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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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March 03, 2020
Thanks guys for advising, it was so good to be true and i was actually going to do the job, now i feel better i didn't do anything stupid.
Concerned Citizen
March 04, 2020
I received a text from 701-890-6943 about a secret shopper program at Wholefoods. Also received a $2,900 official looking check and letter in the mail. Glad I found this FTC website to confirm it's a scam.
March 04, 2020
TODAY MARCH 5 .....I just recieved $ 4700.00 from Walmart Evaluation Survey Group ..same story ..deposit , text photo of deposit slip and text to them ......keep $600.00 for me ..$ 500.00 for survey I'm supposed to be doing and $ 100.00 for travel expenses ...and go to Walmart and buy $ 4000.00 in gift cards ..When I'm done with receiving the gift cards and doing the survey "AS PER THEIR INSTRUCTIONS " I'm am to text Ronaldo Franco the batch supervisor ( LOL LOL ) I'm given two phone numbers were to contact Mr . Franco ( LOL ) for further instructions ... By the way I tried calling both numbers and the respond is : The mailbox for these numbers has not been set up ...... PLEASE ALL PEOPLE OUT THERE >>>> DON'T FALL FOR THIS ... IT"S ONE BIG SCAM !!!!!
Dad Knows Best
April 22, 2020

In reply to by PRIEST

I received one of these scam packages today with a very legitimate looking check, assignment sheet, text messages and all. Sooooo, I talked to my dad, a postmaster, and he says, REPORT THIS TO THE POSTAL INSPECTOR via as this is a Federal crime committed through US Mail.
May 06, 2020

In reply to by Dad Knows Best

Thanks for the advice! I did just that. Gotta keep people aware of these people trying these tricks.
March 05, 2020
I just received via Fed Ex. a check for $1960 to use as a secret shopper to buy E-bay gift cards and "rate" the service during the purchase. They wanted me to send the info off each card (spending up to $1500) and keep $400 for my service. Honestly, its really important to suspect its fraud. The packaging and check look legitimate...but who in their right mind would send someone a cashier's check for almost $2000 with no company letter head or name on the instructions??
3E3 Enterprise
March 05, 2020
If you recieve a check best thing to do is call the bank it is issued from. Give them the account and check number they will let you know if it's real or not. Wish I could add pics. I myself just recieved one and a letter on what to do. First mistake was using my middle name. I had an account frozen once for depositing a scam check. I learned lucky they caught it quick and I was never scammed. But now I got another. Social media here we go. Going to be posting then turning over to the local law enforcement. Be careful scammers are everywhere.
March 05, 2020
Recd $2950 check in mail today but I knew it was a here I am following up on it.
March 06, 2020
I just got a check in the mail with instructions as indicated above. Where do we report this stuff? Is there somewhere we can turn this paperwork in to help catch the one who sent it? I hope something is being done. Not everyone knows to check up on things like this, such as the elderly.
Munchsin, Turb…
March 06, 2020
I have been sent numerous cashier checks The latest is Turbo Tax and turbo tax will pay you $400. A week for putting a decal on your car and driving around. First thing I did when receiving the cashiers check was call the bank it was drawn on. All they asked when I called, who is the remitter, I told them and immediately the woman told me the check was a fraud. I already assumed it was. Note:. Whenever anyone wants you to get gift cards, scratch off back and send to them a picture, know right away it is a scam. No legitmate company would ask you to scratch off numbers on gift card and send them a picture. People are out there to scam poor souls out of their money any way they can. I have 3 checks sitting here and none of the companies I contacted about these scams wanted the phone numbers, emails, or even the texted numbers that I was to send the pictures to. It is a waste of time. I even contacted Turbo tax and they turned me over to their fraud Dept or security division. Nobody can do anything about these people who want to scam others. The best thing to do is get it all over the social media and stop these crooks. There is always going to be someone out there changing their name and company name and using other companies name to swindle poor souls out of money. Remember if is too good to be true it is not true at all. Nobody is going to give you something for nothing. Think about all the people who would cash the check and never would send them the info. Please do not be so naive, do not fall into the hands of swindlers. Send them the message. " I am no fool and I will report this scam to the FTC. Do not darken my phone or email and stop texting me asking me if I perform you tasked, the tasked I performed was contacting the bank where you claim these checks are from, the company you say you represent and the FTC. You are a fraud and you must STOP trying to take advantage of those in need." Copy this message and put it where ever others will see it, in emails to family and friends, in blogs on social media, everywhere so no one will get taken by these swindlers. God Bless all and Good Luck spreading the word.
March 06, 2020
I just received a priority mail which included a check for $1850.00 for a secret shopping survey..then the fools are requesting to buy gift cards, scratch off and send pictures of the cards plus the codes..the numbers listed are always busy..Am sure it's a scam and these fools should be ashamed
March 07, 2020
On 11/07/2019 Mario Gross sent me a cashier's check for $2,250. I knew it was a scam. It costs Nothing to be nice. Yet the world is full of people scamming the dollar
NowayJose from Fl
March 07, 2020
I received the letter and the check today from Laguna Beach, California. They sent it via USPS Priority Mail. The check is frim Wells Fargo in Augusta, Ga. I suspect almost immediately that this is a scam. You know....too good to true.
March 08, 2020
I just got a fed ex check from these fraud's yesterday, but after reading the instructions, I knew right away it was a scam. I’m going to report them to the FTC , meanwhile I will tell them I deposit the check, just waiting for it to clear in hopes they can track down their location.
March 09, 2020
I received a check for 1950.70. I thought it was a scam, so I called the bank that the cashiers check was drawn from. They confirmed the check was fake.
March 09, 2020
I received a Whole Foods customer service evaluation tool (CSET) “job offer” with a check for 2950.52. The instructions were to test Nike gift card. 1st red flag was the photo copy of the job offer being mailed and 2nd tell was to buy 4 $500 dollars cards scratch off area on the card and capture with your phone camera and send to info@ sevalution. ... this check looks pretty legit and is to a legit bank South Metro federal Credit Union, 2573 credit union drive, prior lake , MN please be careful with these scammers, if something looks too good to be true and no has called you and interviewed for a job position chances you are getting scammed DONT FALL FOR IT.
March 09, 2020
Just got my FAKE CHECK today. There is no free lunches... DON'T DO IT
March 09, 2020
I received a check for $1950.00 from FUSION RESEARCHERS INC. it is a scam saying “Mystery Shopper Task Instructions” then lists a bunch of things you are to do after you deposit the check into your bank account... lol yea right I’m not falling for that... please beware.
March 10, 2020
Tampa Bay. Received $1000 USPS money order. Contacted them to verify (though I KNOW it’s a gift card scam) 1-866-459-7822. Yep, “info doesn’t match our records” Geez if these people used their skills for good, they would really be successful and accepted.
March 16, 2020
I just got my check in the mail for $2950.52, I'm so glad I thought about checking it pout before I ran off to the bank. So many of these scams out there and they are getting more and more clever with us. How can we fight back? Any suggestions would be great. I'm going to toy with them and send them several text messages and let them know that I can't find Nike Gift Cards in the amount of $500.00, and see what they text back. I'll tell them my bank is running a check on the check itself and I will get back to them as to when me or the police will contact them next...Hahaha... Wish me luck
March 11, 2020
Today I received a cashier’s check for $2,950.52 along with a sheet with instructions on a Secret Survey Assignment. So as I continue to open the letter I remembered I seeing a secret shopper application for Whole Foods store. I remember I filled my info because it all seemed like an application and now months later I get this check in the mail. I was so sure it was real until I Googled the name Mark Henderson as signed in the letter and it turns out this is all a scam. The letter even indicates me to buy a bunch of Nike gift cards and to send them be codes within 24 hours to get a bonus of $250.
March 24, 2020
Feedback Survey Inc published secret shopper job opportunity via my school website, I applied for the job position like anyone would do. Within a week, I received a check in my mailbox in an amount of $1,870.00 together with clear instructions of what to do with the money. The check was cleared two days after it was deposited, but I was a little bit skeptical, so I did not withdraw from the money. The next day a hold was placed on my account and my debit card deactivated. But I can still check my account online, and my account is right now reading -$ 2,010.30. My question now is, can someone please tell me what can of problem am in with the bank so I can know what to expect. Another one is, what is the negative $ 2,010.13 reading of my account means? Thanks
Glad I googled…
March 11, 2020
Received email today informing of me of my 1st secret shopper evaluation. As informed by email, received an envelop containing my secret shopper instructions. Enclosed was a cashier's check for $2865.00 drawn on ALLNATIONS BANK. The bank is located 114 E Main St, Calumet, OK 73014 and 2023 S Gordon Cooper Dr, Shawnee, OK, 74801. I was instructed to take the check to bank and cash it. If bank, would not cash check, I should deposit the check. The check will clear in 1 day. Once check clears, I should take $300.00 for myself. Withdraw $2,565.00 and go to Walmart to purchase six (6) $420.00 gift cards. I get to keep the remaining $20.00 for gas money. I should not let on at the store, I will be evaluating the store's services. After purchasing the gift cards, I should send pictures of the Walmart gift cards showing the CODES AND PINS along with my survey evaluation.
March 12, 2020
I'm glad I checked here before depositing my $2950.52 check and buying $2500 worth of Nike gift cards. This scam is still going strong. I hope I can find a federal agency that can track down these crooks
March 16, 2020
About a month ago I received a text for a job offer as a mystery shopper. Thinking they had gotten my info through ZipRecruiter and trusting it was legit I followed the link, gave some personal general info. I heard nothing until today when I got an email from a supposed Christopher M Burkett (hr @ brandsresearch. ) as well as a USPS packet in the mail that included instructions to do some personal shopping, load an AMEX gift card, and a check of over $2300. I was so close to falling for it but it seemed too good to be true!
August 09, 2020

In reply to by RickCheet0

I got the same exact one from Chester Hamilton from It is instructing me to deposit the check for $2390.73, get a cashier's check for $30 and issue to the Red Cross, keep $265 for my services and a list of instructions to to shop for groceries and American Express gift cards at 2 different store. At the end I will have $26.93 left over for my next assignment. Glad I'm doing some research first because it was a job offer I completed and application for. It seemed legit. Wondering who to contact to report it.
March 13, 2020
I received a priority mail from nationwide about a secret shopper job. They gave me a check for 2850 dollars I’d then have to it deposit into my bank account. I’d have to go to Apple and buy two gifts cards for 1250 each. My husband thank god told me to research and I already had a bad feeling in my stomach so I did and I’m glad I did. I tried to call James back to get him to tell me more so I can report it but no answer. I tore the check and blocked his number. I’m so glad I didn’t deposit because if I did I’d be in big trouble. Got an email from a student from my college and it’s a Shame people would pay on students looking for extra cash. Makes me sick.
March 13, 2020
I received three jobs this week from a company called Marketforce, one called Martsurveys, and one called View Point Enterprise. All wanted me to buy EBAY gift cards and scratch off back and send them a copy of cards and numbers. How do you know if these people are legitimate or not? Two of them have a website that looks very professional. I hate to do it for risk of being out the money. I hate not to do it because what if they are legitimate? They’ll never give me another job. There has to be a company that has a list of legitimate companies out there. Please if you can help me I’d appreciate it so much!!!!!! Denise
FTC Staff
March 16, 2020

In reply to by Adgirl62

Read the story at the top of this page. Did the people who offered you those "jobs" tell you to follow the script we described? 

You're responsible for the checks you deposit. If you deposit a bad check and withdraw money, but that check later bounces, you have to repay the bank the full amount you withdrew. 

March 24, 2020
I received a FedEx with check from JP Morgan Chase for $4,770. Instructions were inside asking to email someone named Thomas Free at 872-242-9755 to confirm receipt of FedEx. Next I'm supposed to deposit the check and take out $2000 and send two money orders ($1000 each) from Walmart using MoneyGram and send it to: Phillips Tao on Forrest Lane in Dallas, TX. It also said if I do this within 24 hours of receipt of FedEx, I'll get a $1000 Walmart gift card. Once I've done this, I'm supposed to email thimpson @ online- markey force. I'm not going to fall for this. Unbelievable that people are committing these scams with totally innocent people. I'm not about to be out $2000! I hope if someone else reads this, they do NOT deposit the check and don't do anything!
March 13, 2020
I got sent a check for $2450.35 from new horizons dental care, PA. The check was a Bennington state bank check with no address. The new address is the first clue. The note that was in the envelope look like it was typewriter written and had several grandma cool errors. You could tell it wasn’t by anyone intelligent. They told me to text them my name the amount and the check number and instructions and follow. Mr. Dennis Kelly, or is it Daniel? The website said Daniel, but the note said Dennis. LOL, They couldn’t even get the name right! THIS HAD SCAM WRITTEN ALL OVER IT. I called the Bennington state bank to verify it was a scam and I didn’t even get the story out and she told me it was a scam. So now I texted Mr. Kelly to see what my next instructions are just curious. I also made out a detailed complaint on the FTC website. Be smart people, do your homework!
April 04, 2020

In reply to by To SMART for YOU!

I got sent the SAME THING. From a Dennis Kelly guy. But mine was from Madrona Park Escrow And the bank is East West Bank in CA. I just got it today and decided to research and this is the website I found. I just had a feeling it was a scam. Even if I had considered cashing the check my husband told me to call the bank just to be sure. Lol
March 13, 2020
This is a scam. My brother just received 3 check of 1000 each and they want him to buy apple gift card of 2400 and send to them. This is a high level fraud. The check will lo later bounce and he will lose the money.
March 17, 2020
March 17, 2020 I got a check in the mail for 2,890.00 The check was from "North Shore Bank. It was a cashier check. I knew it was a scam because i worked in retail all my life as supervisors and i know this should not be the way its done.
March 17, 2020
I received the same scam check and letter by Priority Mail today. Be aware of theses scams
March 17, 2020
They r useing( 765)205-1272. I got the same paper too
March 24, 2020
I’ve just deposited a check today for 1650.32 and I’m supposed to but gift cards and send pictures to this happy I search for scam information Wow
March 18, 2020
I recently recieved a check of 2600 and a paper with instructions. I havent cashed the check, but I did text the number on there and the guy keeps texting everyday around 6 am asking if I deposited the check. I told him banks were closed just to see what he would say. He said he didnt understand. After reading everyone's story I'm glad I didn't continue to go to the bank.
Peggy Jean
March 19, 2020
I received several emails in the past week regarding Walmart Secret shopper survey I completed. However, I never completed this survey. Yesterday I received an envelope (USPS 2 day Express) which contained a 2600 $ check and instructions. Did online research and confirmed this is definitely a scam. Researched the sender address and found it is a residential address (picture and details of the home). Researched the company name on the sender address and turns out does not exist except for 1 bad review on the BBB website. Why would a company named Bluegrass Movers send me a check and instructions? My instinct told me not fall for it. A very wise person told me a long time ago "if it's too good to he true, then its not". I am going to take picture of my info (check, instructions and the envelope) and send to FTC fraud division.
March 19, 2020
Just received a priority letter from Bizsol Inc 210 Hyde St SF,CA. Upon researching there’s no company of that name or address listed. Furthermore, the name listed on the letter is Mark Henderson asking me to cash a $2,950.52 Cashiers Check, keep $450, and purchase $2,500 worth of Nike gift cards as a Secret Shopper Evaluator. Then to text the card number, on back, to 346-366-4252. Then to email front/back image of the cards along with a lot of your personal information. I found this extremely odd so I started to research and it is a SCAM. Please be careful and report if you are contacted to participate.
March 19, 2020
My 66yr old mother received a letter with a large check asking to deposit it and then purchase 4 $500 walmart gift cards and send photos of the numbers and pins to a number. Thank GOD, she didn't know how to attach the photos in her texts and we caught it.
March 20, 2020
I have received a check one time telling me to open up an account and send them the account information but the bank knew that it wasn't right and they sent it back to where it said it came from I was scammed before with the gift cards for $1,000 but that taught me
March 21, 2020
Received a check via USPS, looked like the real deal, went online to check their info and couldn't find much about anything, yes I found Landmark Logistics but not the one I wanted. Naturally did all this after I'd cashed the check, but I was running late on other things I was to do that day so I didn't buy the eBay cards they had asked for but was on my way to go do so when a friend and I started talking and that's when I decided to talk to someone I consider smarter than me, well now I'm gonna wait for my bank to contact me because I feel that I was scammed, unfortunately I've spent a couple hundred out of the 19 hundred dollars the check was for, well long story short I should've done with this check the same thing did with the first one, and threw it away......
June 02, 2020

In reply to by Debann

Just received package with check from 1st Bank Lakewood CO. for 2390.73. Letter had a logo of American Express which looked like it had been copied. Going to bank today anyway and will have them check it out. Thank you for the heads up. At eighty I don't need this.
March 22, 2020
I've just read all these responses. Same thing happened to me. I'm an unemployed Senior. I was scammed out of $1500 for the Mystery Shopper and purchasing 3 gift cards. So how do I go about reporting this fraud?
March 23, 2020
Got a cashier's check for $2451.61 via USPS Priority mail services telling me to buy 2,100 of gift cards. I did not cash the check. It does not seem right.
March 24, 2020
I just received a check.for 2.600and told me to put it in my bank and then get it out and get my 500. Out and send them 2 500. Gift card from walmart and go to another walmark and do it again I knew it was a scam when they ask me to send them money
Almost got me!
March 24, 2020
I received a cashier's check by priority mail and was told to deposit the check and then call them when I deposited it so they can make the funds available (red flag) so what I decided to do was call the actual bank - Alliance Bank Central Texas that the check was written on and I told the person I was trying to see if the check was legit, she asked me who was the Remitter and when I said the name she said is was fake..I was scammed about 10 yrs ago and it totally messed up by bank account and I should have sued the bank because I called them 3 times to make sure the check was legit and I was told to wait 5 days which I did but when it came back 3 weeks later and I brought it to the bank then I was told you have to wait at least 10 days. So be very careful!
Don't use your…
March 24, 2020
Sent me a fraudulent check and caused them to close my account
rikat jonas
March 25, 2020
Is wal card auditoria a fraud?