Skip to main content

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

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

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.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Rae Ann
July 22, 2020
I just got a Cashers Check I'm taking it to the police today what a scam it was also for Secret shopper at Wal-Mart a guy Jonh called me this morning asking me if I got it and cashed it yet I told him no but I called Captial One Bank yesterday and the told me they couldn't find the check number anywhere and to have the person that sent the check to me to get ahold of them and to have them issue me another Cashers Check so that's what I told John he told me not to just deposit the Check. For $1,370.00 in my bank and call him back I told him am I going to get charged for this is it real he's said Look at deposit it then call him right away and he would tell me what to do next Hell No I'm going to the police
July 22, 2020
I just got one of these today. I cannot believe they are actually sending this crud out and paying for priority postage. It all looks real, but once they mentioned buying gift cards and sending them pictures of the codes it was easy to tell it was a complete scam.
July 24, 2020
i was just scammed i was sent a 4770.00check i deposited in my account and had send them the money as money orders and canceled the checks please someone help me i just lost $4000 dollars from my account
July 25, 2020
I received a check of 2600 in the mail And was told it was for a secret mystery shopper to deposit the check and to go to the nearest Walmart for 2 money orders of $1000 each
July 25, 2020
I received a check in the mail of $2452.61. It says I need to go to Walmart, Walgreens, Target, ect. and buy $50, $100, $200 or $500 gift cards. Then send a pic of all the numbers. I would get compensated $352.61. At the bottom of the letter it says, "You are not to make either the cashier at the bank or anyone aware that you are carrying out an evaluation. Make sure you execute this assignment in a timely manner, no later than 2 days after you receive the Check and Instruction Letter." PLUS they keep texting me to do this assignment! I'm glad I know this is a scam. Poor people who fall for this...
Don't Adriamissu42
July 25, 2020
I'm getting very upset with these scammer I have been receiving checks for a while from them and I deposited it cleared and I assumed it was good to with draw part of it and now I am in dept and I will turn everything into the authority Ii still don't know how the bank could clear. It if it was not good. I waited to see if it was good before I withdraw it
Don't use your…
July 25, 2020
well the scam is going around again. I came home tonight looking at my mail and wa-la I had a check for $2950.00 and a check for $1950.00. Instructions to deposit the check from m&t bank, and it all came priority 3 day mail from USPS So beware they are at it again
Elizabeth use…
July 26, 2020
I received A check For almost 5000.00 with instructions to deposit it in my account and keep 600. 00 for myself and then instructions on what to do with the rest. How do I find out if it fake or not . I know I have reported on how I have problems with workers not being where they are needed and when trying to get or find a worker to help with things like dog food or other supplies that are high up and no one to help I had to help my self and had to climb up to get what I needed. And I have knee problems back and nick problems and hurt like hell after doing so then the cashier wanted to give me lip I had nothing nice to say to them I just said that I was going to report that Wal-Mart in Andalusia Alabama. And I did and last week is when I got the check. They wanted me to shop ask questions to try and up set them and see what’s said and report it ad then take to the cashier as checking out and so forth and report I could sue Wal-Mart because I did hurt myself by having to get what I needed and no workers were around and when I asked someone for help I was told this is not my area and they went on their way. I waited for 30 minutes trying to get help and nothing so I had to get it myself
July 27, 2020
I received a check today for $2575.00 and knew right away it was a scam. I feel bad for people that believe it the check came from elder service of the Merrimack valley inc Lawrence ma Don’t fall for it
July 28, 2020
so i just recieved a check as well with an instruction letter that looked as though a it was made on an outdated word document saying to deposit sum of 2950.62 into my bank keep 400 and then purchase 5 gift cards and then scratch the back pin and send picture proof and if done in timely manner id get a 200 bonus next time i knew it was a scam because they wanted me to purchase gift cards and send them the info to use them red flag here ive done secrect shopping this is not how it works so i didnt cash the check im taking it to the police department but iam gonna have fun and scam the scammers i have some old gift cards from my birthday so im gonna send them those let see how they like it !!!
Crystal Freeman
July 28, 2020
I was just sent a check for 2600 in mail and told to shop Walmart and buy 1000$ worth of gift cards and another 1000 at another Walmart. I feel it's fake and though almost 500$ of that money it would be nice but I think it's a scam
July 29, 2020
Got all of this but mine asked to pull $50 for red cross,my bank said it was a scam,but it didn't want me to send it to them?scam???
July 29, 2020
The one I received was on Hawaii community federal credit union. Fake fake fake. To the garbage it goes. Real bank. It still a scam.
July 30, 2020
This company is on the BBB . I feel so dumb. I deposited the check and thought I’ll wait to it clears. It was bothering me though. Went to use my bank card and it was blocked. I called the bank and a very rude person said you deposited a counterfeit check we are no longer going to do business with you. I am so embarrassed and to have to open new accounts such a hassle. Don’t be tricked by these people it could mess everything up for you as it has for me.
July 30, 2020
I'm ever so greatful for this site!!! My husband received a cashiers check in the amount of $1,995.00 issued from Hawaii Community FCU a few days ago along with a mystery shopper instructional letter advising him to text to 317-449-9672 once info. been received. They wanted him to purchase 4 gift cards at Wal-Mart @ $405.00 each along with other purchases. I actually called the bank in Hawaii and talked with a representative which stated the cashiers check is a scam and they were aware of the situation. I'm glad we did the research before moving forward.
July 31, 2020
I received a check of $3345 from Waterford Bank, with the instruction to buy 3 money orders of $1000 each and mailed it to the address Mr Peter Seibert my supervisor will provide,once I text him that i deposited the check. I did not deposit the check. Thanks for the feedback
August 04, 2020
I, too, signed up to be a secret shopper. About a week ago, I started receiving text messages saying I should expect the FBI at my door, because I accepted their money and didn’t provide my shopper notes. NOTE: I hadn’t received a check or institutions, so I encouraged them to send the FBI. TODAY: I received a package via USPS, with the same instructions all of you described. What I noticed was the purchaser of the cashiers check was local (Henry County Board of Commissioners) and the printed shipping label showed it came from Dun & Bradstreet out of Colorado. Because I was hoping that I wasn’t looking down the barrel of a scam, I took the check to my bank and asked them if the check was real. They said it looked real and were about to depot it into my account. I stopped them and said I would take it directly to the bank the check was drafted from. PENDING: I already know this is a scam, but I want to see what Suntrust Bank says and does with this fraudulent cashiers check. I’ll turn over the check and let them deal with the FTC or whomever they choose to report this crime to!
T not stupid
August 04, 2020
I received the check in the mail on yesterday and was advised to cash it, keep $350 for myself and purchase gift cards. Thanks to all of your input. I'm tearing it up.
Betty in Maryland
August 05, 2020
BEWARE OF SCAM - Gift card purchasing and fake checks : After applying for jobs online I first received a text regarding a job and then received a priority mail envelope with for WAL-CARD AUDITORIA ASSESSMENT and PMA assessment along with Cashier's Check for $2380 drawn on SmartBank Branch 53. Instructions were to text Michael Plant at 586-213-3430. He is listed as "assigned supervisor". Job is to deposit check and then go to Wal-Mart and purchase gift cards using the deposited funds. I've been in business most of my adult life so I decided this seemed like a scam. I searched online first and then contacted the bank shown on the cashier's check. They verified that this is a SCAM and that the bank does not have a Branch 53 as shown on check. Fake check would take up to 2 weeks to verify, but by then you will have spent money buying gift cards and have shared the information with the scammers. The check will prove to be fake and you've spent your own money for the cards or worse will be on the hook to cover the expense of the cards and any resulting bank charges from the check bouncing.
August 05, 2020
I received a check yesterday for 2450.00. I was instructed to text someone when I received it. It said it wanted me to go cash the check then to go to two different Walmart’s and purchase 5. 200.00 walmart gift cards at each walmart totaling 2.,000.00 and then to scratch them and take a picture of them and send it to someone’s phones and then I could keep the 450 remaining and that I would be instructed on what to do with the gift cards on my second job. I knew it was a scam soon as they said scratch and send them the codes. People watch out!! It is a Fraud
August 05, 2020
Yes this information was sent to home, We knew this was fake so we rip it up and burned it.
August 20, 2020
My sister and I just received a check from American Express to be their secret shopper . It ask us to cash the check. The check was issued by Members First Community Credit Union. Its for $2390.73. The instructions ask to confirm the receipt of the letter and check with ht@ branch sresearch. and questionnaires will be sent to me. The Fedex mail looks so legitimate. But I'm not cashing and definitely not depositing it in my account.
August 06, 2020
The got my husband with the cashier check in the mail followed by an email with instructions on being a Wal-Mart secret shopper. I told my husband to ripe it up until he said it was a Cashier check. How can those be fake, you have to give cash to get the cashier check. I read the email & it seemed real. I knew a real Secret Shopper. So my husband, being out of work since the Covid 19 pandemic, was doing any side jobs to help pay the bills. Well, they got my rent check & then some. $1470.00. We have been working with Walmart & the bank the cashier check is from to help stop it so no one else falls prey. But no one is helping us. TODAY 2 more cashier checks followed by the email! Really, karma & their higher power will give them their due.
August 06, 2020
I just received a check fro 1st members credit union signed by elizabeth tlacho check number263195 this people should be in jail
August 07, 2020
Similar story, no gain, no loss! I kept the check and not going to mess up my checking account by cashing it. Hopefully, nothing is going to happen!
August 11, 2020
Today 9/11/202 I was sent 4 checks in the mail from Snap 360 Degrees 219 N. Paulina St. Chicago, IL 60612-2514. This is so crazy because in these times, people are really desperate for funds. I looked up the address, and is a vacant building that's up for sale. I responded to their email and text with answer. It's sad that some are really taken by this scam. I found the job posting on
scammed in Mo
August 11, 2020
Hook Line and sinker. $2600 was the check amount. Walmart gift cards bought by me... What a sucker I was. Now my bank account and my reputation is ruined.
August 12, 2020
They sent me 2 cashiers check for $3520 I thought it was a scam and I also got text messages from them. It’s for a Wesley Thomas. I guess I will be reporting it. I didn’t cash them in. But they say keep $350 for my payment, buy $50 cashiers check for Kidney foundation then use $140 to shop at 2 different Walmart stores and buy the rest in gift cards and send pictures of scratched cards to them.
August 12, 2020
Just received a CSET Survey for Whole Foods with a Check for $2,950. Requesting me to purchase Nike Gift Cards. Thank God I saw this thread before going to the store
MysteryShopper Scam
August 12, 2020
Unfortunately I fell victim to this Mystery Shopper scam. They sent me an email from one of our grocery stores Kroger which indicated I come become a mystery shopper so I filled out the survey about shopping experiences etc- no important information given. The email stated they would contact me via text or email. I received a text message indicating I had been chosen to take part in the ongoing grocery store reviewer I recently signed up for . Kindly be on look out for assignment letter with rewards. Please confirm receipt of this message by *ACKNOWLEDGED & LAST NAME* which of course I did. Then a week later received a priority mail envelope with a cashier's check for $2350 indicating for me to deposit it and when it clears to take cash to go purchase 5 Walmart gift cards at 2 different Walmart stores for $400 each then report back to task manager with the gift card #'s and pin #'s indicating how the service was in obtaining the gift cards, did I have any issues etc. Well I had electronically deposited the check because I was suppose to keep $350 for myself for performing this task - when talking to my husband/son they said that sounds really weird which I was thinking it. I contacted my bank they said cashier's check STOPPED and will not go through . I tried to confirm the original email I received from supposedly Kroger and got notified it could be scammers UGH so please share your story with others and report it to officials to avoid these scammers taking advantage of people right now who are unemployed etc- - STOP SCAMMERS!
August 14, 2020
Glad I read this forum . Have a texting me today purporting to want me to pay his Walmart workers. wants to know if Ive Paypal or cashapp to pay their workers thru
August 14, 2020
Mom received this over a month ago and just opened it. From snap 360. Now if it was a fake check from work or 401 with my name, I’d prob fall for it. But this? I thought about praying this was a real number, cashing the check Instead of depositing it, and taking off with the money and not doing any of the gift card stuff. That’s what they get for scamming. But then I realized these names on these checks are real people. Who might lose money. And could try to kill you or sue you over $5500. They have been scamming me for years and I’ve been trying to collect as much proof as possible. Very hard. When they target you, it’s very tightly clad and they forward your calls. Always one church involved.
August 15, 2020
I recently received text messages from someone named Tom Langmore with the phone number: +15135366958, appearing as someone affiliated with a secret shopper program that expects you to deposit a "check" into your bank account to use for the purchasing, and everything about it had red flags. I wanted to share this phone number in case you receive something similar.
August 16, 2020
I just received a check from Pennsylvania for $2400. They asked me to buy $1000 dollars in gift cards and send a $1000 money gram while being a secret shopper. I would be paid $400 dollars for my help. I was supposed to text a number or email. Taking pictures of the cards and send them to the number.
August 16, 2020
I also received a referral through LinkedIn from a trust business partner to make extra money through secret shopping and that he has referred me to Connected Response Research Alliance and they sent me a check for $1868 and was told to keep $350 as my compensation. I electronically deposited the check but Thank God, did my research without going through the assignment. I found this warning and called my bank to report it. They said even if I get charged $12 for returned check, they will reimburse back. LinkedIn is a trusted space and it is disheartening that they hack into peoples accounts for that purpose. I feel bad for all that fell for this and wish more can be done to stop these activities. I was spared.
August 20, 2020
Just got the same scam this morning. USPS Priority Mail. Cashiers Check. Mystery Shopping at CVS. Wants me to purchase AMEX cards for $500 each. Hr@ Darwin Whitton is the name on the letter. Shell Federal Credit Union is the Cashier's Check. Check for $2390.73. Commission was $295. Scam!
August 26, 2020

In reply to by Nope

I just got the same letter from Darwin Whitton and same amount but the check is from PENFED CREDIT UNION
August 29, 2020

In reply to by Nope

Received the same type of thing today- From Darwin Whitton, same amount but the check is from Penfed Credit Union. I hope no elderly gat caught up in that scam.
August 31, 2020

In reply to by Nope

I also got one from Darwin Whittington with a check from Penfed Credit Union. The letter is so poorly written and looks so not legit! Of course I could tell right away this was a scam.
September 03, 2020

In reply to by Nope

same here smh! I from darwin whitton, check from shell federal credit union $2390
September 03, 2020

In reply to by Nope

I just got the same scam from our buddy Darwin. Totally tick me off because I could use the money right now. Darwin has been texting me insisting I complete the task. He's about to get a piece of my mind...
August 17, 2020
I rcvd a $2,500 cashier check and were supposed to deposit it, then purchase gift cards, take pics of the cards, and email the pics to the sender. Their correspondence never actually provided the name or address of the business. I was suspicious, of course, and googled "CUSTOMER SERVICE EVALUATION TOOL" - that was the title of the letter that came with the check, and "$2500 cashier check". The search quickly found the info on this FTC site. So I still have the check... wish I could figure out a way to bring justice to the people that sent it!
December 09, 2020

In reply to by Ftown1

Same! From this number 276-779-3272. Claiming his name is "David Mark". I think we can at least report to the FBI right?
August 17, 2020
I just received a check for $2700 today telling me to get girtcards and take pics and send them to her and she gave me her number. Is there any way we can get her busted by having her phone number?
August 18, 2020
I just received a cashier's check from a fake company called "Inter Link" . After doing a little research I can tell it's fraud! Be aware of this Company
September 11, 2020
Received this scam "secret shopper" text from 281-627-6247: Happy Sunday !! Realways ® is starting  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-$550 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: / 123formbuilder. -5456823 Regards Manager - Global Operations Daniel Scott You will expresses gratitude toward us for this.
Honey Smith
November 24, 2020

In reply to by rgrigonis

Well I just got a nearly identical text, but insert Whole Foods as the company, from David Mark as the sender. Honestly, it's quite sad, as there are actually people out there (especially now) who really could use a few $$$. I'm really hoping that most of the people who are posting here are warning others and not have been enticed by seemingly easy money. Always be careful!!!
Lori Lewis
August 19, 2020
I received a check for over $2600.00 today offering me what seemed to be a cool job to have. I went to bank to verify it was indeed a scam and it was. This is still happening people, PLEASE BEWARE
August 26, 2020
I received a check in the mail today for 2,620.00 from national Penn Bank and wanted me to text Marcin cells on 352_900_1336 after deposit has been made.i called the number and its a texting app number , no one dont respond and a email marcincelinski89 @
August 20, 2020
I just received a letter in today's mail same thing as others. They say to be a secret shopper and go to Walmart first and Home Depot, Lowe's, JC Penney, Sears,Kmart, etc. The check is for $2,900 said to shop with $300, keep $300 and send them $2,300 in BITCOIN ATM.Has company name ARCADIA INC. Vernon CA and UNION Bank of California. Has Elizabeth Pearson Director of Operations and I contact George Jacob at 1-888-220-7411. The check looks real and has a window on it. The real Arcadia Company in Vernon CA is construction so may be a copy of their checks. They picked the wrong person I don't believe or trust anyone anymore burnt too many times and I don't have a smartphone so NO Bitcoins. Do not trust these people. This must have been the 2 voicemails I received last week & I deleted them. They should go to jail for this.