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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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Not Falling for it:
December 07, 2018
Just received from LinkedIn connection. Not falling for it! We are referring to the online application you submitted Via a LinkedIn referral working as a secret shopper. Welcome to the work of being a customer service undercover evaluator in our sales/marketing division as a probationary employee until successful completion of your first secret shopper assignment, which will not take you more than 30mins. This is some of the simple questions in your shopper's report : • Were the employees friendly and courteous? • Did you receive prompt service? • Was the merchandise displayed neatly? • Would you return to this store/restaurant? • Was it easy to use the service? The answers to these kinds of questions are extremely valuable to any business and they we willing to pay top dollar to find out what consumers really think. You will be providing important information that will be used to improve the quality of businesses everywhere. Where will I be mystery shopping? The companies we deal with mostly represent large chain stores and popular franchises with hundreds and thousands of locations across the United States. This is to inform you that your first (Secret Shopper/Undercover) task has been assigned. Funds needed to execute the task will be issued to you in in the form of a CERTIFIED CHECK and sent out along with specific instructions outlining your assigned task. The envelope with the needed funds and work assignment is on its way and should arrive at your home address in a few days. Watch your mailbox and contact us as soon as you have received your assignment and payment. We will inform you of the things you will need to do, services to evaluate or items to purchase at the stores... Please take note that your assignment is subject to change if our needs change. Please signify your interest with a Yes, I'm Ready Best regards, Anthony Patton H.R MANAGER. PS: You are also advised to check your email often because updates will be sent when needed and swift response is always required! 2018 & eBay Inc© Store Evaluation Employment Department.
December 05, 2018
I received an envelope from the USPS. The attached cashier's check is from Comerica Bank, and is worth $2900.00. The letter is signed by John Stevenson from Survey Hunter Inc. They wanted me to buy gift cards from Walmart and sent the photos of the cards along with the receipt. My salary was $350.00 and an item by a value of $50.00. Fortunately I investigated and read this website before going to the bank. Do not cash the check!!! Destroy it!!!
December 07, 2018
I bit their lost leader initially, replied to the email. Instantly went on the net and found it was a Scam. Started getting text messages from Paul Davidson at 213 443 8162 (feel free to blast him with text messages and calls). Replied to 4th text to say STOP TEXTING, then got a check via priority mail for $1900. Isn't Mail Fraud a pretty serious offense? I'm going to call the appropriate number for the FBI and see what happens.
December 08, 2018
I just received a cashiers check from Bank of Texas and nearly fell for this. This close to the holidays for a struggling single parent this seemed like an answered prayer. But I wasn't born yesterday so I started googling and here I am. Ian Bergon is the name of the "recruiter" I apparently answered and I've saved all the messages and emails along with the check to properly report it.
December 09, 2018
I received a cashiers check for 2450.00 to be a Wal-Mart mystery shopper buy gift cards totaling 2000.00 and keepfpur fifty of it seen them all info on gift cards they name on the contact person is Anderson hunt the bank American b.s. k and trust comp opelousas lousianan it's sign by two peoplearlene Morton jie deplechi something like that was scared by Bodien a couple months back the thing that busted this bunch with me is the package came from Austin texas not lousianan and that address when u google it says it's a missing address I love my google y
December 11, 2018
I juat recieved a check for $2,900 but it was through a job offer through indeed, I never deposited the check cause it felt like a scam, I told him I did to see what would happen, then he told me to go to Walmart to purchase gift cards, but he originally told me the money would go to a charity, which then turned into a foster home that he was never specific about. Havent told him I know yet, still kinda in the middle of this, but I will take the check to the bank today to notify them it is a fraud.
December 12, 2018
Glad I Googled this! Just saved me from losing $2400! I received a priority mail package from Ann Watkins AB022 Urb Valle Arriba Height, Carolina, PR The letter is titled "customer service evaluation assignment" with a Secret Survey Assignment for Google Play & the instructions to email info @evaluationresults. org
Kansas Residen…
December 12, 2018
I received a check from SURVEY HUNTER INC. asking me to cash a check for $2, 380.00 and instructions to go to my local Walmart and purchase 20 iTunes gift cards at $80.00 each. Then send a photo of the cards along with the Walmart receipt to: John Saddie HR Manager surveyhunter2 @ gmail. com Text or call 585-318-7464 DON'T BE FOOLED BY THIS SCAM ATTEMPT!!!
December 14, 2018
These scammers going to send me a dog on check for $1967 and right there they go until you deposit in your bank account really I took it to the right people they said they will take care of it
Don't use your…
December 15, 2018
Just received my check for $2300.00 Community First Credit Union Santa Rosa, Ca. Signed by Patricia Duncan. Post marked Nicolas Turay Columbus, Ga. Letter inside says text to 650 area code in the Bay Area of San Fransisco by someone named Brian Daniel . Turning it in Monday Dec 17, 2018.
December 16, 2018
I receive the wall mart mystery shopper letter. Scam scam scam..check for 2350. From a prosperty bank in Washington .shameful that people do this. If it is too good to be true than it usually is
December 16, 2018
Is Arrowedge shoppers one
Can’t fool me
December 16, 2018
I got this letter to with the check and when I told him I wasn’t going to do their scam he threatened me with lawyers. This is how far they’ll take it. Don’t be intimidated. I sent him this website so he can see that I knew it was fake.
Oh Really?
December 16, 2018
Got a M0 special USPS delivery, $998.00 instruction to deposit it, then purchase 2 $400 Gift Cards. Send them the scratched off codes and photo copies of gift cards, keep $198.00. I plan to let my bank have the originals, and give PO Fraud unit a copy and FTC a copy and LA FBI unit a copy. Sadly, no one will actually act on it. I am sure the senders address is a decent person who is used as a legitimate sender, but knows nothing. Ghe phone given to send info to is probably a burner, it is used for one days worth of sent MOs. But its so big the authorities cannot keep up,but as we speak they are working on their next scam. Just keep telling folks and don’t believe anything. I just hate that they have tracked me down as desireable to attempt. Ugh!
December 17, 2018
I just got a check in the mail for $988. Wanted me to go to apple store. My profit $300. They wanted me to deposit in my checking account. So glad I googled it first.
December 17, 2018
Got 2 checks today for 988.00 each told to go to Apple store and purchase 2 gift cards for 813.00 each and 300.00 was mine plus a 50.00 bonus if I completed in 2 days thank God I felt uneasy and looked this up or they would have got me too. It's called Glad Stone Survey Inc. Mark Anthonio survey co-ordinator and envelope from Sheri Green in Tampa, FL.
December 18, 2018
Please watch for the name CRC - Mark Jackson
December 18, 2018
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!
December 18, 2018
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.
May 17, 2019
Is there any place we can send these as there is theft in this and is illegal right?
December 24, 2018
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.
November 13, 2020

In reply to by Payback

Seriously is there a way to cash the check elsewhere and just keep the money yourself without involving your bank at all?
December 27, 2018
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.
December 27, 2018
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.
February 29, 2020

In reply to by Deartraci

I just received a txt message from Dustin Taylor informing me that I've been approved to be a mystery shopper for Walmart and I will be receiving a check with instructions on Monday March 2nd but this isn't the first one I received from different scammers. I however did deposit not one but 2 different checks into my bank but thankfully I did not rush out to spend the money but waited another day just to be sure. Well my bank did catch it and not only froze my account but then closed it so I had to completely change banks and was charged processing fees on top of everything else. Something has to done about these scammers, there has to be a way to stop this from keep happening..
December 29, 2018
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.
May 17, 2019
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 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!
December 30, 2018
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!!!
December 31, 2018
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..
December 31, 2018
I got a 3350.00 check today. Thank the Lord I knew something was up and I found this site.
January 01, 2019
$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
Mi Morena
January 02, 2019
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.
Jack T
January 03, 2019
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!
Steven in Missouri
January 05, 2019
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.
Cherry red
January 07, 2019
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
January 09, 2019
What happens if you cash money order at your bank?
January 09, 2019
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
Not This Chickie
January 10, 2019
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.
January 11, 2019
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.
March 08, 2019

In reply to by MJ

We received a check from this phone number as well. From Westminster Development LLC. FRAUD
January 11, 2019
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.
January 11, 2019
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.
October 31, 2019

In reply to by BEWARE

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?
January 11, 2019
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.
Oakland Skeptic
January 13, 2019
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 ""
January 16, 2019
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?
Joey K
January 16, 2019
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.
January 17, 2019
got 1 for 840from cigna h &l ins com to do what everyone is doing. yeah right