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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.

Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at

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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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No getting me
January 29, 2020
Received a text as a job offer to become a mystery shopper. Filled the request, name, address... heard nothing, days later received a priority letter, from Triconstar Inc in sherman TX - with a check for $2450, from a company in Houston. With instructions to deposit check, keep $400, by 2 walmart gift cards, take photo send info by phone. I super analyzed it, and considered that nobody is just going to trust you with $2450, no background check, no formal job application. Researched the companies none of them checked out. Thought about going to the bank the check was from, thought best (decided not too, thinking if the scammer is using someone else's bank account, I could end up in trouble). Recap, Business in Houston, letter sent from Sherman TX...someone so kindly trusting me with their $$ to do a job. Too suspicious.. not falling for that. Beware
January 30, 2020 out for the applying for student grants and loans people that ask you info tell you to lie to schools and grant people about being coaxed then I'm guessing apply for loans with your information. I've been called by the social security admin about suspicious behavior with my number. Also fake FBI telling they will come arrest you if you don't pay so much money. They have some really screwed up scams out there. I called the FBI and notified them of that just checking to see of I was really in trouble for something trying to clear my name.
January 30, 2020
I received a ck for $2450.38 only after getting text messages to do a mystery or secret shopper for a company called D&M Research Company which is a real company in New York cause I checked but the Ck had a different business name and the Priority envelope had a completely different address and state than the ck. I called the bank to verify funds while I sent a text asking for an explanation of why they was different which I got No response so I tried to call and of course NO answer. I was not about to deposit anything in my bank account without doing the research and this is the second one I got for this amount but from different places. I was supposed to buy $500 gift cards in quantity of 4 and evaluate the customer service at Walmart but that is not happening. I am so thankful we have the internet so we can actually research this stuff. The guy said his name was Jeff Nelson and phone number is 208-432-4674. I even checked the number out. I will be turning the info over to authorities plus I am going to contact the real company to let them know that someone is doing this under their name. What a joke these people!!!
February 03, 2020
total scam, got asked to do this for 1800 dollars
January 31, 2020
I just received one today. Identical situation as Ebay gift cards...I received a text from Mrs. Debbie Bryant from Whole Foods Market/America's/The Penny Hoarder stating I was getting my first assignment package. And yes, I received a USPS Priority Mail envelope with a "cashier's check" from Western Security Bank for..... as it states...Exactly 2,437.61. I first looked up the Routing # on the check which was not legit. No Payee on the red flag. When I looked up the address of the didn't match and interesting enough a Russian name appeared in the search for the address which went to a different Company. If it's too good to be is a fake. Better chance at winning the lottery.
February 01, 2020
On January 31, 2020, I am holding a $2,550 check I received in the mail from Michael Smith at Balanced Growth Consulting, phone 413.561.0732. The check looks real so I called Chase Bank and read the routing & account numbers. Customer Service said there is no such account!
Dmaryannon't u…
February 02, 2020
I just received a check. With a list of things to do as a Secret Shopper first assignment Wal-Mart 2nd assignment Kroger. Found the job on dream jobs .com I figured it was to good to. Be true but I worked at sheets there are real secret shoppers just not thru these scammers in North Carolina oh the amount of first check $2940.00 I was to keep $500.oo then get Kroger cards. Glad I found this site to prevent any trouble
February 03, 2020
A few weeks ago, I received a text that I was being considered for an at-home job paying $25.00 an hour.  The "HR Hiring Manager" asked me to download the Telegram App in order to conduct an online interview.  I was asked a series of questions that are the usual hiring questions.  I was then informed that I was being offered the position.  They never told me what I was going to do at that time. He said when all equipment was installed, my online supervisor would explain all the details to me. They told me they pay for everything and are going to send me a check to use to pay the vendors.  They also gave me a tracking number so I could track the envelope.  They told me to call them as soon as I got the check.   A few days later, I received a check for $4,780.00 via Federal Express .  They told me to deposit it immediately and let me know when the check cleared.  I thought I was to go to Best Buy or Staples to purchase the mac pro laptop, office supplies and inform my internet company that i needed high speed internet.  They told me they deal with the vendors directly and I was to pay them out of my "start-up money".  I asked them why they sent me money if they paid for everything.  It made no sense to me.  They said,  "Good question, The company doesn't deal with these supplies that's why we have a certified vendors handling that aspect.  The vendor accepts payment from employee's because your names will be printed on the supplies with the company logo."  I even asked them if this was legal.  They said yes, this is how they do this. I put it into my daughter's account, but it did not clear due to some reason.  I told them this and said I had to go to the bank and deposit it into another account.  This is when they started getting anxious and telling me I could do this online and it should clear right away.  I did do it online, but it did not clear because the image was blurry.  I resent it again.  Within an hour I got 5 messages asking if the check cleared, can I send any money to the "Vendors" right now to get the order started.  They asked how much partial payment could I send to the vendors to get the order processed.  I said: Nothing.  I understand that things need to be set into motion, but can't this wait until tomorrow or Tuesday.  I was to be somewhere else, but stayed to take care of this Then, the tone of the messages calmed down and they said: okay, sure.  I was out with my daughter at this time.  She checked the company site, Possible Health, and this time she saw something about scammers using their company, based in Nepal, about jobs.  They said the are not hiring in the USA and report it right away to them.  We were able to stop the check from going through.  Someone was looking out for me that day
February 12, 2020
Just received a cashier's check for $2466.00 requesting that I deposit the check and once cleared, go purchase 8 $200 Ebay gift cards. I was also advised to take $350.00 for myself and 30.00 left another assignment. I knew it was a scam because there was a remaining $486 unaccounted for. The check definitely looks real; however, there's banking info that's missing (I used to work @ a bank and know what should be on there). The letter indicates to email David Gaye @ admin@ once done as well as text 704-624-8027. Who or where should I send the fake check, letter and USPS priority mail envelope to?
FTC Staff
February 12, 2020

In reply to by KeeKee

You can report that to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. You can also check with your local post office to ask if a Postal Inspector will use the documents for investigation.

February 12, 2020
Today in the mail I received a similar scam. Arc Survey Consult is what they stated to be with a very sophisticated check for $1980.00. Nut shell directions, deposit the check, buy 8 ebay gift cards of $200 each at any of these stores: Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, Home Depot, Target and text the front and back of the cards to 704-624-8027. The email them at admin@ consultrss. the assessment results of my shopping experience. I don't know if it is a scam but it is too similar to all these stories shown! Not risking it but would love to figure out if it is, any websites to verify? Do I take this whole package to the police department? How can I report it?
FTC Staff
February 12, 2020

In reply to by Lin_

You can report that to the FTC at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. You can also check at your local post office and ask if a Postal Inspector can use the documents for investigation.

February 04, 2020
Just received two separate letters from two separate states, California and Texas, one with a check and the other with money orders, totalling hundreds of dollars, to go to places like Walmart, CVS and Best Buy to engage in mystery shopping and purchase gift cards. I perceive the putrid smell of a scam! There is one name common to both solicitations and that is DANIEL LAWRENCE!
February 04, 2020
My son got one of these in the mail after responding to a job ad. The package arrived USPS with a check and official looking instructions with EBay, Google, and other logos across the top. The letter instructed him to buy EBay gift cards at two separate stores in our area and then asked that pics of the scratched off cards be emailed or texted. Thankfully, he didn't fall for it.
February 04, 2020
Was contacted by text first about a Whole Foods Secret Shopper opportunity and I played along to see the scam. Pretty well executed over a couple of weeks in late January 2020. They sent a fedex packet to my work address using a USPS clickNship service with a "Whole Foods Survey Instructional Memo" I was impressed at the level of detail taken to resemble something legitimate. I didn't move on it until my "handler" texted me yesterday with an attitude about me not responding and that I would be cut out of the project unless I deposited the check yesterday afternoon. I challenged him to a phone call but he was "busy" so I called them on their scam and have heard nothing further. P
February 04, 2020
I was almost hit too! I’m a single mom and taking care of my mom, thought it would be a fast way to make some easy cash. I first noticed something amiss when I was asked to sign a contract and and the grammar was off. I was also on alert because I recently just had my purse stolen, and I had finally gotten everything straighten out. No one should feel stupid for falling for this, a lot of us have fallen for it. They are getting good! So now I’m wondering do I just report it and not contact them? And just ignore any further contact from them? I’m so glad I found this! BTW, the company said they where KIK. Innovations & knowledge with an Italy address!
February 04, 2020
Maybe one of the other things to do is get this shared out on social media! I shared this article, granted it’s hard to catch them, but if the more people know, the better!
February 04, 2020
I just received a similar scam in the mail yesterday. I’d already completed a mobile deposit of the check for $2450.52 before researching if this was a scam. My “assignment” was to buy $2000 worth of Nike gift cards, & take pics of the numbers after scratching them off. Which sounded completely ridiculous. Luckily I was able to call my bank & notify them I thought this was a fake check & they should pass this along to the fraud dept. I’ve been getting text messages this morning from 585-613-2212 asking when I will be completing my “assignment” & saying I’ll receive a bonus of $250 if completed ASAP. Beware people! If it sounds to good to be true, it’s a scam!
Don't use your…
February 04, 2020
The same thing happened to me
February 04, 2020
A scam! I thought this was legit due to me applying with a company. However, when I deposited the account and emailed the company, they never responded. So I went online to investigate them and they are in fact scammers. I immediately called my bank to inform them of the scam so they can close my account and allow me to open a new account.
February 13, 2020
I recently got something from GoodShopperReport @ Gentleman goes by Barry Parker. I recieved it yesterday but didn't get around to it til today. USPS delivered with a check issued to me for $1950.49. Told me to deposit into my account and then buy 4 gift cards @$200 and 1 for $100. 2 different stores. My commission is $150. I just emailed him saying I don't want to deposit using my bank. Still waiting for response. Halfway tempted to do this and send them unclear photos. Why can't I keep all the GCs?
February 04, 2020
Got a check from Glovis survey services. Says text 775-234-5916. Check from Bank of Labor in Kansas. Contact name David Green. Return address is an office building in Texas. My college kid got the offer through his university email.
February 20, 2020
i got a check for $2925, was told to do 5 pieces of $500 of money orders from the post office. Mail the money orders to an address and then email a picture of my survey to their “info @ feedback” blah blah. and i’d get to keep $300 of it. how do i know if that’s real? it says to do a $10 cashier check for american red cross for my next assignment... i haven’t touched anything because idk if i should believe it.
February 05, 2020
Is there any way to "reverse scam" per se? If i were to cash the check at Walmart without depositing it into my account, could I get in trouble?
FTC Staff
February 12, 2020

In reply to by jp2000

You are responsible for the checks you cash. If you cash the check and it turns out to be fake, you will have to repay all the money you got. 

February 05, 2020
Just received a $3000 check from a company called MarketResearch that instructed me to buy apple gift cards and send them to a number. Was very skeptical and thank god didn't fall for it.
February 26, 2020

In reply to by Frank

I just got this same check to go buy Apple gift cards!!! OMG good thing I checked. My young 18 year old self would have cashed this sucker in a heartbeat but good thing I’m almost and have a somewhat logical thinking brain!
February 13, 2020
My check for $2,550 bounced two days after I deposited it in a new account. Thank goodness I expected it! The scammers reached me through LinkedIn: Michael Romero and Michael Smith, using the name of a legitimate company as cover. The first word in the company name is "Balanced." I won't give the full name here, because the real company is legit. Phone numbers: 413-561-0732 and 779-901-0266 Emails: mics mithuku @ , balancedreport @ Ploy: Purchase gift cards at area stores, scratch off the covering, and photograph the cards. Then send the images to the above telephone numbers. Keep $500 a week.
February 05, 2020
I've been scammed before. Now I have to prove to PNC Bank that I don't owe this money, fortunately I kept all of the FedEx packages and pictures of everything and I'm getting help from the post office investigator. This time, I've never asked or signed up for being a mystery shopper, but I'm holding the check they sent me with the directions. If that helps, I hope. The original and I'm sure falsified check. I'll be taking it to the local post office. PNC has put over $1400 into collections, and expect me to pay it.
February 13, 2020
Here is the website I was sent to apply as a shopper that is obviously going to the scammers. andre anani 9878. / wholefoods
February 05, 2020
I just got a cashier's check from Columbia Bank. For $1,816.27. It's from a Allen Henry . It's telling me to be a secret shopper for Whole Foods Market global consumer Research Services Inc And for me to go buy gift cards from Best Buy or Rite Aid or Walgreens or CVS and to take my $300 out for my services. And if I can get it done in 24 hours I can get more money next time. Good thing. I looked this up, online 1st. It's fake you will in the up paying and owing the money back to the bank.
February 06, 2020
FYI, they are still running this scam. Did the same thing to me. I contacted the BBB to file a complaint. I knew as soon as they sent me a cashiers check for $1816 asking me to buy gift cards from Best Buy, it was a scam. Now they are texting me telling me the police and FBI will be at my house tomorrow. Great, I will put coffee on. This makes me sick.
February 06, 2020
I just received a check for just under 3000.00 and they want me to be a secret shopper. I agreed thinking it was legit but now I see it is a scam to to buy gift cards via eBay but the initial letter and application was for Whole Foods market. I am calling my bank to report this.
February 06, 2020
I just received a text message today stating Good-Day, how are you doing today? I am Andrew the HR manager for the Walmart/Ebay survey job you applied for 2 weeks back. The packet to start your first job task will be delivered in your mailbox via USPS, Complete the job task once it is received.Confirm you have received this text notification. The I got a check and a document with directions that sounded very fishy. It said at the bottom this check needs to be deposited within 2 days and you can’t let the cashier or the bank teller know anything about the evaluation process. Then you have to send all these pictures for confirmation. The check amount was for $1.967.74. Such a scam and it’s said they are doing this to people!
February 06, 2020
I received the same text with the number (305)849-1534 told me to text (702)425-8511 once I cashed the check to go to the Apple store. Thankfully I didn't go. I decided to look them and and found these comments of everyone else!
February 06, 2020
Just teceived a cashier's check from Regions for $1,967.80. I am to email and text to confirm receipt and to deposit check today. I am to buy from walmart, cvs, etc ebay gift cards in any denomination for $1600. ($367.80) is mine. Then submit pics with the scratch off # on the cards. Yeah right!
February 12, 2020
Well I too received text messages and then the photo copy sheet of instructions with a check. Knew it wasn't right, since true evaluations contain a detailed set of instructions and questions to answer. Sent scanners a text stating"BUSTED" should I send to the police or the BBB?
FTC Staff
February 12, 2020

In reply to by Johio

You can help law enforcement by reporting that at The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

Not a dummy
February 07, 2020
I received a check today from TFCU for 2630.00 asking to deposit it then purchase two gift cards from two separate Wal-Mart's and send a picture of the numbers scratched off. I googled the bank, called them and yes it was a scam. People are getting desperate.
February 07, 2020
I was sent a check to be secret shopper and cash check to buy Bitcoin. Be as discreet as possible. Thank goodness the bank put a hold on it and the gentleman I was in contact with wanted me to use my own money until check cleared. I reversed deposit. I asked why we had to spend a large amount to test ATMs that sell Bitcoin. He didn't respond and I have bank all the info. Btw, the check and letter came certified mail so it seemed legit.
February 07, 2020
Just received a check in mail from secret shopper program for $2400. They want me to deposit the check and go to CVS and WalMart . I am to purchase American Express gift cards and text or email pictures of receipts and gift cards. I looked up Forrester Research and saw where they have reported this scam.
Don't use your…
February 07, 2020
Yes! I just got a fake cashiers check from ardent surveys gift card scam..
February 08, 2020
Yep was on a coupon site and there was a sign up for secret shopper, I thought what the heck I'll check it out. I was surprised to receive a "cashier's check" for $2950.52 and a photo copy of "instructions". It all looks very fake, nothing matches, it's a gmail account, and the check is from Alabama, but the envelop from San Francisco. Very shady. It says to buy 5 $500 Nike gift cards, scratch off the back of each, and send pictures of the front & back to the gmail address. I looked this up knowing it was a scam & just wanted to figure out how they do it. This is mail fraud, I will be reporting it.
February 13, 2020
February 13, 2020
I have been mystery shopping for 24 years now. But back in 2011 I too was scammed by someone pulling this very same thing. The only thing was I never read the rest of the email that told me to send them any money. I did spend some of it and ended up owing my bank which thank goodness they took payments. I was a victim too and my bank that I had been banking at for 10 years knew that. Anyway I just got contacted by Thomas Rodriguez from consumer approach assessment llc. And guess what I'm hired. I am just waiting on my check now. I am going to try and see if maybe we can step this up to the next level and get some prosecutions going. Everyone be careful out there.
February 09, 2020
Recieved this scam fromWhole foods of all places. Notified Whole Foods and tore up check.
February 09, 2020
Thanks for the information. I just received a fake check today and they have been texting me before
February 10, 2020
Whole Foods Secret Shopper scam - Mark Henderson . 346-366-4252. Sent me check for $2950.52 asking for $2500 in Nike gift cards. NOPE
February 11, 2020
Same thing I got a check certified in mail from Paul Peterson 602-250-9901 for $2950.52 and was told to buy Nike gift cards and scratch off the codes. Glad I researched. It said I was a Whole Foods secret shopper but he text I can buy the gift cards from anywhere?? Also the letter said don’t tell anyone your a secret shopper.
February 11, 2020
I received a similar letter to shop Best Buy for Best Buy Gift Cards, with a Cashier's Check for $1,870 on Civista Bank. The letter was from P&G Research/Consulting Services and signed by Linda Baker. I was told to send the completed report to 4707660650. There was also a promise of a $150 bonus if I completed the task within 48 hours.