my mom that it was fake and that the bank might overdraft her account if it is fake
A Concerned Parent
February 02, 2019

In reply to by Char1

My 19 year old college student just recieved this same thing yesterday from a Scott Bowman from Nationwide. Because it was an e-mail sent to her school account, she thought she'd give it a try! My daughter was ecstatic to get a check for almost 3 grand! However, after doing my research, I was not comfortable with any of it! Reluctantly, she agreed. I honestly hope no one falls for this but as a college student, its always nice to get money. Its up to us as parents to make sure our children are aware that people will try to take advantage of them and teach them ways of avoiding scams like this.
February 15, 2019

In reply to by Char1

I had got the same email from 4 different people claiming to go to my school and saying that they tried it too and made a lot of money from it. But what I did was to compare all the letters and they are the same as in the same phrase two of the letters are written the same but different people, they even had the nerve to put on there from Job Placement Student Services which also includes the school's address, all about earning $300. So what I did was to tell them that I was contacting my lawyer to look over the check, and I say that because they kept texting me wanting to know when I was going to put the check in my bank and saying that I only have 24 hrs to do it. First of all, it takes time to get money from a check that the bank has no knowledge. These scammers think that people are really that dumb and don't pay attention, I was scammed last year from people who I thought wanted to help me out only thing they did was to put a check in my account electronically and I was supposed to give the money back for a larger amount for me to receive. The only thing that happened with that was I had taken the money out of my account via MoneyGram and once that check didn't clear the bank to it out of my account with me with a high negative in my account and closed with no way of paying it back. So beware of people supposedly giving you money in exchange for money that they are supposed to give you from a non-existent shop.
March 07, 2019

In reply to by GraphXPhoto

Thanks for the info. I deposited the checks yesterday but felt a little eddgy about it. I'll call the bank today to stop the process.
March 22, 2019

In reply to by Char1

Same thing happened to me. Terrible stuff. Thankfully i didn't deposit it.
March 26, 2019

In reply to by Char1

Yep, same exact thing emailed to my college email address. Everything definitely looked legitimate. I waited for the bank to release funds before I followed instructions and spoke to someone (the scammer) every day. Still got scammed! Why can't this be stopped? What can be done about it?
April 18, 2019

In reply to by Char1

This same thing just happened to me I felt very dumb and I’m glad I told a friend about it and he let me know if was a nation wide scam I’m glad I didn’t scammed the whole 3000 or I would be crying on how to pay it back
April 28, 2019

In reply to by Char1

I just got this same check & he must have changed the last name mine has like 3 different names, David Soto, Steve Beck on the cashiers check & Charles Hoggard on the package it came in. "Check" is for $2,450.00 .
May 01, 2019

In reply to by Char1

The same happened with my daughter. They even copied in her school logo in the email and she thought it was from her school. Thankfully I am the one who opened up the fake check. Just terrible.
June 12, 2019

In reply to by Char1

Did your do anything with the check to see if it is real. I am a student and I received the same thing. I just wanted to know if there is any chance it could be real.
August 08, 2019

In reply to by me2u

I'm sorry, it's not real. Secret shoppers used to be legit 10+ years ago and you didn't make this kind of money. Anyway, DO NOT DEPOSIT the check. If you received this via your school email address please report it to them. I received a similar one from Ben Melvick, Straut Survey LLC, and it is not legit.
June 20, 2019

In reply to by Char1

my daughter as well was sent what appeared to be a legitimate email from her college in TN in regard to mystery shopper....she received 4 checks all fake...she had deposited one and actually did the all of her money is wiped out..... I agree preying on college kids...
July 28, 2019

In reply to by Char1

I received an email and a check for 1700 today from that same David guy.
July 31, 2019

In reply to by Char1

Thank you for your post. This same guy tried to scam me and my daughter who is a student.
August 15, 2019

In reply to by Char1

The same thing happened to me. My college sent out a blast for a secret shopper thing... and I forgot about it, then I get this packet in the mail for a "secret shopper." Which, I would have done... but they sent me a $2,500.00 check with instructions to "go to Best Buy, but a bunch of gift cards, scratch off the back and send pictures of front and back of card." Yeah... okay. So far, the guy has sent me three checks and has messaged me (with numerous exclamation points) asking me for "the status." His name is "David Sapin."
June 15, 2021

In reply to by DamGar

Hi! What do you do with the checks you get sent? Do you just throw them out?
July 30, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

Thank you so much for this article. My husband was about to make a terrible mistake
September 25, 2018

In reply to by Done in

My husband did deposit it and the bank called 3 days later to tell him the check was bad. What can he do now? He has scratched off all the backs of the money gift cards, so they can't be returned. Do we need to get a lawyer? Who do we report this to?
FTC Staff
September 27, 2018

In reply to by Frightened

If you told someone the numbers from the back of the gift cards, they  took control of the cards and probably used the value of the cards. You could call the customer service number listed on the card, or find a customer service number online and talk to the company to ask if you could return the cards. You could contact the manager at the store where you bought the cards.

You can report this to the FTC at The information you give the FTC goes into a secure database that the FTC uses for investigations.

November 20, 2018

In reply to by FTC Staff

Hi my daughter's receive a check today from mystery shoppers 2,600 n to deposit into her bank accounts n then ask her to go to Wal-Mart n purchase 4 gift card with 500 each n send them a pic of it so wut happened if we don't send them the card # and use it to shop can we do that
FTC Staff
November 27, 2018

In reply to by Yesi

If this is a scam, that check is no good.

You are resonsible for the checks you deposit. If you deposit the check and it turns out the check is bad, you have to repay the bank.

If you deposit the check and take money out to buy gift cards, and then the bank finds out the check is bad, you must repay the bank. If you already spent the money on gift cards, you have to find money somewhere else to repay the bank.

February 11, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

Hey, I recently received the same thing. I deposited the check of $2941.00. Then, it was bounced back. I withdrew $1000 to buy Apple gift cards. Is there any way I can return these gift cards but they're scratched though? Is there anything I can do to get my $1000 back?
March 18, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

Yea but the government is shutdown right now so you can’t file a complaint until they reopen. That’s the messsge I received when I went to that site.
Sick to my stomach
November 27, 2018

In reply to by Frightened

What became of this? My husband did the same thing! Now what? Are we just SOL that money and have to pay it to the bank? What if you don't have that much to give them?
FTC Staff
November 27, 2018

In reply to by Sick to my stomach

You are responsible for the checks you deposit. If you deposited a bad check and withdrew money, you have to repay the bank. If that's what happened to you, you could talk with someone at your bank and explain what happened. You can report a scam to the FTC at

December 20, 2018

In reply to by FTC Staff

How do I check to see if this is legitimate? I received info from Kevin Berman at info @ shop4survey that I was chosen as a mystery shopper for Kroger and would receive $350 for every shop. Legit or not? rebrand. ly/ shop 468394 Also this link was sent.
December 22, 2018

In reply to by tech2

Receiving a check in the mail for something you never signed up for is very strange same thing happened To me I did not deposit . Mystery shoppers are not ever to be revealed think about it!! It is a Scam!
August 06, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

Hey may I ask you how did you go by receiveing this check
August 07, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

Today I received a Cashiers Check for $1390 and I was congratulated on becoming a member of the Walmart Neighborhood Research Secret Shopper program. In exchange for the check, I was to purchase $90 worth of personal items, then evaluate the customer service provided by the cashier. Then I was to go back the next day and buy 2 $500 gift certificates and rub off the back and email the codes to an email plus send the a copy of my evaluation. DO NOT DO IT!
Saved by daughter
August 19, 2018

In reply to by FLORIDA SENIOR

I just received a check for$2450 I read the the one about Walmart and my daughter advice me that is a fraud thank god
January 29, 2019

In reply to by Saved by daughter

I got the same $2450 check and was all excited. I did deposit the check but it is pending so i will not be doing anything for this scammer company. i don't know what the assignment was but can be sure it was to purchase gift cards. i hope they catch these miserable human beings!!
October 30, 2018

In reply to by FLORIDA SENIOR

Yes i received an email asking if i wanted to be a mystery shopper, if course i responded, next i received a congratulations you passed to be a mystery shopper, so excited to have you on board, you will receive you package by FedEx, your first assignment of many, you are assigned to two Walmart stores in your area couple days later i received the fedex package which contained a check for over #2000, instructing me to deposit the check into one of my accounts, let it clear, then take out $50 go shopping for anything i want. Then next day return back to same Walmart go to customer service desk purchase 3 Visa check cards @ $500. Per card, next day go to the other Walmart purchase one card for $500. Then i am to make copy of front and back if all cards, scratch off the silver box, then send them the information along with my survey on my experience at both stores, and i keep the $50 purchase plus $397 which is my cut. I signed up twice to do this, each time i was sent same info, but the detective part of me kept saying this us too good to be true, don't you deposit those checks into your account, you'll be sorry, so I never deposited any of the checks. I started looking into this more, and came upon this site, so glad i listened to myself that money was sooooo temping. I kept asking myself why are they asking me to purchase cards and to give them the info off the cards doesn't sit well with me. Then also why send me a check, then ask for basically the money back but in a different form. So i was never able to take the checks to the bank. Plus the didn't realize i did this twice, bells really went off then. Because one would think they would realize hey we sent you a check previously and you never cashed it, now your requesting it again, why?
FTC Staff
October 31, 2018

In reply to by Dbest

You can report that 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.

August 16, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

I received 2 cashier checks both for $2,900 1 was from credit union Becu n Seattle Washington other US bank to get 3 money orders from usps from 3 different locations send back by fed ex karl Rajan was contact person
October 09, 2018

In reply to by Smartone82

I received the same thing this last Friday. Same name. He just said to go to one Post Office. I deposited the check but I didn't take the money out yet, so I will be calling my bank tomorrow morning. Thank God for Clombus Day
October 22, 2018

In reply to by Smartone82

I received the same thing from Karl Rajan and I thought it sounded fishy so I searched his name on Google and this website came up.
November 14, 2018

In reply to by Sarah

I signed up with the USPS/Walmart secret shopper request and received $2900 in the mail in the form of a cashiers check. I was told to deposit the check and use the money to purchase three separate money orders of $800 each. The check is a cashiers check drawn on a bank in west plains, mo. It all appears to be good but after reviewing and researching this, I see now how seriously bad it could be. The name, Karl Rajan is the same name on my letter which appears to be legitimate. I’m glad I looked things up now! Thank you all,
August 21, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

I received a check for $2850. Kroger mystery shopper. Said to deposit then purchase an eBay gift card for $2450. Came from an address Galt, CA. The check was a bank in Amarillo TX.