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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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February 11, 2020
I played into their hands. I thought I was so smart. Now I am out 2200.00. So embarrassed. Don’t want anyone to know. How am I going to pay bank.?
Shirley Nofool
February 11, 2020
I just received a letter on United states postal service heading letter, shirley thinks it's a color photo copy, with a "certified cashiers check" for $4,920.99 and shirley that commission of $900 for doing a secret shoppers job looks tantalizing, but shirley is no fool and neither should you be. Never put checks into your bank account from without knowing who they come from because you are giving access to your bank account money from scammers.
February 12, 2020
I received a message from a friend thru LinkedIn saying she referred me to this part-time side hustle that she does a few minutes per week. Even responded to one of my questions and said she had been doing it for 6 months. So I put in my address. The next morning she messaged me that her account was hacked. I got a message this morning with my first assignment that I will get a check for $1,890 and to buy 3 gift cards at $500 each. Glad I found this info
February 13, 2020
Here’s a scam text I just got tonight: Whole Foods Market is starting an exceptionally huge research project in your general vicinity. This project happens each week, so we need to choose Shoppers to work as a store evaluator. You will get $400 on each endeavor. Every task requires 20-30 minutes of time at the store in addition to time to review your post-visit reports. CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO PROCESS YOUR APPLICATION: :// bit. ly/ 2S1 yi6V Scott Potter -(Manager) Whole Foods Survey.
February 13, 2020
Here's the text correspondence I received yesterday: Hello xxxx, This is David Mark from Walmart survey program. This is to inform your check will be delivered to your mailbox today. Kindly check your mailbox and get back to us when you receive it. Your instruction form will be sent to your Email soon. Kindly acknowledge you receive this message. Thank you! I really don't know how they got my information such as home address and e-mail but good thing I cam across this site. They're asking me to cash my check at the ATM which is $2,400 and purchase $2,000 worth of eBay gift cards at any store selling ebay gift cards, keeping the $400 for myself. Too good to be true! One red flag is the e-mail address correspondence is coming from which is a Gmail account. Second, why are they asking to scratch off the back of the gift cards and send them a photo of it. Third, it's a Walmart survey program and yet they're asking me to buy the gift card at ANY store selling ebay gift cards - weird! This is a scam from the start. I took a screenshot of this site and sent it to "David Mark" via text and he stopped harassing me if I have completed the assignment yet. I read somewhere that the check would clear the day after and it would show up on your bank account. After a couple of days, the bank would figure out it's a fake check and the bank would take back the amount from your account. And since you already purchased the gift cards and gave them the number, they have already used it for purchase immediately after sending it to them and you lost whatever is the gift card amount you purchased, in this case I would have lost $2,000. Beware of scammers! There's a lot out there!
Don't use your…
February 13, 2020
They are still at it; I got the link from a contact on LinkedIn and then the email about the check. Keep 361.00 spend 50.00 at the Gap and then 2K on 10 Wal-Mart gift cards. From someone named Lisa with an Glad I looked up this scam! Going to the FBI with everything when it arrives. I should scratch a bunch of Wal Mart gift cards for 1.00 and send it to them but I don’t want to waste 10.00. Serves them right
L Hill
February 14, 2020
I received a $2,495.00 check in the mail from Geico General Insurance Co signed by a "Neal M Craig. In the middle of the check its states it's from Bank of America. The attached congratulations letter is from aD&M Research group that cant be found when you google it lastly its signed by a Richard with no last name. I just got a text asking if I received the check and have I cashed it yet. I'm tearing this check up.... too good to be true
February 20, 2020
I am a lawyer and I use to get these deal with Support cases. Collect $100,000 and keep $20 k for me and send the rest to the client. I never did and in fact called the local TV news and they already did a story on it. But the funds are no good. So I knew ASAP that this was a scam too.
February 20, 2020
A new scam that is out as of today 2-16-20 called ADRENT SERVICE INC FEEDBACK SURVEY watch out for frank graham hypnotise 5555 @ He speaks with a heavy accent.
February 18, 2020
I knew the moment that I received the mystery shopper offer that it was a scam. I am a private Investigator with 30 years of exposing scams like this one. What is more interesting is that, even after I confronted them to let them know I was on to the scam, they still tried to get me to do the "Apple Store" mystery shopper assignment. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it's probably not true!
February 18, 2020
so what happens if you just cash the check instead of depositing it?
March 09, 2020

In reply to by curious

Once a check cashing business runs the check through their systems, there is no way they are going to cash it.
March 10, 2020

In reply to by curious

In a few weeks, the bank will take back the money they credited to your account.
February 18, 2020
Beware guys! Signed up for the Whole Foods secret survey. Got a package in the mail from Scott Potter with a cashiers check for $950. Got a text from 701-890-6943 to let him know I received the package and when I could carry out the assignment. I used the mobile app to deposit the check and then got to thinking. Why would they want me to buy a $500 dollar eBay gift card for Whole Foods and then scratch off the front and back to send pictures of the gift card. Then there was an incentive to complete the task in 12 hours. What bank clears a check that fast? I then started putting two and two together and realized that this was a SCAM. I quickly called my bank letting them know that the check I just deposited was a bad one and they told me to not touch the money when it clears because the can’t cancel a check I deposited myself, and that when the check is returned they will take the money back. I hope this helps someone. These people need to be stopped.
February 18, 2020
Just got this in the mail priority shipped. 2 Money orders were inside for $975 a piece. The letter enclosed says to buy 4 gift cards from Best Buy for $400 each. I hope no one is naive enough to fall for this.
February 19, 2020
Same story as everyone here, but I knew it seemed to good to be true. The one difference with mine, they're not asking for the scratched gift cards, or pictures of them, they're claiming they want me to use the purchased gift cards to but $2,600 in merchandise at the Apple store, once that's complete, I'm to meet a "verified agent" at the same Apple store who will retrieve merchandise. Should I go to police? They should have an undercover meet the so called verified agent
February 19, 2020
I just got a check today !!! A FAKE ONE Rip it up is what i did
February 19, 2020
Same old trick, I got a USPS Priority Mail in my mail box with a computer printed instructions and a “Sun Trust” check of the amount of 2630.00 asking me to go to 2 different walmarts I almost fall into that
February 19, 2020
I got contacted by a James also. Deposited a $3800 check. He wanted me to go to Apple or Best Buy and purchase gift cards.Keeping $400 for myself for pay. The whole time something was bugging me and before I bought anything I called my bank. Ask them to verify the check with the bank it was drawn on. It was FAKE. The bank can verify any check and make sure it’s covered in less than 30 min. Take the extra few minutes and have all checks verified first. I was saved by my common sense.
Dana J
February 20, 2020
I was sent either an email or text message having me apply online for secret shopper. I did it just for the kicks of it. I didn’t start receiving text messages saying you should receive your package in the mail today sure enough the day I received a package. But I knew it was a scam. I nearly took the check and the available paperwork I had into my local bank and filed a complaint with them which they submitted to the fraud department.
February 20, 2020
Got a check for 4600 yesterday to be a secret shopper for Walmart. Obviously a scam. Letter was so badly worded. My concern was I just moved to this address a week ago. Havent done a change of address, notified my bank, credit cards, or family. Haven’t given my address to anyone. How did they know I lived here? The UPS envelope had my name and was delivered to my new address. Be careful
February 21, 2020
Have anyone heard of a scam involving a company called kik innovation and knowledge from Italy
March 06, 2020

In reply to by MMS

Yes, same company. Although check was issued as travelers property and casualty. I’m glad I checked here to see it’s a scam
Big money !!!!!
February 21, 2020
I just received today Friday, February 21, 2020 2 separate envelopes both with a check in each one for $2550. My first assignment as a secret shopper was to purchase eBay gift cards or Walmart gift cards I to almost bought into this. The gentleman‘s name is William Morris his phone number is 419-205-7918 or 515-992-6359 these checks were cut from regions Bank for a company name contractors title company Inc. out of Nashville Tennessee. Which is kind of strange because see I live in Florida so it really didn’t make a whole Lotta sense to me. So I read both,and like everyone else man I was real happy I was ready to buy me some rims for my truck.! It really seems like in this day and time someone should be able to track these bad guys down, and prosecute them for what they’re doing to seemingly good people. It’s just really sad.
FTC Staff
February 25, 2020

In reply to by Big money !!!!!

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

February 22, 2020
I too signed up as a Secret Shopper, was to purchase gift cards from various stores and report on my experience. Received via USPS Priority Mail a check for 2950.52 remitted by Chad Hunkapiller, accompanying letter signed by Mark Henderson, couldn't read the signature of the check signer. I got suspicious when I read the letter: had poor grammar, missing pronouns, verbs, etc. (this is almost ALWAYS a clue that an email, letter, ad, is a scam- never open links if it is email from an unknown person!), so I googled the email address, and the two names I could identify and lo and behold, this website came up. Thank goodness for agencies and websites like the FTC, they have saved me numerous times from making serious mistakes. I have even googled and caught bogus phone numbers from voice messages and texts threatening me with financial, legal, and other serious consequences. And thanks to all the people who have written to sites like these with their experiences so others don't make the same mistakes.
February 25, 2020
Just received this via text message: Wholefoods is beginning an exceptionally huge research project in your area. This project happens each week, so we have to select Shoppers to function as a store evaluator. You will get $400 on every task. Every task requires 20-30 minutes of time at the store in addition to time to review your post-visit reports. CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO PROCESS YOUR APPLICATION: /zfrmz . / Lelxr8DH GWt 4dkjn NqL
February 24, 2020
I received a Michigan State University Federal Credit Union check for $1920.69 with a letter attached stating Ebay/Wal-mart Survey Program Instruction Letter and that I am to confirm receipt of the check today, deposit check today and purchase a $1600 ebay gift card at Walmart, peel back the silver scratch off area on the card take photo of front and back and send to them. I checked the bank routing number online and it matched so I signed the back and was going to deposit the check electronically but my bank stated my account was not eligible for mobile deposit. I asked my daughter to take a look at the check and letter she noticed the letter stated the check was for $1950.80 while the check amount was $1950.69 and they have had conversations at her workplace about secret shopper scams and fake job scams and she googled "Michigan State University Ebay Walmart Survey " and up popped this webpage. I am so thankful to my daughter for finding this site and I am fortunate the Universe stopped me from cashing the check and led me to this website.
February 25, 2020
I received a check today for 2,630$ from InterLink, a research facility. I needed to make some extra money but I was certain that this was a scam. It all sounded real until the part where you’re asked to purchase gift cards and immediately scratch the numbers and send them to the company. They also reiterated that you must make sure that the cards are loaded properly and activated. That gave it all away. Scammers are everywhere! You can’t trust anyone anymore!
February 25, 2020
I have a check and instructions from Walmanr & Whole Foods Survey; Mr. Raymond Morgan. This "company" sent me $2,950 via IS Postal Priority Mail to get Nike gift cards from listed retailers and then send them a report to repirtsurveyinfo@ . I was instructed to keep $450 and use the remainder of the money for the gift cards. Something about this just felt WRONG! I'm glad I listened to my gut and googled it!
February 25, 2020
I got the similar check and dumb enough to go through with the proses software doing the task. Only doing so because at my wife’s store they get secret shoppers all the time so I thought I’d be doing the same. The check I got was for $1,920.69 and instructed to buy eBay gift cards. Fast forward I went to my bank the very next day to tell them what happened don’t matter I owe that money back to them. I’m looking for some help on this Anyone!!
February 26, 2020
I recently received a Nationwide Shoppers package with a check of $2,850 but I never applied for the position and I knew that was a flag #1 then the number did not link to a actually company in the letter I googled priot to actually sending the text requested. But wanted to see how far they would go they were very persistent on my depositing the check and doing all this mind you it was a Saturday after bank hours . I need to know who do I report this to and give the documents to? Anyone
FTC Staff
February 27, 2020

In reply to by Enicupw

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.

If you got the letter through the regular mail, you could take it to your local post office and turn it in for a postal inspector.

February 26, 2020
I recieved a $35000 check back in 2012 when this scam first came out in cali and the person asked me to deposit the check into my back account then withdrawl it the next day which would had made it a 24 hour window but i did not do that, what i actually did was i went to the nearest check cashing place and try to cash it and they called the police on me because they thought I printed up the check myself. I tried to explain to them that i recieved it through the mail, showed them the postal envolope that it came in and everything with my name on it. when i seen the judge they dismissed it because they were seeing alot of the same thing in my county with different people that were saying the same thing. What happen is when you try to contact the person that sends you the check the email that they correspond with you is no longer available but i still had all the emails from them on my phone so that really helped my story. After all that i no longer answer to secret shoppers advertisements or anything on the internet for that matter only if i know and or research the company.
Jerry C
February 28, 2020
Received 2 USPS Priority Mail envelopes today 2/26/20 from ALS Logistic Ser 75 Natoma St San Francisco, CA 94103-2747 1 addressed to me and 1 to my wife. Authentic looking check from Michigan State University Federal Credit Union for 1920.48 in each envelope. Instruction letter tells us to CASH check immediately, today. Then says to purchase 1600.00 in Ebay gift cards from any one of these local stores (CVS, Target, Best Buy, etc.) We are to immediately scratch off the silver backing exposing the hidden verification code. Take pictures front and back then email them to: taskresult report @ and text to 909-681-0307 along with "report" on store where purchased, clerk name, etc. They stress that you cannot tell cashier at bank or anyone else that you are doing an evaluation and the task must be completed in 2 days. I'm tempted to tell them I cashed the check, going to Vegas.
February 26, 2020
I received an e-mail from Dr John Taylor at Invictus Reasearch about becoming a secret shopper. I never replied back. I got another e-mail advising that I would receive a package with all of the information in the mail. I never responded back. I just received an envelope today with a check for $2330.25 and instructions on what to do. Deposit check, buy 4 gift cards, keep $300 salary, etc... Funny, the check says Ziglin Signs, Inc in Washington, MO, not Invictus Research. No address on the envelope either. Post Mark is from Ft Wayne, IN. The only way to contact anyone is by text to 828/565-1793... anyone else a little skeptical? I’m so not depositing this check!!!
February 27, 2020
I just received this email at 2:44 A.M. Earn $500/week working P/T as a store evaluator. This position does not affect your current job. Visit evaluatene. com / to apply. Website says you will get a cashier's check and never have to use your own money... HAHA! If it is too good to be true, it is!
February 27, 2020
I received a text that talked about surveying the new Whole Foods, which was appropriate because one just opened in the neighborhood! I wasn’t sure how my number was obtained. They asked me to participate for compensation so I figured a $100 bucks or something so I gave mu address (ugh) I received the $2950 check to ourchase GC from ebay? Super strange paired with the large check I knew it was bogus. Happy to hear it’s already reported!!
February 28, 2020
I first got a text if I wanted to do a Walmart secret shopper assignment and I would earn 350.00. I filled out the form. It did not ask for any bank numbers On form to become a secret shopper. Fast forward 4or5 days. Received priority mail with a check for 1950.55. I was to keep350.55 and buy Walmart cards with the rest. Scratch the back off, take photos of them. Send to Jae R. Walton. The spelling on the instructions was my only give away of scam. I then googled Walmart scam on my phone.
March 02, 2020
I got the letter and check today! It really sucks its a scam cause im bout to lose my home to foreclosure, and im stuck on bedrest thx to my multiple sclerosis with chest port, fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and now endometriosis. Nothing good ever happens to me and i have helped 97 families get clothes by tracking down clothes donations, and 3 shelters. I really want to make it nonprofit organization, but cant find sponsors. Uggg
February 29, 2020
I rec'd money orders today just like the rest of you and I will not be depositing them in my acct. I knew it had to be fraudulent, so glad I came to this page.
March 06, 2020
I just received one of these.... should I turn in to police?
February 29, 2020
Greco’s still scammin’! Just got a letter and “check” for $2495. Keep on spreading the word about this, YALL! Help others stay out of this nonsense!!
March 02, 2020
I just received a check from Acute Consumer Metrics INC. the Coordinator name is Antonio Walden, the check account is under Carmel Glass and Mirror, Inc. this guy ask me to spend the money (1,850$) to buy a 1,500$ gift card at apple store or 3 x 500$ gift cards at walmart. This is the second time that somebody try to scam me. Be careful guys this people doesn't have scruples.
March 02, 2020
I just got my first set of bogus checks and survey documents, for WALMART. Becareful!!! These scams are everywhere!!
March 02, 2020
Deposited the check and was going to wait to see if it cleared. Thanks for the heads up about the bank later taking the $ back. I did not do any of the assignments thank goodness. The weird thing was the postage was $7.45 and was delivered USPS Priority. They gambled $7.45 that I would fall for it. They lost.
Little Man
March 06, 2020
I recently received a $2200 check and was explicity instructed to cash it and keep $350 of it and keep the rest and purchase Walmart and Ebay gift cards. Fortunately I do not have a bank account and went to a very reputable check cashing location and they immediately told me it was a phony check. The 3 day USPS envelope came from N.J. and the contact had an Alabama phone number. I conveyed to him I was having trouble casing the cashiers chk. A couple of hours later he texted me for an update. I told him the update was he was a big old scammer and that I had already turned him in and that was the last I heard from that country. So beware. Make sure the chk. Is good. I need to notify Capital One bank too .. that's the bank the chk. Was written on.
March 06, 2020
This is what the text says: Dear Shopper,The installment for your shopping assessment task will be conveyed to you today or tomorrow by the USPS. Benevolently ensure you adhere to the guidelines on the update letter with the parcel. Please acknowledge reply "Yes,I am ready for the assignment" to confirm receipt of this message.Regards, Management!!!!! The punctuation is very odd and seems suspicious overall
March 03, 2020
I got 2 seperate checks at different times come to me express overnight mail totaling about 5,000 to have different companies put their logo on my car and advertise for them. Part that got me was I was to go to have the whatever put on my car and then pay them out of the money I'd been sent, why didn't they pay them themselves ? Fishy. Actually got texts from one place threatening me and we went at it then they finally stopped. Now,tonite I have a job offer from Secret Shoppers offering me a few thousand to do a survey on Western Union ,etc.etc. Where can I send this latest to that are trying to stop this ? I really hate not being able to trust or believe in ANYTHING anymore ...
March 03, 2020
I recieved fake cashier's check to survey 2 walmart store in the mail yesterday. I have been doing mystery shops for long time and I know very well when mystery shoppers receive assignments. Please be aware of text msgs on your phone about mystery shops or surveys because no mystery shops companies contact you via text msgs. This SCAM package I received with $1993.00 FAKE cashier's check and I was told to go to Walmart and buy 4 gift cards and some products. Since I know about this industry I sense SCAM right away. Then I called bank to confirm the cashier's check and bank told me they are already doing an investigation on these checks. This SCAM package came from Houston, TX and phone number I received text msg is from New York. I just want to share so people will be alert for these kind of SCAM.