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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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July 20, 2019
Thank you. I just received a check with instructions on a secret shopper task. After reading this, thank you. I’m reporting the check and hope the person who sent me the check gets caught. Which I honestly doubt. Thank you again :)
July 20, 2019
I can confirm that this is a scam. I would take check to bank and they would verify that it was worthless (a fake). Have check or money order verified by bank prior to use. PLEASE BE CAREFUL
July 20, 2019
I got 3 money orders from a company called Chazy surveys services. I looked it up and there was a website. I tried calling to let them know that I was going to report them. they still texted me to see if I had completed the task.same scam purchase 2 Apple Store gift cards for 1200 and 1300. the number included was 802-585-2982. came from someone in El Paso, Texas.346-242-8829. Big Scam.
July 22, 2019
I was just trying to find a job, some way to survive and I found this to good to be true offer for work and it was just a scam. So messed up.! Luckily my ever so smart aunt saved me before I stupidly committed to the evil plan so there’s that. But unfortunately I’m still a hard working man in need of work. And these people prey on that. Beware and be vigilant.
July 22, 2019
I was sent a check for 1960.00 a was told to buy Amazon Gift card and take a picture of the front and back of the card that was a dead give away
July 22, 2019
Just got one in the mail today - any way to report ?
July 22, 2019
I just received a check for $2895 with the instructions to buy gifts cards in W Mart....what I suppose to do?..
August 09, 2019
Gary from Gartner contacted me via text. Next was James More (716)404-5960. email jm777712345@ Mailed me a check for $2450.12 to buy $2,000 worth of EBay gift cards. with $400 for my pay and $50 for gas. Cashier's check looks very legitimate and the bank took it as a good check. Was wise enough not to go any farther as in 7 days it was shown as a bad check.
August 09, 2019
Smoothsurvey . is pulling off the same skulduggery. Sent me a check for $2350.00 with request for immediate text message. I was then supposed to by several gift cards from Walmart and send photos of the card numbers. How do I report this criminal activity?
Debi D
July 23, 2019
I signed up for this so I would receive whatever they were going to send... so I could use it as teaching material at my company. It'll be a super show-and-tell. I've already reported mine on the Internet Fraud website, but haven't had a response from them... I'm now doubting that I'll get a response, so I'm just going to send this weblink to the moron who sent me the envelope... This will at least slow them down a little. Or maybe not... but I'm trying, anyway.
July 23, 2019
I got a check today priority mail $2600, from phone number 717-353-8541 and email from Kate Perry
almost taken
July 24, 2019
got what clearly appeared to be fake cashiers check for over $3,000 and wanted m e to buy walmart gift cards and keep $450.
July 24, 2019
Was approached via linked in. Received this week a check for $3,459.92 and a page w instructions to buy Walmart gift cards and take pictures of front and back of cards but to scratch off the silver area. This is when red flags went up. I also kept receiving texts . Reporting this to fraud
July 25, 2019
I just deposited the check into my account but have not completed the assignment. I am going to the bank to see if I can retract the deposit. Better safe than sorry! Glad I read this.
September 10, 2019
Received a check for $1850.50 ask to deposit check and email bates@ from a Charles Bates field agent inc. this is the second check like this I have received. The other was for advertising on my car can’t remember the company name now. I took the check and turned it in to the bank and they report it for me.
September 25, 2019

In reply to by Greatfull

I got the very same thing today. Looks so real but cant get ahold of anyone there
July 26, 2019
My daughter applied for a mystery shopping job through a college website and they sent her this same letter. I knew right away it was a scam but looked it up so I could prove it to her. It seems like there should be a way for law enforcement to catch these shameful piranhas.
August 09, 2019
I just got a check in the mail for1,850.50 and I have been trying to find out if it is Fack but I started looking for names of the company and got got a bunch of numbers and started to do my own investigation on this matter nobody could give me a answer did any one get one from secret customer with the email to respond back to a bates@ if so please let know I going to hold on to it till I find out if it is in fact fake or real but I put my money on fake
I would love t…
July 27, 2019
I signed up for what I thought was a secret shopper job! Received an envelope priority mail through the post office. It had a check for $1,850.50! I was to deposit it in my checking account and notify them that I had done so!!! Well I can smell a scammer a mile away!! There was no telephone number to call on the letter, just an email address to contact!! That’s another way they scam, by using your email address!! If it’s to good to be true, it probably is!!!! Beware scammers are everywhere!!
July 28, 2019
I receive stuff like this all the time. When I feel like being a little crazy and have some time I respond to the scam with what they want. Only I call or send them a fake response . Example Got a check for $2500 long story short said keep $500 and send us the rest through western union. Sent them a fake western union #. They responded back and said the # I sent did not work. I responded with sorry I was off one #. they responded again. with are you trying to be funny. Knowing I got tot them was such a kick for me and a burn for them. Just sent a fake EBAY card to the scammers this week. wait till they try to use it. HAHA HAHA
August 09, 2019
Today I received an email from a person named "David" (david.accion12@ ) who said I signed up as a mystery shopper. The email asked me to reply that I had received his email. Which I did, as I wasn't sure what it was about, but I knew I didn't sign up for any mystery shopper job. Just like clockwork, today I received a letter and a check from Accion Research for $2,375.00. The letter stated all the same things...deposit the check, keep $350 for myself then go out and buy gift cards from a list of stores on the letter. Once I saw the check, it looked and felt strange. I decided to google the company name and low and behold, I got to this website. I went back to the original email and replied " David, thanks for contacting me about this opportunity. I sent your letter and the check to the FTC. Have a nice day and enjoy your time in prison. I bet they're packing up their storefront and moving on to scamming more people from a new office before the FTC can capture and arrest them
LinkedIn Fraud
July 30, 2019
I just got one of these. It turns out that my friend's LinkedIn profile was hacked as it was this guy's profile that contacted me. I got a text just a couple of days ago asking about whether I had received the packet with the Check. My wife looked the details up online and this is what led us to here. I plan to string these guys along though. I will let you know how I go.
August 09, 2019
Received one from shop live work@
scammedoutta my bank
July 31, 2019
SO blah blah same story but it actually happen to me C3 couldn't help me and CFPB. My bank just ignored me. THE problem is I actually handed a person the check to deposit and no one is accountable but me. This is heinous. I have a full report to the police in the matter. i have all documentation of the events. so you telling me i cant get anything back. REgions bank still calling me on, i owe them money.
God oh 77please
August 01, 2019
What if You are sent a money order and asked to cash it at your bank for a 1000$ and told to buy amzon and orher gift take pictures with the number scrached off and email back please dont say its a scam.because this will make me homeless for sure I am 65 liveing on a 900$ ssi check I can harley pay for meds.
KobikatDon't u…
August 30, 2019

In reply to by God oh 77please

I hate to be the bearer of bad news because I too am living on SSDI and only $800 a mo. So I understand how you feel. However, it is definitely a scam as we all have gotten the same one. They very just slightly, but they're all the same. Do not deposit that check !!! As it will initially clear. Then a week or two later you will find out its fake and you will be on the hook for it with your bank.
August 01, 2019
Wow! Same thing different person/ recived a proirity mail package Survey Associates Recived Cashiers check for $980.00 if i shopped Google Play cards from 3 different stores they would pay me $230.00 or an extra $100.00 if i did it in the first 24 hours of reciving the package? right then i knew it was a scam! No bank is going to clear a cashiers check in 24 hours they will say its good then screw you 2 weeks later telling you its no good? The cashiers check was really good water line and everything! Another thing that thur it off i got a follow text today 3 days after i recived the package from yes another name that claimed to be a Phd of the company in What texting? Red Flags every where! they got in contact with me thru Linkin! Scammers! Don't be fooled!
August 05, 2019
Just received my check for $3,345.00 Immediately went to my computer and found out it is a scam. Glad I looked but I bet there are some people out there unaware and are depositing the check.
September 04, 2019
Got one of these checks too. From a guy 'in retail' on LinkedIn. I wasn't home when the check came so I texted him to say I couldn't follow through, and what to do with the checks when I got back. No reply (shocked) Well, I just got home and I read it and saw the fake email of walmartinc @ usa. that I should "email a clear pic" to. That's how I got here and confirmed my suspicions. My check was from Summit Credit Union, by the way.
August 05, 2019
Same scam as others have posted. I have a supposed phone number. Thank goodness this has been well publicized. there a place I can report this?
August 05, 2019
I just recs package via FEDEX which I will be turning over to the authorities shortly, it did contain both a letter as well as a check funny thing is the routing number on these k didn't match the banks routing number... (Hint) . Always verify the bank routing number, and then look for further proof of the validity of the check.
Big question i…
September 04, 2019
Just got check for 2930.00 for some it is a cashiers check it came priority mail .says to cash check & follow instruction by gift cards @ Walmart & Ebay take 300 for my saary.Email is shoplivework@ ph is 505-916-1299.
July 25, 2020

In reply to by Big question i…

Got a check from tcf bank for 5000 which was on hold because they say it is fraud but they closed my account and then mailed me the 5000 what should I do
March 08, 2021

In reply to by Bond

I just got a check from tcf bank too for 2,750$ But my mom found it outside the mailbox and is like kinda ripped and has holes and stuff in it, so idk if I got a letter with it that says the same thing everyone else’s does.. what do I do?? Did you ever figure it out?? Can I go somewhere and get it fixed to see the whole check or???
August 05, 2019
Just got a cashiers check for $2350 from Genisys credit union out of Michigan. Bank is real, check is a full blown scam. Came with a letter asking me to buy $2000 in Walmart gift cards and to then email a clear photo of the card numbers, as well as their pins to sophiayates16 at gmail. Not today Satan!
August 06, 2019
I received this through someone I know via LinkedIn - you register to be a secret shopper and they send a certified usps envelope to you, with a certified cashiers check. And one page ‘assignment’. They want you to deposit check of $3450 and buy $3000 worth of gift cards, sending them the scratched off gift card. I was apprehensive, and after reading this and another scam reporting site told them I would not be moving forward. They are now texting me and telling me to I HAVE to complete my assignment. Nope. DONT DO IT!
Scammed in San Jose
August 07, 2019
I was contacted in LinkedIn via a legitimate friend. It appeared real at first as my friend is in marketing. I’ve never shop at Walmart so that was a bit of a red flag. Three weeks later I got a text. “Your first assignment had been mailed”. Number is from an area code 530 in California but doesn’t mean anything. Then the Official US envelope came with a check for $3,400 and instructions to deposit the check and go to Walmart and purchase 200 gift cards from Walmart. Wait? I thought this was a secret shopper opportunity. If so, I would go to the store and observe people or product not buy gift cards. Then the instructions ask to scratch off the backs of the gift cards....hmmm also suspicious. Meanwhile, if I was studied enough to follow these instructions the check would bounce and I would have to pay for the stolen gift cards that are already registered. Brilliant scam for those who fall for it. I’ve continued to be harassed but blocked all 5 phone numbers.
IvianDon't use…
August 07, 2019
They send my a check for 2,440 dollar for go to my bank and deposit i need to out 2,100 in cash and go to two walmart and spend four gift card to 300 dollar each and them go to the other walmart and spend 300 for three and send him the photo for the gift card ...omg thanks God i think maybe is fake because no body sent you that much money for gift card..
August 07, 2019
Received an e-mail through my “school” with a part time job being a secret shopper. Figured I would bite and it would go nowhere. I came home to a priority mail envelope with a check for nearly $3000 and a letter with instructions to cash it and purchase eBay gift cards. I checked my email and there was a random email address, matching the email on the letter, stating the envelope was delivered and to email back saying I received it. The grammar was poor and the company on the letter versus the company on the website I applied to isn’t the same... glad I’m not dumb enough to cash this check, but sucks that they are praying on broke college students.
August 31, 2019

In reply to by Random413

The same type of job offer came from my schools job placement center via email.
August 07, 2019
My story is just like everyone elses, all I can say is dont text them because they want your cell number to be able to go onto FB, make a fake profile and start messaging you. You will get a bogus message from a friends whos now got a second fb page stating they just won money from the mystery shopping for Walmart and they say your name on the winners list and you need to contact Agent Becky Porter to seeif your on the winners list 425-610-7419. I still have them messageing me back and forth thinking I believe them and Im working with the local police as they say they want to come to my house to pay me. This is what I do for fun is to bust these scumbags. This ones a tough one. I still have all the paperwork they overnighted to me with the bogus check for 2, 950. YOU KNOW THE SAYING, "If it sounds to good to be true.........."
me me me
August 08, 2019
i got a registered USPS with a very legitimate-looking letter with great formatting, grammar and punctuation. The instructions were complex, but written very well and understandable. The check was 2,800 and i am supposed to keep $350. glad i internetted this!
August 08, 2019
I received the letter today with check I figured it was a scam. That check looks pretty real. Can't believe everything they go through to get a buck. I wish they could catch all of them specially the ones that call all the time.
August 08, 2019
I received a check for $2800 and told to go buy (5) $500 gift cards at Best Buy and send text messages with pictures of the cards as "proof" that I went there. I was instructed to keep the rest of the money. These people are idiots! I was texted by someone calling themselves Paula Pereira from 423-225-2298. I threw the check in my shredder and told these idiots to not contact me again! What a joke!
August 09, 2019
my son receives an equal check with work for best buy, I think it was very far deposit and now his bank account is being closed, tell me what I do? where I denounce
August 09, 2019
Hello. Just received a "cashier check" on the amount of $2,835.00, payable to my name, along with instructions on how to accomplish the task requested. Instead of depositing the check into my account, went to my bank trying to cash it without avail. The check is a fraudulent one!
September 10, 2019
Just got a letter on the mail with check to deposit in my bank account for 4,900.00. Phone number to text is Gary Howells @ (304) 207-0156 an email of feedback @
Didn't get rip…
September 10, 2019
Just got a check for $2930 with instructions to buy Ebay and Wal-Mart cards, scratch off the seal and take pictures to send to email: shoplivework@ 505 916-1299. So then they use the cards while you are stuck with the overdraft on your account. *** Putting their info out there so no one gets duped by them. I accidentally sent info because i got a false email from a friend. Glad i didn't totally fall for this.
August 10, 2019
They are now posting ads through seeking shoppers. Everything done through email. Sent me a cashiers check for $3500, told to deposit check and send them a copy of deposit slip. I was to deduct my $400 salary then they would tell me what to do. Check was sent via express mail from California, drawn off a Oklahoma Bank, on a Credit One account. Scammers name was Chris Hutchinson and Barnard Mcintosh. Their English is terrible, they are very pushy and try to intimidate you. I threatened to turn over to USPS fraud department and authorities. Have not heard back from them since.
Consumer Insig…
August 12, 2019
Just received a check for $2,350 and it had the typical instructions and $300 was to be my compensation. I was excited then sceptic and I started searching online. Typed in the name of the supervisor ‘John Swickerath’ and this site popped up. Read the stories and decided to call the credit union that ‘issued’ the check and they said that there was no account under the name on the check or account number. The check itself had $0 balance on it so it wasn’t good. This a a smart scam but thank God I’m smarter.