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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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March 26, 2020
It Is 03/26/2020 I just received a letter and a check for this scam. I read it then my sister read it and we just thought something seems fishy. So I googled dude's name and found this!! Thank you FTC for having my back on this one!
Don't usecrazy…
March 27, 2020
I just receved a check for 2 thousand five hundred to be deposited into my account lol wow that’s crazy it’s a Walmart scam
Dia Marie, Los…
March 27, 2020
Was feeling uneasy about a text solicitation for employment. Googled the company name and found your site and all the other comments of being scammed. Noticed that most recipients are unemployed. How do they get our number and or address and know we are unemployed?
March 27, 2020
I also feel for this scam. I don't know what I'll do to pay back my bank. I don't have that kind of money. I'm so screwed! Does anyone know of any help I could get with this situation?
March 28, 2020
Got this scam in the mail today, via USPS. I wonder where/how they got my name and address? Who gets these things?? Isn't this tracked down by now? Some of these comments go back years. Is it worth reporting?
March 28, 2020
March 2020 I got priority mail with $2,220 cashiers check from Columbia Bank signed by Allen Henry. Accompanying letter (not on 8 x11 normal size) with instrucs to cash then buy Walmart and Ebay gift cards scratch off photo to sender- I keep $350. I called bank they said check not on their system SO FAKE! looked legit at first but glad I didn't fall for scam
March 28, 2020
Thank you for this. I just received a mystery shopping assignment. But something in my soul said look up the company.. and this was the first thing that pop up.
March 30, 2020
I also received a similar offer I texted to Company that I would do nothing until my bank cleared the check. I then asked my bank to use caution before clearing the check and I waived the 7 day clearing on the check. It did not clear and I notified the company that any attempt to use my signature or access my account would be prosecuted. I then filed a complaint to our States Attorney General.
Regretfully Scammed!
March 30, 2020
This check scam is still circulating. Received a check last week for $1970 to be a mystery shopper and to buy 2 money orders in the amount of $750 each, then overnight them to a specific address. Stupidly didn't do my research and for some dumb reason I believed I would make $400 off this easy job!! Instead we are (my daughter did it too :( ) are out $1500 each. She is only 17 and saving money for college!! This check came from Niaquel Covil in San Diego, CA. It was received in an envelope thru priority mail. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, don't be a sucker and believe any of this. I can't believe I did and not once, but twice with my and my daughter both foolishly believing it. She is heartbroken and I feel like the worst mom in the world by not going with my gut and ignoring it. Had I just waited a few days to get the money orders and mail the checks out, I would have found out from my bank that the check was a fake!!! I am so mad and we are out $3000+ that we needed for my daughter to go to college!! :(
March 30, 2020
I just received a secret shopper check and instructions. The check is $4,770 and writing from the account of UT Fredricksburg LLC from Sandy Spring Bank in MD. The instructions are to buy (4) $1000 no name money orders from Walmart and send to Phillips Tao in Dallas Tx....what do I do from here? Obviously I'm not going to do what they asked...
March 31, 2020
A note about these scams. A lot of these scammers tend to post the words "CONFIDENTIALl" across these documents. They try to use this tactic to intimidate their victim, threatening to sue them, if they give the information out, post it on the internet, or tell anyone at all, about the contents of the documents. In actuality, posting "confidential" on a form, or document, does not make it confidential, unless you have previously signed an agreement, beforehand, agreeing not to disclose any of the contents given to you, by the other party. This agreement is most commonly referred to as a "Non-Disclosure Agreement." Remember, if you haven't signed one, then the words "CONFIDENTIAL" doesn't mean a thing.
Messenger 90
March 31, 2020
Just got express package in mail with check for $2,220.00. What made me know this was fake is I am to cash this in my bank, and pay myself first. Been down this road before. Cutting up this document.
scammed in MO
March 31, 2020
I fell for it also, thinking the bank would catch it before making the money available.
April 03, 2020
So I got a very professional looking job offer, it honestly looks legit! But I knew it was a scam, it's from a company called Quality Consumer Inc. out of New York. I immediately looked them up and guess what? Scam! Secret shopper pays 400.00 per assignment and that's it:)
April 04, 2020
I just received a check with instructions to just deposit the money and then send the deposit receipt to a number but nothing about buying gift cards like the rest are commenting. I’m definitely not depositing. It’s just crazy how there are different scenarios being used. I’m reporting this for sure.
Not us Not today
April 06, 2020
My husband received one today. He said her of this scam he heard of on facebook . The check did not have a watermark and the ink was faded in the name of the bank. Summit Federal Credit Union. We just trashed it.
TJ Tyler
April 06, 2020
I recieved a fake check WestTexas bank cashiers check mic numbers are fake wont read give away $1450.00 to buy amazon gift cards scam Alert Cvs rite aid Walgreens then to send pics of cards numbers and 48hr bonus 500$ they even have a call center pretending to be the bank ! Please warn they send usps two day mail !
April 06, 2020
I applied for a job and received a check which directions say to deposit then send 2 $1000 money orders to some number 402-235-5223, my alleged supervisor lol. Seriously a scam!
April 09, 2020
I recently received this scam! I got a letter with a $2600 check asking me to go to Walmart and CVS. I knew it was a scam from the get go! The company name on The check was a sand and gravel company. Why in the hell would a company like that want secret shoppers?! I called the company and they said it was a scam and not from them and they were getting a lot of calls about this too! Well 3-4 days later I got a text asking me if I had deposited the check yet and went to the stores to do my reports. I replied that I was so glad they contacted me and then I let them have it! Of course them immediately cut off all contact! Be aware people!!!!
April 10, 2020
I received a check with a letter and knew right away it was a scam
April 10, 2020
I received a check in the amount of $2,950.52 from Virginia Credit Union, PO Box 90010, Richmond VA 23225 to be a secret shopper for Nike Gift cards sold at many outlets including Walgreens, CVS, Best Buy, Safeway and many more. I did not deposit the check. I've saved the package in case the FTC would like a hard copy.
VA girl
April 11, 2020
I almost fell for it, I have the check and contact information where can I report it?
Secret Shopper
April 11, 2020
I received an email at school to sign up as a secret shopper after i inquired about more information, I began getting random texts with instructions. When I tried searching for the marketing company on line I couldn't find it. That was my biggest red flag. At that point to responded saying I'm no longer interested. Three days later I get a response asking why. Then I received a certified check for $1969.20. The check looks as if it was printed on a home computer with no watermarks. The check listed Houston Federal Credit Union.
April 13, 2020
I received check also for a secret shopper bank took to bank they told me twice it had cleared did what was told to do now bank wants me to pay 3500
April 15, 2020
Hi so today I got a check in the mail to be a mystery shopper by text the first time it was for $1,970.00 at first it ask me to deposit the check and buy eBay gift cards the check looks real I try to call the number given (314) 325-9627 nobody answered then after I did I got a text about 30 mins from the same number I told them I didn't want anything to do with the mystery shopper plus the check was from a West Texas national bank plus there was a name Judy ward don't know if that helps but on the bottom it told me to take $300 out for myself plus purchase a total of 8 gift cards from to different stores had to be $200 each plus take a pic of it them plus wait for them to give further instructions don't fall for it I almost did plus the name at the bottom of the page was Alex Jones, fusion researchers inc.
April 15, 2020
I received the check and a letter today. I thought there was something odd because they wanted me to deposit the $1850 check in my acount. At one point the letter said to take $200 commision and then as the letter went on it said to take 300$ for myself. Was not making sence so I looked it up to see if this was a legitimate company. And it's note. What I don't understand is why no one is dealing with this and go after tjese scammers.
April 16, 2020
I received "offers" and then "acceptance for a job as a Customer Service Evaluator from ISD-Evaluators. They sent me a check, which was supposed to be deposited. Then, I was told to go to a "Big Box Store", observe their practices, then buy gift cards. I could keep $250.00 as my "salary" and if I completed the job in 24 hours or less, I could take $400.00. Of course, that sounds "fishy". So, I did not deposit the check. Well, I got at least five "urgent" e-mails, expressing the importance of completing this task as quickly as possible. When I did not respond, they sent me a second check! Of course, this came with a new round of urgency to complete this task right away. This time, I waited about five days. Then, I wrote back and told them that I had deposited the checks, but the bank called back and told me that there were either "Insufficient Funds" or that the check was "Bogus". I asked ISD-Evaluators to please send cash and I would complete the task and gladly take my "payment". Seven days later, all e-mails and text messages have ceased! Amazing!
April 18, 2020
My wife received a letter and a check for $2890.00 from First Financial Bank in Greensburg, IN 47240. Included were instructions to buy a cashiers check from my bank for $20.00 then $1200.00 in Wal Mart gift cards and to scratch off and reveal all numbers and send photos of those to 346-800-3828. This is such a scam, don't be fooled. Bottom of letter had this name and contact# Edward Smothers- 919-584-4620
April 19, 2020
I just received a text from PMA Survey company to complete a survey at Walmart for $400. I did a little digging and found that PMA Surveys is a legit survey business IN KENYA to monitor pregnancy and reproductive health for women!! Someone is using the name of this company to scam us! Do your research and inquire about anyone claiming to pay you $400 for doing a few minutes of work! Scam unveiled.
April 19, 2020
I just got a check. No letter, sent priority mail, return address STORESPY-CST Inc
April 21, 2020
I received an email to be a secret shopper filled out the application and received a check by UPS in a couple of days for $3,800 did not deposit did not they wanted me to go to Walmart and evaluate how they give money more orders out I knew it was a scam too good to be true if it sounds too good to be true it usually is.
April 21, 2020
Their still at it. They text me the tracking number. The check was for 2830.00 I did not follow the link in the text so I am not sure what they are asking me to do. Trick no good here. The check looked real I can see how they are still getting this scam off on people.
April 23, 2020
I just got a check for 1475.00. Pinnacle Bank which is a small bank in Myrtle Beach SC is where they are claiming they bank with. I hit apply when I saw a secret shopper job online at thinking it was a easy way to make some side money. My story is the same as the others as they wanted me to buy ebay cards and keep 275.00 for myself, and of course they wanted the numbers on the ebay cards. I was first excited, because I did hit apply for the job as a secret shopper, but my excitement turned as I realized nobody has called me to even verify my personal information. The USPS has the name Barry T Lucas (No company name to verify) from TN. The bank is a small bank only located in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.
April 24, 2020
I received a priority mail express mail. I didn't think much about it so left it in a box of old mail until last night I was looking for my birth certificate and I saw this big white and blue priority mail. So I opened it and it's a survey associate for secret shopper and of course a check for $998.00 I continue to read the letter and look at the check date 05/28/2017. So when I read your comment...I knew it was a Scam. I got this mail last year and only last night I open...Thank you Lord for watching over me. I'd there any way I could send the letter and check to the consumer commission to help catch these bad people.
Their still at…
April 24, 2020
I got a 2350.00 check the other day with one piece of paper with it that had instructions to deposit , message, keep 500 then email for more instructions for a graphics artist to come bling out the ride"" well luckily our ride had gotten smashed like a week before so I wasnt getting far on foot and missed out on walmart cashing. They were impatient so I went even slower, said I just dropped it in the atm when I didnt yet it's been 3 days now and they're still at it. To keep it honest guys I was also contemplating keeping the money. But I'm better than that I most likely RIP it up and send the
April 25, 2020
I have been scammed so many times on so many ways...first I was being catfished on dating sites...luckily I never lost any money and now I can catch on if someone is a catfish...almost 10 yrs later and they are still doing that. More recently, including today, I have received emails and text messages from people claiming to be from reputable companies (I’m actively seeking employment) so I have responded to administrative assistant, personal assistant, receptionist, and related positions (remote positions)that I’ve seen on reputable career sites like Indeed, Ziprecruiter and LinkedIn. I was recently sent 2 checks from 2 different “employers” -one for over $7,000 from a Wells Fargo bank and the other was over $3,000 from a PNC bank. They were “cashier checks.” Although I was sceptical and I am intelligent, there was still a part of me that was hoping there was some validity to this as I need a job so bad esp with the COVID stuff going on. I first went to my bank, they said they looked fake but I could check with the actual banks listed. She also told me scams are on the rise cause they know how desperate ppl are these days and they even had an elderly couple come In earlier cause they had been scammed but of course no further specifics were given. So I go to Wells Fargo and immediately they said it was a fake and I asked them if they wanted the envelope it came in and the contact info of the person who sent it to me and they said NO ...that they get these kinds of things all the time and it’s very hard to catch the ppl. So I knew the PNC one was fake too...both check were destroyed and I blocked the numbers of those ppl so they couldn’t contact me again. Here are some tips (in case u have not experienced it yet): 1. Check with the company they are claiming to be a part of to see if it is a legit opportunity 2. They put up fake job jobs on reputable sites until they are caught and then they want to communicate thru mail or text or something like google hangout or Skype (but without video). 3. They conduct “interviews” on google hangout or Skype-never phone calls or zoom /videos. 4. Pay close attention to their grammar and total interaction. They use bad grammar, often misspell words, they get impatient if u don’t answer right away, and they are very impatient and insistent on when u should have gotten the money and are bothering u about updates. 5. Call them on their bluff and see how angry they get! But u don’t need to be rude or aggressive...just something like...can we do a video conference so I can see who I’m working with and for and we can discuss in more detail my duties etc...u pick what u wanna say but put them on the spot while still sounding sincere and engaged! 6. If they wanna interview u on a hangout or Skype, insist on a video or phone conversation interview. In the past 2 weeks, I have been scammed attempted (for lack of better words haha) at least 4 times with 2 included today. One was claiming a certain company and had a link to the company but when I clicked it, I was warned not to proceed for virus I researched the company on the side and than contacted the company to see if the job offer was legitimate. Of course one wasn’t...he wanted to talk on hangout to interview Monday or Tuesday and sirens and red flags starting popping up so I blocked him...and the 2nd one, I’m waiting to hear BACK from the company. I know this was a lot but this has been happening to me for so many years in so many fashions and with the current economic downturn because of COVID, ppl are getting more desperate and may fall victim to these scumbag loser scammers! Do ur due diligence and share as much as u can so we can hopefully reduce casualties! Thanks for reading and sharing all ur stories!!
April 25, 2020
Got a check from Sona Back for the amount of $2,676.85,this to be part of Walmart secret retail research paid survey. Have to contact Harry Lewis and send him $2000.00 in money orders overnight.
April 25, 2020
I got a check for 1800 dollars for a secret shopper job at walgreeens. I didn’t cash The check, and haven’t done anything. But Greg Logan ha texted me a couple of times telling me to let him know if I have received the check. Should I respond or just ignore it? I have a two year old daughter and I am nervous that since they hAve my address they can track me down....should I be worried?
April 26, 2020
I was just offered an opportunity to be mystery shopper for a survey project, $1,500 per month salary, plus another $350.00 Bonus for each survey that I would complete, around 3 per week. Work only 3-4 hours a week, they asked for bank account information, so checks can be direct deposited into my account, I could also use Pay Pal, and other money accounts for my deposited checks. Does this project has an odor of fraud? Thanks
gigi cummings
April 27, 2020
Hello I received a check for $2466.08 and was told to deposit check and that I need to complete the assignment within 24-48 hours. My assignment is to purchase 2 $1000 gift cards from Best Buy and Walmart and to keep the $466.08 for me. This is for Mystery Shopper Customer Metric and Jason Lancaster as hiring manager. I have received a text this morning from them. I told them that my uncle work at police and aunt at bank and they doing a background check on the information. I haven't received a response back yet.
April 30, 2020
I just recieved same bs in mail yesterday . So yeah beware of this. Im in the Southwest part of Missouri. 4/30/2020
May 01, 2020
I got scammed omg people are cruel and inconsiderate. NEVER NEVER accept a payment from someone u don't know. Luckily my bank was able to fix it. I went to the police with check and e-mails text messages etc. People are heartless an don't care! Stay safe everyone. Watch your websites.....
May 01, 2020
I received two different checks in the amount of $2,466.08. Both checks were mailed from San Jose California from a vacant home on the market. Each check have a different company name on it the first is from Littleton Colorado, the second one is from Santa Rosa California. I did my research and call the bank on the first check to verify my suspicions that it was fraudulent. I also spoke with the accountant from the first company and found out someone hacked into their system and was using their bank account which they shut down in September of 2019. It is sad though that someone else received a check and they same amount I was told this lady took the check to her bank and the bank did reach out to this company and the accountant was able to let them know that the check was fraudulent. I received the letter along with both checks for mystery shopping which I did not apply for to purchase a $1,000 gift card from Walmart $1,000 gift card from Best Buy in $500 increments and to keep $466.08 for myself for my commission from each check. Yeah right! I my need the money amid this COVID-19, as an unemployed tax accountant I knew something was fishy.
May 04, 2020
I received a check for $4900 for a Walmart survey scam. I was supposed to deposit in my bank and take the cash out and get four money order $1000 each and mail them to someone. Not to put anything on them with the receipt of purchase sent to them.
Moriah Morris
May 04, 2020
Received job offer from Gartner secret survey evaluation. Mailed me a cashiers check for $2400.27. I keep $400 & buy 9 $200 Vanilla gift cards the balance is for future jobs. Then I send pictures of front & back of cards and report on customer service. No signature on the letter. They never even talked to me on the phone, just sent me a check for $2400... cannot be real.
May 06, 2020
I received a scam check today on Peaks Island, Maine 04108, purporting to come from FireFlyFederalCredit Union in Burnsville MN. Everything else aligned with the account given here.
Texas Dave
May 06, 2020
I received a money order for $1000 from Walmart to be a mystery shopper. I was to do exactly as it states in the above scenario. I Googled the phone number and it came to this website as a scam. The number was 559.715.4679 from a Troy Northwood in Ft. Worth, TX in a USPS Priority envelope. Very official looking. Beware!!! Don't fall for it!!
Person of Interest
May 06, 2020
SCAMMERS.....INSTANT SURVEY, INC.... Just received a check for $1,970.00 ( not certified, regular check) USPS Priority mail..... I called the bank and they verified the check number was not their's....... My advice is to call the bank and state the check is issued from and let them verify it......then report the scam.... Be aware the scammers are getting smarter and trying new ways......
May 06, 2020
This happen to me today but i didnt get the money they froze all my accounts