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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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Don't use your…
May 07, 2020
I have received a check and I'm takin it to the police
May 07, 2020
I received a cashier's check today for $2,998.98 from BMO HARRIS BANK. Sender is ISD Imperial Service Detective along came a letter of instructions. Abviously too good to be true, so I began searching the internet and nothing they text me from a 323-495-5704 number. I called it and only voice message address exist but no suite number, I texted and no reply thank you all for taking the time to post and alert others. I hope more people search before falling for this bad scam people.
May 08, 2020
I’ve been scammed I’ve avoided lots of scams in the past but this time they were very clever. They had created a fake account in my uncles name when I was talking to this fake person I legit thought I was talking to my uncle I didn’t realise it wasn’t him. When I actually asked my uncle about it he had no idea he told me about this thing with the RCD the ritual community something and sent me link to talk to a guy called James Marley which is also a fake Facebook account and this guy James was telling me about some money thing and to redeem it to send him google play gift cards which I only sent 1 before I found out it was a scam and but they were asking for 10 cards worth $100. Be careful when talking to people you know on Facebook if they send fishy stuff like that it’s probably not them they’ve either been hacked or their identity has been stolen. If your not sure give them a call or something.
May 08, 2020
I received a check for $2995 today from ISD Market Research. They wanted me to deposit the check and be a secret shopper for a bank. I am to text them when I have deposited the check and it cleared and send them a report on the customer service I received at the bank. So glad they said not to release my bank information to them or I might have actually thought they were a scam! (Ha Ha). No request for gift cards so they may be moving on from that scam to a new one!
May 08, 2020
I recieved a check today in a $2.45 priority mail envelope. A check for $1,935.78..on firefly federal credit union. In Minnesota. Googled and it's a legit bank. But still I knew it was a scam because they sent a letter with the check saying they wanted me to but gift cards. That's the red flag forme is the gift cards.. So look out its still kicking.
June 07, 2020

In reply to by Toddytee

My daughter got same exact ck amt,same bank. Check looks so real. She got excited. I asked about letter with it. When I read about putting it in bank and being secret about it and buying gift cards,I knew it was fishy. Found all these similar scenarios on this site. It is so sad that these people keep doing this.
May 09, 2020
I have a check to be a bitcoin shopper I deposited I just heard about this scam what should I do
May 09, 2020
Just got a check for 2400 dollars asking me to purchase gift cards. and deposit money. This is a money laundering scam. Watch your back. I'm turning into Police tomorrow. They Fed ex the check with directions, then use a fake return address.
May 09, 2020
This is so funny and I had an idea it was fake. Got my $4500.00 check today in the mail. Actually just got it and read through it. Walmart gift card and wanted me to get 2 from 1 store and 1 from anothr. They then wanted images of the cards. Fake check and everything else is fake. LOL!
Von from Phoenix
May 11, 2020
received a 2400 check, and had instructions with it about cashing check at bank or depositing money into the account. Wait til it clears and go to walmart to purchse 2000 worth of gift cards.
May 12, 2020
I am holding the packet in my hands it has what I was going to do and a check for$2600 dollars I keep $600 then get 2 $ 1000 money orders that I leave blank and fed ex to a address I will receive later.
May 12, 2020
May 13, 2020
Just recieved a cashiers check from Genesis Credit Union from a company named P & S survey group. The check was for $2430.00. The letter states that they are a mystery shopping group. They want you to deposit the check then they ask to go to Wal-mart & purchase 5 guft cards @ $200.00 each. Then go to another & do the same. After both stores are done, send a text to a number. Then email the gift card numbers & a picture of the receipt.
May 17, 2020
I have received at least 5 fake cashier's checks from( 3) for car wraps from Anheuser-Busch and 2 for Secret shopper for Walmart. The checks are fake! If you contact the bank on the checks they will tell you that they are FAKE @
Shoppers Inc.
May 19, 2020
Has anyone received a check from Shoppers Inc. telling them to buy gift cards? Is this a scam?
May 22, 2020

In reply to by Shoppers Inc.

This is a MAJOR SCAM! It’s as old as the wheel! Do not participate, if they continue to text or email you, take a screenshot so you have a record. Then take a photo of the FTC’s & the FBI’s home screens and reply to their message including the 2 photo’s and say you are aware this is an illegal scam, do not contact me again ever. Remove all my information from your lists!!! They should get the message. You can report everything to the FBI, if you want to help stop them for good hopefully and those like them.
May 27, 2020

In reply to by Shoppers Inc.

Yes its all,scams. Why would someone send you money to,send them money back ? They have you use your money before their check clears which never does then u send them gift card number,and they take all,YOUR money
Not taken
May 19, 2020
Received check of 2253.00, went to Google to find company "Brendan Ross Murphy" Found this sight warninget against scam...Check is from my Bank, so I'm turning it into them for investigation
May 20, 2020

In reply to by Not taken

Wow, that was slick for them to use your bank name. I got a check today for $2420.62
June 29, 2020
Watch for Jim Mont with a gift card and money transfer scam. Montjimh@
June 29, 2020
I received an email "confirming my interest in the secret shopper program" and then got a cashier's check in the mail for $2,390.73. I looked up the website www. grocery research since the email was from Simon Brady with an hr@ email address. The site looks legitimate but we've all read how these cashiers check/purchase gift card scams go!
May 20, 2020
I received a check today for $2,420.62. I had been getting emails for the last two weeks telling me I qualified to be a secret shopper for Whole Foods. When I get the check and instructions it says nothing about Whole Foods, but gives me a list of stores to go to and buy eBay gift cards after I deposit the check. I was told to keep $400 for myself and use the remainder to buy the gift cards. Then I was told to scratch off the card silver seal and take pictures of the card and send the pictures to them. That was the BIG RED FLAG! I just got a text asking me if I have received everything.
June 29, 2020
I just received my letter by priority mail from the USPS with a $1950.52 check to be a secret survey shopper. I hadn't signed up for anything so I knew it was a scam despite the legitimate looking cashier's check. I immediately remember a story I'd seen or heard on TV that said a person received a check cashed it and several weeks later found out it was fake and guess what.....they owed the bank the money. That's not gonna happen because I'm not falling for this SCAM. Oh how I wish I could string this con artist along. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or patience to play his game. If anyone out there wants to have fun....his email is storesevaluation@
Judith Joyner
May 21, 2020
Walgreens has sent two 2 checks via Fed X and it is a scam. Both checks are in the amount of $2500. The email is still on my device if needed. Thank you. Judith Joyner
May 22, 2020
I got a check for $2235.32 today. Like someone is going to just hand you that amount of money. Can you say SCAM?!
Millbury resident
May 22, 2020
Mine is from USPS, a priority mail with a $ 4944 check, ask me to deposit it and then go buy 4 money orders from the post office $1000 each, don’t write anything on them and send them out. Also I have to text someone and let them know that I received the check .
May 22, 2020
I received the letter today with a check for $2,040.13. As soon as I saw the check, I knew it was a scam because I received two checks two years ago about the same thing. I called the company that was on the check and let them know that they were using their company to scam people. I also took the letter and check to the sheriff’s department. He told me to just shred it. I took it to the bank to show it to the Tellers and they assured me that it was fake and a scam, Which I already knew it was.
M. Tidwell
May 23, 2020
FedEx delivered a envelope to my house. It contained a check and a letter stating I was now a secret shopper for Wal Mart. I knew emmediatly it was a scam when I saw the $4,840.00 check. In times like these, so many people are desperate and will talk for scams like to his.
May 23, 2020
What happens if, say, you go straight to an “instant check cash” place and cash the check on the spot? Do you receive the money on the spot, and/or are you therefore somehow held liable in the future to repay the “Instant Cash Check” store?
Doug W
June 29, 2020

In reply to by extrasauce

Because the check cashing stores require ID to process the cash-out, they will definitely come back to you when the check bounces and you will be liable for the funds, plus possible fines, and they can technically come after you for fraud, even though you were not the one who created the check. Best to report this to the FTC and FBI and don't try to use the "check".
May 24, 2020
I am so glad I read these comments and the paper they sent me. As soon as I read their instructions I knew it was a scam. I haven't done anything with the checks and I'm not going to do anything with them. Thank you for having these comments of what happened to other people on here and I'm sorry this happened to you guy's.
May 25, 2020
I got a fake check and took a picture of it to deposit it thinking if it’s fake it will bounce but 2 days later I had $200 in my account and the check was for 2,650.00 and I bought something small to see if it would work and it did and now I’m worried so what should I do? I only spent $40 out of the $200 that was put in my account by it.
Too suspicious
May 26, 2020
got my secret shopper check, letter and instructions today. too good to be true, called to verify everything, nothing added up. so please people beware of the free money, cause it is not free, someone pays and it is usually us that have been scammed. but not today satan!!!
May 26, 2020
I just received a check Priority mail from Kan's Auto, and when I opened the letter, it congratulates me on my first assignment at Walmart. Enclosed was a check for 2,450.00 dollars from J&E Business Solutions in Valdosta, GA. The weird thing is that the Priority mail came from Miami Gardens Fl. I have no intention of depositing this check into my account and wonder why the BBB isn't doing more to protect the public from these types of scams, most notably, in the days of COVID-19, when scores of people including myself, have lost their jobs. Disgraceful.
May 26, 2020
Just got an priority envelope in mail. Flimsy looking paper detailed instructs. A check for $ 1350 was enclosed. I knew I hadn't applied for this and I remembered vaguely hearing about this type of thing. So I googled=Is an check for walmart secret shopper legit? I got my answer. Make sure you google everything before attempting to engage or accept !
May 26, 2020
Just got this in the mail. Wow. Glad I looked up this scam before cashing it
May 26, 2020
I just got my check in the mail and the instructions. I read everything and figured it out how I can get screwed by depositing it in my personal account. Well I will be tearing it up.
May 27, 2020
Wow. So I had signed up on to do surveys.. so when I received a check for 2,450 and my secret survey instructions I was very excited to be chosen! Assigned included cashing the check and keeping 400 for my payment. Then going to 2 different walmarts and purchase personal items adding up to 25$ which is to be kept. Then purchase 1000 worth of gift cards at each location. If I completed in 24-48 hours I would receive an extra 50. But I thought it was too good to be true. I'm so glad I looked up secret survey reviews and came across this page. THANK YOU to the person who shared this PSA. Because of this page I was not another victim of these low life scammers.
July 01, 2020
Had the same thing today. I blocked the email the person used and phone number. Taylor Phd 602-456-2291 john. invictusresearch@ I’ll be posting this on my social media to make people aware of this. Esp during this time of crisis for everyone. People are vulnerable and needs money anyone can fall for this.. it’s nice to have this forum to make poems aware of these kind of scam!
Don't use your…
May 29, 2020
I received a check in the mail today for almost $5000 and it seems like one those scammers.what do I do?
May 30, 2020
We just received a check in an amount of $4600 to do certain tasks with money orders we purchase from the money we put into our bank account from the check they sent us. But I was very skeptical about this and checked online about this and came across this website which explained everything about this scam. Who do we report this to?
May 30, 2020
Just received my package in the mail via USPS with full instructions on how to get started. What made the common sense bulb in my head for off was the so called recruiter who didnt even interview me, he seemed anxious for me to receive the package and get started right away. Now I know why and here's my tip to everyone. When something seems to good to be true(you're no different than anybody else) it is. There's no nice people out here wondering "who can I give money to during this pandemic? And the answer is NOBODY.
June 01, 2020
Just got check for 3400 from Houston bank address is PO box lol they say cash it but Walmart cards scratch it off and send them the numbers. What idiots
June 02, 2020
I just received a check in the mail, overnight envelope from FedEx. Stating that a Jeff Browder (657) 549-4660 was task manager for Walmart secret shopper. The letter stated to deposit check, then go to Walmart for 3 $1,000.00 money orders. Email feedback based on experience, then contact Jeff for an address on where to return check. Also stated that I could keep the remainder of $3,345.00 check for gas and expenses. Too good to be true. We are calling it in and making reports so that this scam doesn’t happened to anyone else.
June 02, 2020
They sent me a check for $1450 I was supposed deposit the check in my account then deduct $ 400 for my pay I was supposed to go to wal-marts to get wal-mar visa/Vanilla cards they call themselves D&M Research group Nelson Jeff be on watch for this one
C Collins
July 07, 2021

In reply to by Tdress

Yes I received a package just today for a check of 2,450. With a 50$ bonus if I completed the instructions on twenty four hours. Glad I looked and checked everyone out the name of the recruiter was no other than Jeff Nelson. So glad I found this thank you above for posting and posting his name.
June 05, 2020
I was contacted by the group and unaware of the scam. I volunteered for the research project. They sent me a check and asked me to purchase the gift cards. I had heard something about this scam a few years ago so my sense of mistrust was alerted. I tried to call the person, Justin, and he said that he couldn't receive calls. He would have to call me. When he did, I heard a thick accent. He wasn't able to tell me anything about the company. Every time I asked a question, he acted like there was a bad connection. I'm so glad that I watch and read the news!!!!
June 07, 2020
Tried to scam me. Buy gift cards then send picks. My husband thought it was legit, but something told me no. So I didn't and it was fake.
Hot1in Texas
June 08, 2020
Just received the check and the poorly written instruction document which if anyone doesn't pickup on the grammatical errors in this thing as suspicious...? This one says go to CVS and buy AMEX non reloadable cards - scratch off and send the codes. My package has an address for SPHERION in Orlando FL as the return likely fake too. Check looks legit for over 1k whatever I wish the police would take this and give me a reward through crime stoppers lol
June 09, 2020
I received a check in the mail for a secret shopper but after reading what they wanted me to do I k re it was a scam because we just got scammed by someone trying to by some furniture off of 5 mile.