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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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November Baby
September 06, 2019
I believe the red flags for most scams include: 1) unrequested checks, 2) an assignment or request to use your bank account, 3) anything to do with transferring money. I used to work for a mystery shopping company and all of my assignments were just that....SHOPPING. I was required to observe key details about service and signage and purchase something in the store or restaurant. My reimbursement was never more than $10.00 - $20.00. If you are lured into a job with the promise of high pay AND they want you to cash a check that you never knew was coming AND your assignments deal with money is a scam. And, if you are dealing with a company that has no address, no way of contacting someone and they want your bank account is a scam. All of my payments were mailed checks. Never did I give my company my routing number and bank account.
September 06, 2019
I received a letter in the mail with a check telling me to go to Walmart and deposit in my bank account . I then checked the fraudulent scams and realized this was a scam. Thankyou.
September 20, 2019
Today, 9/6/19, I received the shopping scam check in the amt of $2495.23, along with instructions in the mail. The info came nicely packaged in a letter size Priority Mail envelope. The letter came from, Camyo Cowger, 1327 Howard St., Delta, CO, 81416. I was designated as "Agent Number: #9610." This is a scam that advises you to deposit a large check into your bank account, go shopping, take notes, then forward the gift cards, but not before sending a picture text of the Account #'s and PIN codes, to the key player Tony Edison. Aside from the endorphin high from receiving an unexpected check in the mail, you must realize that you are most likely being scammed and to never deposit such a check into your own bank account, because when the fraud is discovered you will be out the thousands of dollars. I'm just going to mention names, email addresses, and phone numbers associated with this scam: SunTrust Bank, Tarsheka Shannon, 612.444.7813, tedison @ sogo surveycrest . , Tony Edison, 612.405.8860. I am going to report this to the proper agency. I hope those who have received this in the mail do an internet search to realize what is going on before depositing the check. Also, if you are seeking employment, you may get a job offer for a secret shopper - do not respond.
Melody C
November 15, 2019

In reply to by DON'T BE SCAMMED...

Did you cash the check ? Did it go through.. I received the Same thing today
September 20, 2019
I received a email from a Grace Avery email address is jumera@ comed yhype. Good day, We are happy to announce that your secret shopper application for your area have been accepted/approved. Your first evaluation package will arrive in your postal mailbox sometime next week, which includes instructional memo & your first evaluation check plus your commission. Do reply this email now for receipt confirmation Yours Truly Grace Avery Evaluation Supervisor Next thing I get a text message from 833-904-1358 and it said: Secret Shopper, To receive extra $200 bonus for completing task in 48hrs.Evaluation packet have been delivered to your postal box.Email or text 6469741499 let us know when task will be completed: Evaluation Team Then I received a USPS Priority MAIL from a John Heintzelman 2750 S Durango Dr #2043 Las Vegas, NV 89117 With a check from Utah Community Credit Union in the sun of 2490.83. The assignment is supposed to be for the United States Postal Service (it also has the letterhead for United States Postal Service. The memo is very lengthy basically stating 1. Report to the supervisor I received the package with the cashiers check inside safe and secure. 2. Deposit the cashiers check into my account. It said do not cash at check cashing and that the cashiers check is traced. Text Grace Avery after I made the deposit for funds availability time. 3. Goes on to say funds will become available in a few hours or next business day. Then it states to withdraw cash take CASH ONLY to the nearest USPS. I was instructed to purchase 2 USPS blank money orders of $1000. Then to deduct my commission of $400 and extra $50 for cost of gas/transportation. Purchase a $40.83 cashiers check at my bank payable to the (match) which would be donated to charity organization supported by USPS: Take clear photo of purchased check front & back and send as text internal verification. This import detail mailing address would be sent after task completion. Then the give the evaluations: How long it took you to get serviced Ambiance/Outlook of the shop/outlet Customer service professionalism Reactions when under pressure Your comments and impression Then it goes to remind me how to do it again 2 $1000 money orders. Also states if I finish within 48 hours I will receive a $200 Walmart Gift-Voucher that will be posted to my address alongside a first Survey Completion Certificate. Don’t believe the hype!!!!
September 07, 2019
Just received one in the mail thanks
September 08, 2019
I just got a text message from one of these I'm pretty sure and the website is
September 09, 2019
Just got my "payment" in the mail. Copied the check, "void" all over it. Told me to get gift cards, take pics, buy something and send pics, etc Put the check in a baggie and taking it to my bank so they can investigate it. I'm not falling for that crap. Lol. Sounds too good to be true?? You bet it is.
September 09, 2019
I just received a $2450.00 check to purchase 20 - $100.00 gift cards or 40 gift cards for $50.00. The worse part is they are going to pay me an hundred dollars for doing this within 24 hours. This is a Walgreens shopper scam. Please, be on the lookout.
September 09, 2019
My son got hoodwinked by this. Thankfully the check was never deposited and nothing came of it. #717-438-4536. Check from “Capitol Federal” Topeka, KS.
September 10, 2019
Same thing happened to me. Question is, would it help the FTC or FBI if we sent them what we received in the mail, to help track down the bad guys?
September 11, 2019
Glad I googled! Dear Sharyn ****, We will like to inform you that envelope containing your first shopper task and instructions that will guide you through in completing the task will be delivered to your mail box/house today via USPS regular mail. You will be evaluating any APPLE STORE in your Area. The technology market is affected by rapid innovation, regulatory intervention, and overwhelming choice. Therefore differentiation and loyalty are major challenges for brands. We help hardware and software manufacturers by providing a clear understanding of consumer and business, needs, behaviors, and perceptions, enabling them to develop and deliver the most relevant positioning, communications, customer management initiatives, products, and services. Please confirm the receipt of the task envelope by sending a text to (510) 972-3217 Thank You Senior Qualitative Director NICHOLAS MCELROY, Ph.D USA Field Office, © 2019 Macromill Group LLC
Almost scammed
September 11, 2019
I recieved my first check yesterday I felt like I was laundering drug money or something didnt feel right at all when I got the cashier check. It was from Fort bragg credit union ft bragg North Carolina I called they confirmed it was a fake check they asked me to report to my local police department. It was almost 3k I was to go to a apple store and buy 2 $1300 cards so they have been emailing me and texting me from a California number. So tomorrow going to police new it was to good to be true
September 12, 2019
Heres what I've been sent... 1st rcvd a text stating I won the job of secret surveyor... sent a check via UPS but in a USPS folder. The check was from a David W Cooper Inc in Ok. City, signed by a different person (signature not legible) a letter (pkg sent from New Jersey!!) of instructions to buy Game Stop gift cards of $500 ea, keep $400 as my wages, plus a bonus if I do this within 48 hrs (thus the encouragement to do it before the bank catches the fake check) & use my own monies. The letter is signed by an even different person (Alan Price). No phone numbers work btw. The check is from Simmons Bank, but the pkg was sent from Beware folks!!!
Pens Fan
September 12, 2019
I just received a cashiers check from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. The sender was ARBNET CORP INC. 1589 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94115-1546. I was asked to purchase EBay gift cards and keep the money leftover for my survey work. I auto deposited the check in my account. Will there be any repercussions from my bank when the check is found to be a fake which I am sure that it will in a couple of weeks?
September 12, 2019
Ha! The "payment" went up to $450 and if I complete the assignment within 24 hours - I will get a bonus of $150...or so they state. The assignment - purchase eBay gift cards worth $2,000 from 2-3 stores and send the survey (and of course pictures of front and scratched back of cards) to confirm the completion. Free cheese is available only in mousetrap as we say in Russia. Same structure: the name on the envelop is different vs. the name on Cashier Check vs. the name on the text message (Matt Davies at (503) 406-8516). I have a shredder and can put it to good use. Cheers and stay safe!
September 13, 2019
I wish I would have thought to come here.....I didn’t really think there was a issue, as I researched the name of the company on the cashiers check, and it was a legitimate company in good standing, and the guy responded to me stating my report was great and was sending me another assignment. I received it the following day with two more this time, my bank had sent the check back advising the account could not be located. Now I’m out $1850.50 and overdrawn. What is frustrating, is if this was an issue with several people, for a year at least, my bank should have been notified with armed flag that the check I was attempting to deposit was fraudulent. That would have saved me from now being $1850 in the hole with absolutely no way to recover financially
September 13, 2019
I also received a cashier’s check for $2750 that is clearly printed on an ink jet printer. This is from Consumer Market Survey, Inc in Texas from a fraud named Kevin Reed HR Manager using #763-301-8566. They asked me to deposit it and make EBay gift card purchases totaling $2450 and keep $300 as payment. They also ask me to send pictures of the scratched gift cards. How horrible that they prey on hardworking people! Definitely beware and stay far away!
September 20, 2019
I just received an email from an email address at my college. It looked legit because it says it is from Job Services. The website looks legit as well but it goes through the same process as a lot of you mention. You fill out an application, they send you a package with checks and your assignments. I checked it out because it went into my spam folder and the person's name was not familiar. Glad I read these comments! Hello, This Job is currently recruiting. A Job that will not affect your present employment or studies, fun and rewarding. You get to make up to $300 weekly, I tried it and i made cool cash. If you are interested you can visit their website at worthing survey services to apply and read more about the job.
September 14, 2019
Found the scam through LinkedIn site. They sent a check from Michigan State University with RE Brad Williams, however, the text messages were from a number in Jacksonville, FL. The check was for $2,450 and asked that I purchase eBay cards worth $2,000, send photo of the cards front and back after I scratched off the silver space. I could keep the $450 and if I did this all within 24 hours, I would receive an additional $150 bonus. The letter was from HR Survey Shoper but the email was from Retail Customer Affinity. I tore up the check and letter.
September 14, 2019
I just received a check from City National Bank for 2350.00, all telling me to do the same things people below are saying. My question is, how do they make money in this scam, I don’t understand?
March 20, 2020

In reply to by Pjennings128

P jenning128, what they do, they profit off of our ignorance. First they tell you to do this within a limited time. We know in some cases it takes 5 to 7 days for a check to clear especially if its a big amount. In some cases they get you to purchase gift cards, take a picture front and back or whatever they tell you to do, they copy the information use it on line to buy what they want after you have deposited the money in your account. You are basically paying for it. Or they get access to your baking account and fraud you. They can't be traced and the number they use to contact you is not legit. You are also giving them free gift cards with you own money, or money you will be in debt with your bank. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM! I IGNORED IT AFTER I SAW WHAT THEY REQUIRED OF ME. they say its a secret so you wont reveal what they are up too.
September 16, 2019
Got an instruction packet in the mail today with a $2350 cashiers check inside. Wanting me to do a survey at 2 Walmart’s of buying 10 gift cards totaling the amount of check. I’m crazy but I’m not a fool. Nice try folks.
September 16, 2019
I received a check today from a bank account at arkansas federal credit union. It was in the amount of 2490. It had instructions, but there was none to send any money back to them. The job was to be a secret shopper for walmart. I called arkansas credit union, and verified it is indeed a scam. Luckily I did not deposit the check.
Don't use your…
September 17, 2019
I answered a part time admin assistant job that was listed on Craigslist. First response seemed professional after that misspelling and seemed like different people different story each time. Need you to do shopping and mail where told. Will send a check. It came UPS today. Tracker says it came from Sacramento Ca Written on return was Bellagio Las Vegas Blvd. I took it to the postal annex. I also called FTC to report. Never even opened it Return address
September 17, 2019
It just happened to me! I deposited the check but started feeling funny about it. Wal-Mart verified it was a scam and so did the bank. Fortunately I didn't use any money from the fake check
September 18, 2019
I just received a priority letter from Forrester Research Secret Shopper program. A check for $2400.; re:Norman J. Steiner, the bank listed on the check is 1at Financial Federal Credit Union in Wentzville,MO. They wanted me to get 3 gift cards from 2 different Wal-Mart's. But I have to screen shot the cards and redemption numbers. I was supposed to get $450, plus $50 for transportation. I'm so glad that I looked it up before going to the bank. Thanks for writing all the comments, or I might have been screwed out of $2400, and I'm on disability. I'm also reporting it to the BBB.
September 18, 2019
I got a check for 184O Was told I get $300 I did say package came but now I’m nervous so I want to take check and survey form to bank to show them What happens if I don’t deposit it? I don’t want to be connected to them
September 18, 2019
I'm so glad I did some research! This morning I was about to deposit the check, but something told me inside, to good to be true! So I decided to look up and see if i found something on oit. Ends up I find all these comments!! I recieved a cashiers check for $2444.08 , that will cover to buy 4 cards of $500.00 and the $444.08 would be my pay. Just now they're texting me to check I started my assignment!
September 19, 2019
Received check for 2450.00. Contacted bank - thecheck will not pay out. Remitter Betty J Pierson. Michael Plant
September 21, 2019
It's still ongoing. This week one of my LinkedIn in contacts sent me a link for mystery shopper opportunity. Turns out to be a scam as all of you described. I reported it the actual company and confirmed ignore it. Then the scammer texts me, why I haven't completed my task and that the FBI will investigate. I told them they are scammers and please have the FBI investigate. No texts after that.
UnEmployed & F…
September 23, 2019
I received a check September 23, 2019, I brought it to my bank and with a simple question they informed me the Check is incomplete! The routing number is correct but the account is bogus. I think this organization is using these poor at home workers stuffing envelopes.
September 27, 2019
I recently received a usps money order for $1, 000 I called the post office 800 # to verify if it was a legit money order it said it was but that actually money order had been cashed in April it's now almost the end of September obviously it's a fake I didn't even bother to take it to bank.
September 27, 2019
A company on Indeed did the same thing to me and listed it as “remote part time product tester” The company did exactly what this says above. If anyone is looking here is contact info they used : “TASK SCHEDULER & CHIEF CLIENT STRATEGIST BALANCED GROWTH CONSULTING® INNOVATION. OPERATIONS. TRANSFORMATION. 410-756-0735 Email: reg 879ineb @
September 24, 2019
I just received a check, but I have cashed it. What should I do?
September 25, 2019

In reply to by lynn

Do not buy anything and contact your bank. Tell them it is a fraudulent check so they don't charge you. I am amazed that they have been using the same phone number for this long and google has not stopped it.
GHS 72
September 24, 2019
Has anyone reported this scheme, and work with authorities to set up a sting?
September 27, 2019
Received a letter postmarked 9/17/19 from Phoenix Arizona with a return address label "Campus Consulting 196 W Simpson St Tucson, AZ 85701" The cashiers check is $1570 dated 9/13/19 remitter Danielle Jones and 'signed' by Kayla Barres and Cheryl Welk. Bank OZK Same scam, deposit check, keep $300 for payment, "purchase eight (6)$200 ebay gift cards, send pictures of peeled gift cards and receipts to (657) 234-2304
September 27, 2019
My daughter was scammed last week for $2,000. They sent an email from the job placement center at her school for a secret shopper, have an official looking website pagna surveyservices. sent her a $2,450 check and had her purchase gift cards and text pictures to them. Another student was scammed out of $3,500. We've filed police reports and the bank. Our bank says she might get some reprieve since they hacked her school system to access the students.
September 25, 2019
I received a $2450 check today asking me to send $2000 of eBay gift cards and that $450 of it would be my pay for doing this
September 25, 2019
I received a priority mail package in the mail, and inside of it was a check for $1500, and directions on who to email once I deposited it, so that I could receive my secret shopper assignment. Definitely putting this in the first thought was if I deposit it, they would be able to get my bank account information... also very suspicious, I never applied to be a mystery shopper.
September 27, 2019
Yeah I just received one of those secret shopper fake checks today for $2400. I was told to go to Walmart and purchase gift cards totaling $1,900, take pictures of the receipt, the cards back and front, scratch off the redemption code and text or email to them. These people should find another career other than trying to rip off hard working, honest people. Use that energy for something good, not evil. God don't like ugly and they will get theirs in the end.
September 27, 2019
I just had this happen to me. I was sent a money order and was told to deposit. The next day the funds were available. Bought best buy gift cards as a " secret shopper " Money order was a fake, but didn't find this out until bank called, and I was sent 2 more. Was US postal money order so I thought nothing of it. My mistake!!!! Now trying to see how to get money back to fix account.
September 30, 2019
Yes they sent me a check for $1,500. I didn't do anything with the check, I just received it Friday. I knew it was a scam behind it with that large amount of money. Glad I got a smart head on my shoulder. I'm a college student and I knew it was a scam first time I opened the priority envelope up. Please stop preying on these college students and younger kids. Its sad. People try anything to get a dollar out on someone.
September 30, 2019
Glad that I Googled it! Just received a $2450 check from ARBNET Corp inc. They ask me to buy gift cards from different shops in the letter. And, what's interesting, the signature at the and of the letter by Mike Donald, Brandt Group Inc. So be aware, that it is not Brandt Group anyway! The scheme is the same. I don't know if I should go to the police department...
October 01, 2019
Thank you for posting all of this info. I was about to be taken. I was contacted by Kevin L Reed from Customer Survey. I checked on LinkedIn and looked for a website but nothing. Also I noticed they message they sent came from consumer surveyinc .staffing@ a gmail not a business email. So will take the check to the police or give to my bank.
September 30, 2019
Received a check from Michael plant wanting me to buy gift cards from Walmart in the amount of 2500.00 they sent a 2850.00 check . Yes it’s a scam be aware
October 01, 2019
Just received a check and a text a day later with the tracing number via USPS. This group is very talented with superb follow-up! I was approached via Linked In and when I discussed this with my friend at Church he confirmed it was a scam with several others texting him as well. The scammers will actually answer your questions on linked in as they are able to hack the account and answer questions via linked in in mail. Be sure to speak directly with these folks that are hacked or ignore completely! I must admit, they are quite impressive with their scam! I wish they would use these superb talents in a much more constructive and less costly manner!