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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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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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It seemed so r…
June 17, 2019
The zip code from where it was sent doesn't exist. Yes they used someones real name and address, but the phone numbers where all from different states. And these people knew that I rec'd the package, so they kept texting me to cash it in my back and tell them when I have the gift cards, to send them pictures of the back with the numbers scratched off. But I researched the bank and called them .. and all they said was "What's the amount?" and they knew, bc they've rec'd tons of the same calls. Even the website seemed real , until I noticed only 1 link could be opened. /www. international shoppingstores. com/ PLEASE BE CAREFUL - IF it seems too good to be true - Call the bank where the cashiers check was issued. - I have copies, screen shots of everything from this .
Scam Buster
June 08, 2019
I received that exact letter today with a check for $2,800. Of course I immediately googled the name “John Simpson Scam” and saw this article. Even though I knew it was fake I wanted to see what the scam was. Thank you for staying on top of these idiots!
July 08, 2019

In reply to by Scam Buster

I received the same thing in the mail today! I pulled the check out of the envelope first-and all the red flags went up in my head. I glanced at the letter next, and then headed to good ol' google. Here I am! Thanks guys!
yvette urias
June 08, 2019
Thanks for all this information! I got fraudulent check and for sure this going to garbage
June 10, 2019
Help!!!!! what do I do I fell or the scam . Cashed 2 checks bought 4000.00 worth of Gift card.
June 11, 2019
What do i do if i deposit a check but didn’t send no money? My daughter didn’t know and she deposited it but i called the back right after and they still put the money on the card
July 01, 2019

In reply to by girly

Take the money back to the bank and pay for the check that was deposited!
Baby sitting job
June 11, 2019
Now the new one is a babysitting job contacted through, don’t fall for it, without even providing our address we got a check in the mail for $1910.65, maybe they got our address from The account created on the site or through the IP address after having email Communication, this people are nasty, they gave the name of a company they supposedly work for, I called that company and there won’t be a job as they described in the state where I live, their phone number you can only contacted via text is a voip #, the address here as they referred as an apartment in their generic emails is not an apartment it’s a house and it’s not for rent.. with their cute story about their kids and the one on the way and their very badly translated “proper English” we got the red flag on it and stopped communication to now have received a check and they said we will receive but NEVER we provided our address.. beware of babysitting job scam!!
Heads up
June 12, 2019
I just received "the package" for my first assignment which included a "cashiers check" for $2,375. Please be aware that Credit Unions do not accept corporate accounts. I am calling the credit union to make them aware of this. I would like to get in touch with Linked In and let them know that their site is being used to perpetuate this fraud. The package was mailed by Nick Mackey in Nashville, TN, and the letter signed by David Schmidt. The "check" is on Nuvision Credit Union in Huntington Beach, CA.
June 13, 2019
About 2 weeks ago I received an email from the career services office from an Ivy League school I attended a summer class at last year. The email said I was selected to be a mystery shopper and many students find this a fun easy way to make additional cash. I filled out the form, as it looked very legitimate, and came from an official university email address and forgot about it. Fast forward to today and my mom brings the mail in and says that I have a letter. The letter had no return address, but upon opening it there was a message that stated I was to begin my first assignment as a mystery shopper and had to cash the attached check worth $1980. I was supposed to buy 2 gift cards at Sephora each worth $750 or $800 each, (if I completed the assignment early I could keep an extra $100, hence the $750 amount), but I had to text the 413-232-1132 number and email addresses with the scratched off redemption codes, receipt and my survey report. Fortunately, these scammers had a few typos on the letter, a small misprint on the check and provided no survey report, so I was suspicious, but still unsure about the validity of it because I had received an official looking university email prior and have heard about mystery shopper programs like this in some of my marketing electives. I ended up calling the number provided and no one picked up, but I creepily received a text message right after saying they missed my call and wanted to know if I completed my assignment. I said no, and after a few more queries on my end, I now realized this was a scam because they had horrible spelling, improper English and dodged any questions I had about their legitimacy. I ceased communication with these creeps after fibbing that I brought the check to the bank and was told the check was fake and I’d be escorted away by the police if I didn’t leave hahaha! I then blocked their number and decided to report my incidence here to hopefully help others. Really sad people have to do this.
June 14, 2019
The Scamers are sending more false checks
June 15, 2019
I’m a mystery shopper fraud victim. I received a check for $2,350 and instructions in the mail from market force strategies llc. I thought they got my info from Sinclair Customer metrics (a secret shopper company). Anyway, I cashed the check, bought 4 $500 gift card, a $20 money order, and got a profit of $320. 2 days later my account is overdrawn of all that money due to the check being returned. The number I was contacting is no longer in service and guess what? All the gift card balances are ZERO! I called my bank, they opened a claim. I went to the bank and they put a block on my account but the lady said I most likely will not get that money back. I was advised to go to the police department to file a report. I will be doing that this afternoon. Moral of the story... if you get a big check in the mail— it’s not real. Take it from me who fell for the big mystery shopper scam. They totally took advantage of this single mother of 3.
June 16, 2019
Just received one of those checks offering me $300 if I cash convert 2600 out of the 2900 into money cards. The guise; "mystery shopper". Be careful people.
TNT 101010
June 19, 2019
Yesterday received a cashier's check for 3250 priority mail 18054966986 is the number I called no answer there's a letter of instructions I am to follow assignment is Walmart I knew it was a scam here's information to watch out for Charles Benson Task Supervisor 805-496-6986 www smarten dmystery shoppers. Priority mailed.
June 19, 2019
I received "an assignment" along with a check for $2,375.90; $350. of which would be my "commission" for the secret shopper task, the rest to purchase gift cards from "STEAM WALLET", and report back on my experience to ACCIONRE SEARCH. I asked them for more info to show they're legit, and they tell me they're a member of MSPA Americas, which is a trade association representing the customer experience industry thruout the Americas. Website: mspa- americas. otg/. Pretty slick. I have not cashed or deposited the check they sent. Posting this for others to beware.
June 17, 2019
Revived check for $2340.00 need cashed 24 hours then to buy reload it cards with cash 4@ $500 and e-mail them numbers. NSSN NATIONAL SHOPPING SERVICE NETWORK . NOTE I would not even take time to check the cashiers check. They try so hard to steal your money! I know some people fall hard and lose the money!
June 17 2019
June 17, 2019
I recieved a check and did make a copy of it. The word "void" was not written anywhere. The sad thing is that there are secret shoppers so this scam does seem realistic. Even if you don't see the word(s) void after copying, still do not cash it!
June 17, 2019
Got a secret shopper scam for Walmart with a $2450.00 check and a bunch of texts making sure I got it.
June 17, 2019
Just got a fake check too, where do I report this ?
June 18, 2019
This just happened to me from a Michael Haywood from a company called Navex Global who I called and they no nothing about it. His number was 716 391 2441. I received 3 money orders that look legitimate in the amount of 800.00 each and was told to go to an Apple store buy 2 1000.00 gift cards that’s 2000.00 350 is my pay and the 50 left over will go to my next task. When I buy my gift card text them at that number for further instructions. The local authorities have been notified for bank fraud.
June 18, 2019
Forgot how I encountered this seems to be legit job offer for "paid research survey" as it said, there was even a brief intro of company business so I filled out contact info. A few days later received the Fedex Express package with a cashier's check for $2,600 and two pages of "Instruction" for the "First Assignment". Asked to deposit the check then withdraw the entire amount cash only, and purchase four (2) (the inconsistency of the written number raised a red flag) money order $1,000 each totaling $2,000 from Walmart as the remainder of check after deducting $500 compensation to me for the survey as secret shopper "agent" and $100 for gas, transportation and fee (said there will be a fee when deposit the check at any of my bank branch). The rest of the process is the same, Fedex the envelop with the four (2) money orders and receipt, text to "your supervisor" upon the receipt of pkg and completion of assignment, and email the detailed survey/comment about my experience during the transaction with a Walmart associate. The details about the names and address they used is not important and probably untrue anyway, but I took pics of everything. Decided to keep the pkg for now. I only have 48hrs to conduct the assignment, if I delayed to make contact and confirm the pkg, "there will be a call to be put through to me and our TASK FORCE Team will follow up at the address on file to retrieve the pkg". To confirm, the check remitter is not in the same name as on the Fedex return address, otherwise the check looks legit, the check# even matches on top and bottom. It indeed sounded a bit scary though at first, I was thinking about leaving it out at the door where I picked up so they could "retrieve it", now I'm not going to do that as probably there wouldn't be anyone to come anyway. Also thought about reporting it to the Police, then realized it might only put them at loss, thinking of reporting it to Better Business Bureau or the US Postal Service as mentioned here. Thanks for all the comments, figured I should contribute my portion as well. Good luck dealing with this folks!
June 20, 2019
Received cashier's check for $3250.00. Advised by bank not to cash. Scam by Smartend Mystery Shoppers. BEWARE don't be fooled.
June 20, 2019
Received a letter ... pretty official mailer.. but letter lacked in proper and through instructions.. that was my first clue.. and found a typo.. check was for $1,900 WesBanco Bank - said I keep $300 blah blah And I needed to purchase $1600 in eBay gift cards - scratch off backs and take pics of codes.. I thought I should look these folks up CB Survey Associates, and this is the first site that popped up ! I knew it smelled BAD!
July 03, 2019
Received a priority mail envelope today, I forgot I had looked at something awhile ago in ref. to jobs at home. First I pulled out a check that looks very authentic from Los Angeles County Children & Families First-Proposition 10 Commission 750 N.Alameda St. 300 Los Angeles, CA90012 In the amount of 2, 450.42 reason I’m giving all this information Incase anyone else received the same envelope. I went straight to my computer to look up the email they provided on a photo copy of the instructions....and so glad I did. THIS IS A SCAM!!!!! BEWARE!!!!
July 01, 2019
Received a text saying I'd be receiving check in mail for $300, to deposit it as soon as I did. To purchase a money order for $30 made out to Walmart, n a Cashier's check for $30 made out to Walmart, allowing$10 for the purchase, and my compensation is $210. Once I completed my purchases at Walmart to notify them n their in-store rep would get the purchase before I left store. Then to notify them once my eval was completed of my visit n they would notify me of where to send my eval. Does this sound the same as the other scams? Company name-MIS, located in TX. Thank u for any response!
June 20, 2019
I’m so glad for everyone you posted comments !!! thank you you’re saving a lot of older people from these scams
June 21, 2019
I also got “selected” to be a secret shoppper. Through my school email a Kimberlin Botello reached out saying I could make $1,000/week, depending how many assignments I get done. Then I received a check for $1,700 and that my payment was $400, but could get paid an extra $100 if I bought the eBay gift cards within 24 hours of receiving the check. Once I visited either any walgreens, bestbuy, target ,CVS, Kroger or any other store around me (HAHA any store?!) Then was instructed to scratch the back of the gift cards and send them pictures of the gift cards! WHAT A SCAM!!Then I received an email and text from a “Lee Jerry” from 701-335-8180. Both messages saying “kindly confirm the receipt check $1700 and letter delivered via USPS let us know if you have received it or not. We will be here to assist you on this evaluation so you can get double commission after we review your report / feedback. - @ebay shopper” . The company name on the check is Gomberg Sharfman P.C and the bank is from MB Financial in Chicago, IL. I want to report them; however, not sure if they’ll even get caught. Oh well.. I really hope other people dont fall for this and also hope Karma gets them haha.
June 22, 2019
Hello, so I applied through Linked Application that was posted at our Airforce Base. I had placed the application and then someone by the name of Gail Serra got in contact through email a couple days later. That person then messaged again a few days after saying the check would be arriving that day or the day after. The check was going to be of $2890.00....$40 was going to go to the first assignment, $350 as the weekly commision, and then 2500 dollars would be split into 13 different Walmart gift cards. The person asked for us to scratch or peel the grey part of the gift card and send them photos. The place seems really legit since it's by sis international and I have already cashed the check into my account but have not used the money. Is it a scam or could it be real? And if it's a scan what do I do?
FTC Staff
July 03, 2019

In reply to by Miri9783

This sounds like a scam. When someone sends you a check and tells you to send money back - or buy gift cards to send - it's a scam. Scammers can steal or copy the name of a legitimate company to their offers sound legitimate. If you really do get a check, you could contact the legitimate company to ask questions.

You are responsible for the checks you deposit, even if you don’t know they’re fake. It can take weeks for a bank to discover that a check was a forgery. If you deposit a check and take money out right away to send, but the bank later finds out the check was no good, you have to repay all the money you withdrew.

July 23, 2019

In reply to by Miri9783

From everything I can find on the Web, this is a total scam. You should report this to (at least) the on-base bank and even to the base legal department and/or commander. We need to be careful and watch each others' backs for these scammers! (USAF ret.)
June 22, 2019
Hi, I just wanted to know if anyone had an experience with this scam where they actually deposited the check but didn’t spend the money? I got an email for the mystery shopper from my college’s career center and signed up. I got the check and letter in the mail today and being the desperate broke student that I am, I didn’t even think to look it up as a scam first. All I saw was quick way to make cash. It wasn’t until after I deposited the check and started reading over the letter again did I notice there were too many mistakes and misspelled words to be legit and looked it up. My bank is closed till Monday, but I’m worried about whether or not my account could be accessed by someone else now or what. If anyone has any info or maybe works at a bank and could give me some info, that would be helpful.
Sharon B.
June 25, 2019
Got a chashiers check in the mail for 2450.00 dollars from a bank in KY. Wanting me to buy Wal-Mart cards and to keep $300 and buy from 2 different stores and send pictures of the cards.
June 26, 2019
Just got a package in the mail and there was a chack for $2950. With one side page with the logo of mysurvey asking to be a secret shopper. The instruction said to buy two gift cards and that there was a bonus for doing it before 24 hr. Right away I though it was a scam but no I am sure. Pretty ingenious scam thank god thats the internet.
June 27, 2019
I received a check from TopView Market Survey for 1893.00. They want me to deposit check then purchase E-Bay gift cards. Taje picture's of the xards and scratch the back off and the 300.00 as payment. The check is from a Solar company in California which i googled. And i called them which i gave them all the info. I dont plan on doing this because i know its a scam. I hate this pray on people what is this world coming too.
July 01, 2019
I received an email yesterday from international shopping. Com regarding a survey for secret shopper. I will receive check and instructions day after. I Confirm received. Today, I received a cashier's check for 2625.00 and instructions for assignment. I am to cash check. Take 500 for myself. Go to 1st Walmart and purchase up-to 100.00 in personal items. Then purchase (2), $500. Walmart gift cards, 2 different locations for 2 Walmart gift cards. Totalling 2000.00. I am to scratch off, take pictures of cards and receipts and send to info1@ international shoppingstore. com. Then they will send survey asking about Customer service, name of cashier, cleanliness of store and cashier, how long it took, etc... I went online. The internship is online. I contacted the bank. I do not feel they helped with my questions. Did not cash cashiers check.
June 27, 2019
i just got the letter today and deposited check, but contacting bank now to let them know, thank goodness I did not buy the gift cards
June 28, 2019
I received a letter with a check for $1450. I knew immediately it was a scam by the way it came and reading the letter telling me to purchase gift cards. Be very careful of these scams. If you get to deposit the check it can shut your account down because the check is fake.
June 29, 2019
I just received a cashier's check for $3517. Supposed to buy $3000 in gift cards and send them pictures of the codes. Ha! Not to mention the check is from TN but came from OH.
June 29, 2019
I just got one yesterday 2,420.00 I’m sure glad I looked this up before I went to the bank. Thank you for posting this
July 03, 2019
So I received an email through my school email stating I could make $300 a week filling out surveys. I entered my school email address, thankfully, instead of my personal email. And a priority mail envelope shows up in my mailbox with a check for $1840.50 from a Times Federal Credit Union in Honolulu, Hawaii. Along with a letter that states, $300 is for compensation, $40.50 for transport and the $1,500.00 is to buy Amazon gift cards from a Walgreens. Immediately, my suspicion began. I hate people who take advantage of others. So i'm posting this here to maybe something can be done about it. The company name is Consumer Insight (which I can't seem to find it anywhere on the internet). With a contact number of 916-572-5143, email shop@ consumersinsights. , from a John Swickerath, task manager.
June 29, 2019
My wife received one of these but it didn't seem right. The "person" who sent it didn't live at the address we had looked up (Las Vegas) and the bank the check had listed on it was in Texas. Then my wife started receiving suspicious text messages instructing her to do weird stuff involving going to local stores and antagonizing the sales clerks to see how they react.
June 30, 2019
So. I got one in priority mailer today after receive two or three text messages about being randomly chosen to participate in a shopping survey. With a check attached to the instructions red flags turned up every where. $2450. ...does this constitute postal fraud?
June 30, 2019
Chazy Survey Services. 3 money orders. $950.00 each. Otero Federal Credit Union, New Mexico. Is this a scam? Anyone else heard of this. It's a secret shopper at Amazon where we have to buy 2 gift cards which will be used on your next trip to apple. Call to tell them you have completed task and they will come to you to pick up what ever.. We keep $350.00. Kellie Arnold survey evaluation coordinator.
June 30, 2019
I was just scammed. I read the comments below. And I feel so stupid for not doing my due diligence like what you all did. I was able to encash the $2495 check. Bought the eBay gift cards and scratched and sent a copy to the scammers. Is the bank going to go after me?
FTC Staff
July 01, 2019

In reply to by MeSad

Under federal law, banks generally must make funds available to you within certain time. But, just because some money is available to you doesn’t mean the check is good.

It can take weeks for a bank to discover that a check is a forgery. Until the bank confirms that the funds from the check have been deposited into your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check. If you withdraw money based on a bad check, you will have to repay the bank all the money you withdrew.

November 06, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

I applied on indeed, which of course the ad is no longer listed, and was text thank you for your interest in becoming a Walmart retail mystery shopper. Same scenario as everyone in here only my check was issued by Capital One. So what type of check is that? A cashiers check?? I was told to withdraw my funds first of $250 and then buy 2 $500 gift cards from Walmart and evaluate the employees it seemed legit. Am I going to be held responsible even though once I discovered this was a scam I closed my bank? I don’t understand why it isn’t the bank’s responsibility to make sure that check is good? I had a personal check written to me for $10,000 and the bank held it to verify the funds and the next day it was released. Obviously that wasn’t a scam though. But I feel as if the bank should be held liable when I applied for a job and received instructions. How am I truly able to know that a check from a company I have heard of isn’t real? I’m so frustrated I can’t even sleep over this....
July 03, 2019
Just got my check for $1000 today from Ricky Ford, Intouch Insight Customer Metrics, #1 Employer of Mystery Shoppers. Problem is Intouch Insight is a legitimate company with addresses in Fort Mill, SC; Chicago, IL; Ottawa, ON; and Laval, QC, BUT my package was sent by Benmar Construction LLC, 200 NE 25th Ave, Ocala, FL 34470 (NOT one of the addresses the legitimate company uses). My $1000 check is an apparently fake money order issued by Arizona Federal Credit Union in Phoenix, AZ. I was instructed to deposit the money order into my account and evaluate an Apple store. However, the con man forgot that he had said Apple store and sent me instructions to buy gift cards from Best Buy. So glad I Googled it first and found this warning (not that the mixed up instructions and the issuance of a "money order" instead of a company check hadn't already tipped me off).
July 01, 2019
DON'T BE FOOLED BY THIS SCAM ATTEMPT!!! I got a priority mail envelope with a check and instructions to complete within 48hrs from: Contact: Peter Parker (lol) (608) 999-5386 admin @ optinresearch the check was made out to me, RE: Michael Teague check is from "MSU FEDERAL CREDIT UNION" from Murray Kentucky for $2,475.00. (I'll be calling this credit union to inform them about the fake check from their bank) Given Instructions: Mystery Shopper opportunity Go to local Walgreens, Walgreens, Targets, 7/11 etc... buy $100.00 ebay/visa cards Your compensation for survey is $300. After completed, text picture of store receipt & scratched gift card # to: info above
July 01, 2019

In reply to by KAT1803

Ha. I just got the exact same letter today. Same bank, same contact , same instructions. Probably same numbers on check. Lol. Called number, of course no answer. No website reachable.
July 01, 2019
Is there a reason the banks are not liable for anything. I am sorry and yes I do believe I should be held liable for the immediate funds but the bank did release the whole other funds within three days. With this being the time of wire transfers and immediate pay why would they not have flagged the check and never deposited it ?? It seems a little to best for them. I am filing police charges and all but as long as the bank clears the check it should be on them for the remaining balance over the original release cash . I am being told well your a good banking customer and we wanted you to have access to your funds. Well I’d rather you have done your jobs and cleared all funds before releasing to my account American eagle Credit union bad bank