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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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May 16, 2019
We just received a check from Store Assignments Inc. for 2477.12 in a certified bank check. It wanted us to purchase 2000 in ebay gift cards and send them a copy of the receipts, front, and back with the codes scratched off. We l googled the name of the bank it was ussued at and called them. The bank teller asked for the information on the face of the check. He confirmed the check was a scam. We researched in the yellow pages who received mail at the address the certified mail was received from. The mailing address of the scammer did not match the name of the owners of the house. Part of the scam was a high payout of 400 for completing task plus a bonus of 200 if one did it immediately. Thanks for this article it saved us thousands.
May 17, 2019
Seems like this kicked backed up. They are using Walgreens as the store, they send a check and ask you to buy "e-bay" cards.
May 17, 2019
I recieved a second check. It's from Secret Shoppers.
May 17, 2019
I just recieved a 2nd check. After I replied scam to the last text and blocked so they arent monitoring .
May 17, 2019
A guy named Harry Crawford sent me emails and texts and a check about $2,900 from Metro Auto Auctions of Dallas. He tried to push me by text to immediately deposit the check at the next ATM. Phone number is 505-847-6829, email is Harry. crawford @ representative .com
Sandy 78
May 17, 2019
Just received a priority mail letter today in mail with a $1860.66 check inside with instructions to go to Walmart by something for under 50 and report back with info of cleanliness and professionalism of cashier. Then said to go to Walmart and do a Walmart 2 Walmart transfer for 730 and then cvs to purchase amazon gift cards one for 500 and another for 200 and i was to keep the remaining balance!
May 17, 2019
Just got scammed through this method. I've always been on the lookout for scams, but what caught me was that I received an email through my college email which made me think it was legitimate. Don't fall for this trap people!
May 19, 2019
I received a text telling me a package was being mailed. In the letter was a $980 check and instructions directing me to go to Apple store and buy gift card for $750 then send them a picture of card and code on card- UNBELIEVABLE!!! I’m reporting this everywhere!! Wow...
May 20, 2019
I feel like an idiot and I should have seen the signs sooner. I fell for this, and my bank said they couldn't do anything about it. I filed a report on FTC, and hopefully something will come from this. I don't know what to do next, but I do hope that I will be able to get some if not all the money back, wish me luck. I hope to everything, that no one falls for this cause it's just terrible.
May 20, 2019
I just received a cashier's check that looks very legitimate. From some secret survey asking to purchase Ebay gift cards. The check is from Farmer's & Merchant Bank in San Clemente, CA. Be careful
May 20, 2019
Received a check today for $3,450.12 with instructions to buy Ebay gift cards. Of course I googled everything and quickly found out that it is a scam. What a terrible thing to do to innocent people.
May 20, 2019
Got one in the mail today for $2,500. The instruction is to deposit the check and go online and buy a Walmart gift card in the amount of $1,990 and to scratch off the number and send a picture of the gift card to them. Scam.
May 20, 2019
I have same happened to me; I got the email via my college email, which almost got me till I invested more and found this posting. I got the USPS envelope, the check, the assignment to by gift cards. A text from a “representative” welcoming and making aware of the package arrival. So upset that people could to this. I’m reporting them here; Craigbit, representative is Travis 917-259-3122.
May 20, 2019
I’m so glad that I found all these comments today. I have the same secret shopper information in my email. Then I received a check for 2,2500.00 to bring to the Apple store and buy gift cards just like everyone else on this blog it was too good to be true. I’m glad I found this blog to confirm and share my story.
May 20, 2019
Almost fell for it! Sent me a check for $2150, instructed to buy gift cards at Walmart, send them photos and the numbers. Went to my bank and explained I wanted the check to be verified prior to deposit just to make sure it was in the up and up. Almost got my feelings hurt when a bank teller in the next window swooped in and confiscated the check. Told me in no uncertain terms it was fake and I would lose that money plus the $1800 in gift cards. She turned it over to their fraud department. Thank goodness for nosy tellers!
May 20, 2019
Today I received the priority mail envelope with the letter inside (photocopied) and a check for $3,450.42 to buy $3,000 worth of gift cards.
May 22, 2019
Thanks FTC, just saved me.
May 22, 2019
I always check and research so that I can make the victims whose business or bank is being used in these scams aware of the fraud being perpetrated against them. I've been instrumental in some of the criminals being caught and prosecuted in Florida. That makes me feel good! If everyone does it, this crime will cease to be appealing.
May 22, 2019
Got a tex message first saying if I was interested in being a secret shopper then a fed ex envelope with 2 800 check Omg I was in disbelieve
May 23, 2019
916-270-8244 Mystery Walmart shopper which I never applied for. SCAM written all over it! What scares me is that it came to my work address and they then text me. How the heck did they get so much information on me??
August 05, 2019

In reply to by Tee

Yep, I got the same one sent to my home address. 916-270-8244
January 27, 2020

In reply to by Eve

I also got two checks from to different places, everything looked good, I wrote my bank a nice letter asking them to check to see if it is fake or real. Over a week and still haven't heard from my bank, I was supposed to go to Best buy and get gift cards and to take pictures front and back, as for how these scammers get or information is simple, yes your using part of it now. Yes the internet. You can find anyone or anything else that you need on it. We have to be careful.
Linda W.
May 23, 2019
I just got a check for 998 from Survey Associates. I was instructed to cash the check and then buy Google play cards with $750 of the cash, not more than $500, preferably smaller amounts, and to use at least 2 different stores. Thinking it's a scam, I started researching on the internet. Company, Survey Associates comes up as a land survey company. When I looked up the name on the return Address, I was directed to a headstone at a Cemetery. I did answer an add a few months ago, and got a couple of texts which I ignored. I was instructed to not share any information with a third party. Thank Goodness I didn't fall for this.
May 23, 2019
Got burned once with the fake cashiers check scam. Then a year later the jerk emails me and asks if I would like to be a secret shopper! So I played his game, said yes. Received the check with instructions to go load gift cards and mail them to him. Instead I contacted the Credit Union the check was drawn against to advise, took the package to the local Sheriff's office and made a report. Then contacted the Post Master to advise they were using Priority Mail to send their scam.
May 23, 2019
Well they got me for $1200 guess I learned one expensive lesson! Look out guys!
May 23, 2019
I just received a check in the mail for over $2,000. Definitely not going to deposit it! Keep getting texts from the company saying they will threaten to call the cops if I DONT deposit the check and do what they say. The lengths these scammers will go
May 23, 2019
I recently received two of these in the mail due to “insufficient address” because this scammer used my name and address as the return address. The USPS tracking number says it started in KY and I am in CA. They must have sent out a bunch with my name and address on them
June 05, 2019
Dummy’s when will they learn.... So the envelope comes post marked from SC . The cashiers ck (Bank) is from OK. The # the dummy wants me to take pix of the $2000 in Apple store gift cards and text them to him is a number in So Cal.. not buying it “ Hayden Conway “
May 30, 2019

In reply to by MTS1960

Now Hayden Conway using a Pittsburgh PA address now... He she or it sent a check to my husband today... I told my husband when we opened it was fake I started goggling right then...
May 26, 2019
A family member fell for it and now the bank wants $2700 from her or they will issue warrant for her arrest. Can they do that?
December 02, 2019

In reply to by Jabez2019

So I was reading all these comments and I actually fell for this like 9 years ago. I had just had my son and I was a legitimate secret shopper for a restaurant company, so I assumed it was legit. I dis everything the way they told me to, and as I was sending the money at the western union counter it hit me like a ton of bricks - what an idiot! I blamed on lack of sleep and having a newborn, but I kept all my receipts and had to unfortunately switch banks, but literally aside from them closing my account and having them write off my negative account, nothing happened. They never threatened to sue me or arrest me. I actually thought I got lucky, but sadly the scammers know that banks are insured for this nonsense, so they know people will even be tempted to do this. Just my story. But I think theyll be ok. Depends on the bank, but mine was Wells Fargo and still nothing.
Be Careful wit…
June 05, 2019
We got a check for $2400 to buy ebay gift cards. Its all fake! Thank God I google this email info@ evaluationresults. and this article came up. We didn't deposited but the above story is exactly how this story came about. The envelope came from Wilgram INC 2208 MISSION ST SAN FRANCISCO CA 94110 Lets think and make sense. Who is going to send out a check for that amount of money under you name with out any expecific contract or employment contract? who is going to give you an assignment with out a number of a supervisor of who to call? The envelope came from San Francisco but the check is from a credit union ( Members Credit Union ) in Winston-Salem, NC ? Who pays you in advance with out doing the work? lets ask all these questions and we can smell the lie.
May 29, 2019
Just today I received a check for over 2900.00. I have said all along this is not legit. Crazy!
May 29, 2019
I received something very similar in the mail. At first it seemed very real so I contacted the person who emailed me because I was still very confused. I haven’t cashed the check or anything. My question is what do I do with the package now? I don’t want anything to do with this!
June 05, 2019
My husband just received a $2935.00 Cashier's check from Morgantown Bank and Trust from some guy name Hayden Conway phone number 501-358-8255 or 501-629-5866.. For a mystery shopper at Walmart to purchase gifts cards and take $435 out... I purchaser 9 gift card scratch them and take pictures and send to the numbers... I knew then it was a cause there it's a Morgantown Bank in Pittsburgh PA....
June 09, 2019

In reply to by KB

We got ours yesterday. Same Hayden Conway, same amount and story. This is ridiculous, why can’t these people be caught and punished.
May 30, 2019
I just received a cashier’s check from Wells Fargo Bank for $2250. The enclosed letter follows the exact scheme layed out in the above article. Wow! People are so slimy! I can see why someone would fall for this. It’s sad.
Almost suckered
June 01, 2019
Today I received 2 checks that stated they were from a company called KSS International. The checks came priority mail (USPS). I had recently applied for a mystery shopping job, and thought this was it. I also received 2 texts. One this past Tuesday (5/28/19) and one today. There were no names mentioned at all stating who was texting me. The messages said to text back when I received the message, and again when I received the packages. I did both. I was super skeptical, so I Googled KSS International. They are a legitimate scheduling company for mystery shoppers, so I headed to the bank. Luckily, I explained what was going on and the bank manager told me they were fake. They we're drawn on a Bank of America account, so she tried to reach out to them, but was unable to get thru. She still insisted that they were fake but offered to open the account and see if they bounced. I'm super poor and can't afford to be in the hole like that if they bounced, so I left. I endedup contacting KSS International and come to find out, they NEVER send checks prior to the job being completed. This was a huge scam. Smfh.
June 01, 2019
I received a cashiers check for 3519.76. I was to deposit check in my bank. Keep 519.00 for my salary. The assignment was Mystery Shoppers for Google play cards. They wanted me to purchase 6 x 500 cards from 6 different stores Walmart, cvs, 7-Eleven, JCPennys, Staples, Office Depot, General Dollar. Scratch off silver label take a picture and send images via email. My husband shredded the cashier check and letter. I wish they would catch these people. So please beware it’s a scam. Don’t do it.
June 01, 2019
I just received this check for $2,350.55 from Roldan Walton. I was emailed a couple days ago that my check was on the way for the secret shop I’m going to do. I’ve done secret shops before but never for this much and then to be told to buy gift cards and scratch the backs off and send the info to them, good thing I googled his name and this was the second link that popped up. I will not be fooled
June 05, 2019
Received a letter and a check with the same kind of scam The check is from PENN EAST Federal Credit Union 1300 Meylert Ave Suite 201 Screanton, PA 18509 Check # 751517 for $2.950.00. We did nothing, just kept the check so we can see where we can send it for a scam.
June 04, 2019
I recently received a message from Jesse Stricker on linkedin about becoming a elevator. I work in the world of market research so I was interested and contacted him back. I never heard from him again but received texts saying my first assignment was coming and I soon received a check in the mail along with a letter. After investigating to find Jesse Stricker does not have a profile and going to their website to only be bounced around from link to link on the home page I quickly knew this was not the real deal. Not only was their "company" in a different state than where the package came from but also was the check. All around a big scam so if you hear of Smartend Mystery Shoppers stay away!
June 05, 2019
Received a priority mail from a Ronald T Gerber , 46030 McBride Ave., Belleville, MI 48111 with a check for $2,800 and a letter from John Simpson at survey jobs 099 @ and tel # 585-318-7464. The letters stated this was for a secret shopper and evaluation survey to be done on Walmart and to buy 6 (six gift cards for $400 each from two different Walmarts and take pictures of the cards and text message to the telephone number listed above. This is a total scam and I hope the FTC will go after this. I gave as much information as possible to the context of this scam and hope that they will be stopped.
Becki Jo
June 05, 2019
I just got my assignment in the mail. They wanted me to go to Walmart and get cards. If they send scams through the mail, isn't it a federal offense? They give contact information, can they track them?
June 05, 2019
I received a check yesterday for 2900 from Matthew Evans for a secret shopping position I did not inquire about. Tennessee
June 05, 2019
I got sucked into the same scam. You can turn in all the checks and USPS envelopes you want. Have you ever heard of anyone getting caught? They'll make millions and be on their way before anything is ever done to stop them. You can't trust anyone.
June 05, 2019
Received a fake check for $2,450.00. The company name is Elitelligence Research Inc. The phone number is 916-270-8244. POC is Santos Mayer. TOTAL SCAM. Thank God I am smart enough to know about these type of scams.
June 19, 2019

In reply to by Rcgt22

I just received a letter/check from this company today. I started doing research & it brought me here. Sad, sad, sad.
June 17, 2019
Okay last week I was online looking for online jobs and I came across an ad for secret shopping. So I filled out an application, and they had their own website everything looked legitimate. So I was awaiting my first assignment, I went and checked the mail, and there was a priority mail envelope that had two pieces of paper and a check for $2,950. So I'm clicking my heels the whole way walking back to my house thinking oh my God this just saved my life, my car broke down yesterday, I'm a single mother, and I'm currently pregnant again. So I really could have used this money. So I video chatted a family member so I could ask their opinion and show them what I had been sent. And of course they tell me that that's a scam that even if the check gets approved and cashed at the bank that was in a week or two the bank will realize it's a fake check and I will get a felony charge and have to pay all that money back. Because I guess it makes me look like I personally knew about the fraudulent check so I'm on the hook for it. so I look up the company which on the papers it says modern century survey Inc and this website with everyone's comments was the very first thing that came up. So after reading all of your comments, I see how fake this is. The only difference of mine from your all's stories is that they want me to keep $350 for myself as my pay, and then they want me to go to two different Walmart stores. At the first one I am supposed to take $1,550 and shop any item of my choice worth $50, and then purchase 5 Walmart gift cards worth $300 a piece. Then they want me to proceed to the second store with the balance of $1,050 is what's left over and they want me to use that to purchase three more Walmart gift cards in the amount of $300 each and a force card for $100 while I'm also able to shop for another item of my choice worth $50. And then of course take pictures of the scratched off cards blah blah blah...... SO LOOK OUT FOR THESE::: Modern Century Survey Inc. ,Renee Riding 586- 213- 3430 email for reporting to them is Sophiayates 2016@ , website is www .cardsurvey .org
Yuvone Hogan
June 06, 2019
I just received a check today for $2100 but wasn't planning on doing anything with it because it sounded like a scam