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.

September 26, 2020
I’m glad I didn’t proceed with this. It seemed like the up and up. I’m looking at a cashiers check for $1900. With an assignment that will pay me $300. It’s one of those things if it’s too good to be true, it can’t be. Glad I saw this before proceeding
Smart customer
September 27, 2020
Just received my 2nd envelope. The first envelope had instructions etc...but told me to take $300.00 out for my pay. I didn’t respond to it. A week later, I get another UPS type envelope with a check and instructions. This time I was to take $450.00 for my pay. The letter looked very professional/legit. 1: why would someone send a check for any amount to someone without any way of knowing if that person was going to just walk with it. 2: why would they want you to send pictures of the gift cards with the back scratched off. 3: they want you to deposit in your own account. None of this adds up so of course I went straight to google and first thing that pops up is this scam report. Always research! Next step, taking everything to law enforcement!
Mr Iceman
September 28, 2020
Yes have another scrambling you receive a check to put advertising in your car and get paid is a fraud too because the company real company don't use this methodology
Shaken my head
September 28, 2020
I just received a check today in the mail for 2600.00 saying the same thing. I new right away it was a scam.So I took the check to a shredder and a burn pile. I did not deposited it into my account I'm no dummy scammer. God got my finances all the way. I pray to my father Lord Jesus Christ above that the scammers that are involved in this be punished. Make them stop doing what they are doing to other people in Jesus name I pray amen
September 29, 2020
Wow they are really to professional. seems like was real.
September 29, 2020
My mom just got a check for over 4,000 dollars... She didn't remember signing up for the job but assumed it was God sent. Seemed a little off but legit at the same time. She did a couple of cards but then they started harassing her to finish.... That's when I found this website.
October 03, 2020
Just received a $2600 dollar check. Bank name Zions Banj. Asking me to purxgase 2 1000.00 money orders and return them blank. And to contact a person named Troy Matheson after completing tasks. Needless to say after seeking a friend out that works in the hiring process. She right away directed me to this page thank god. Because these are desperate times for people. Nothing comes this easy.
October 03, 2020
I also received a check and have not contacted them or deposited the check. But can they get my bank card numbers just from me opening the emails from them?
October 05, 2020
Just received my kit. Will be taking it to the police station. Not what I thought a secret shopper would be. Hubby was suspicious and looked up the FTC site and found this list of victims.
October 05, 2020
I just recieved a check for 2,630 for a shopping study at walmart the bank is idaho central credit union is this a scam
October 08, 2020
Adding this scam to the board, I just received a text from this number: +1 (832) 593-5689 The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the economy and the way we do business. We have taken certain steps to ensure that we are able to provide you with full support and service as we all wait for the pandemic to turn around. whole foods ® 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 be paid $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: 123 form bu ild er Respects- Human Resources Manager - Global Operations Mary Mascot.
October 07, 2020
I wonder about the list the scammers are getting victims contact info from. What would be the heading for the list? "Sure Thing"? "People Likely to Fall for a Scam"? I am being darkly humorous but I realize how easy it is to get fooled. Some scammers work full time on this and have become very clever with their ruses. I was a victim of credit card fraud. It's a good thing that I check my credit card balance and my bank account balance every day so that I see right away when things go wrong. Nevertheless, one morning I noticed charges on my card that were not mine. Interestingly enough, I never lost my card, it was never out of my possession, I never lent it to anyone, and I didn't give the number to anyone. So how did I end up with charges from companies I never buy from for items I never buy? My credit card company reversed the charges. I did not lose any money. I closed my card account immediately and later opened a new one with a different card number. The perpetrator was never caught. How could this have happened? My credit card company thinks my info was stolen in one of the many data breaches that has happened in the last several years. It's so difficult these days to keep one's money and oneself safe. All I can say is use constant vigilance and be prepared to act swiftly.
October 09, 2020
I received two checks one for 2970 and the other for 3972 different cashiers checks asking me to go to Walmart and purchase gift cards I knew it was a scam from the minute I opened it they'll also sent me one before that I didn't acknowledge but I have done my research and found out it is a scam
October 10, 2020
I wonder what would happen if someone cashed it at a checking cashing place? I know a girl (my cousin’s ditzy gf) who got 2 checks back to back from her new “job” as a “spy” to turn Walmart in for mixing expired money cards with new ones. I saw the checks and they look legit and the banks are legit and I read the whole spill that they had given her (about purchasing the money cards, which I thought was odd). I told her that my grandmother had told me “if it seems too good to be true, it is!” She thinks it’s a real job, but anyway she doesn’t have a bank account or an ID so she is trying to get someone to cash it at a check place for her. Thankful I came across this, but I still wonder if it would pass and if it did, does it fall on the check cashing place or just her? I know either way it falls on her but I was still wondering.
October 13, 2020
Omg lucky thing I found this website, but I think it is too late for me I deposited a check in my account. The scammers fooled me. Here I am having issues with my college debt & I thought it was legit. I’m going to report it.
October 13, 2020
On 10/13/20, I received a check and instructions. I will be turning it over, to the Alabama Office of the Attorney General.
October 14, 2020
This is already the second check I've received from a company called IN LOGOS service corp first check was for 2,450$ now this 2nd check is in the amount of 3,456$ it's a total scam beware
October 14, 2020
Okay same scam Walmart check in the mail I told him know he's going to send me some other info on something else at the whole package I don't know what to do with it he wants me to shred the check got even got the mailing address or whatever anyways you know is there something you can isn't there somebody out there to eat people better passing his dad checks I need this one's for region bank anyways so this is my input I'm going to shred it but first I'm going to take a bunch of pictures of it and then I'll have all the email and everything I copy if anybody wants to talk to me about it okay
October 15, 2020
It seems like there should be a way to stop this from happening to innocent people who are just trying to make some money on the side
Leroy J
October 16, 2020
I just got one of these letters and a check. Darned if the check doesn't look real! I ALMOST fell for it, but something told me to verify that this is a legitimate company. It is from Ardent Service Inc. My first clue was that it says Ardent "Service" and not "Services!" That and a couple of relatively minor grammatical errors. The sense of urgency in the instructions also. The check is for $2,350. My compensation is $350 and I am to buy $2,000 worth of Amex Gift Cards from the nearest store. I am to email pictures of the cards, front and back, along with some other info. THANK YOU to all who posted their experiences of having been scammed! I am so sorry for your financial losses and the hardships many people have endured by this SCAM!
October 17, 2020
Received a Check from Philips for $1,400.00. Went to "" to see if it is a scam. Consumer FTC can up....oh well at least I did not cash it yet. Thank you all for your info, it helped a lot!
October 18, 2020
Received 4 money orders totaling $8000. in past 2 weeks. Fraud is asking for gift cards. Letterhead is PHOTOCOPIED not origunal. Letterhead. Been in marketing for 30 years. First fraud clue: photocopied letterhead. Using company name MARKETFORCE. WILL NOT RESPOND TO TEXTS OR PHONE CALLS. Turning over all documents and money orders to local FBI office in Palm Beach County. Thanks for reading. --- trust your gut!
Not fooled
October 19, 2020
I just received a 2600 check today with a letter telling me to go to 2 different Walmart stores and buy 2 $500 cards totaling $1000 at each Walmart then send them via text all of the information once I have done this. I am very thankful for the internet and everyone on this site. I will be turning everything over to the police and contacting the FTC. What jerks for doing this to people that are needing extra money and scamming them. I hope they get caught.
Santa Clause wife
October 20, 2020
I just received 2 checks. One I was to deposit within 24 hours and do so.e mystery shopping and keep $250 for me. Only was to Spend $10. Take picture of cards I was to buy. Funny I knew I didn't ever sign up to be a mystery shopper. I HATE TO SHOP. What do I do with these checks and this letter?
October 20, 2020
I just received a letter in the mail about being a "secret shopper" for Walmart. The check was for $2,970. It was made to look like a cashiers check from "Regions" bank. They asked for me to buy gift cards and send them the picture of the gift card #. They also said to be "very discrete" while purchasing the gift cards lol Can't believe people actually try to scam others like this So sad. It was from "Capita Outsourcing LLC" they did their best to make it look legit but I know these type of things are Scams!!! Who just offers free money? LoL be careful!!
Rosa lee
October 22, 2020
I received a cashier check from someone saying it was for a mystery shopper survey by going into the store didn't deposit or cash it because I had been scammed out of 1900 dollars before. Then I had to replace the 1900 to my bank!
October 23, 2020
I just received my check for $3345! Letter said to deposit at my bank, then after check clears, go to Walmart and 3 buy gift cards of $1000 each. Sounded odd to me, so I googled Walmart secret shopper, and landed here! Glad to know the truth!
jehu leo
October 24, 2020
Received a check today for $1625.73 from pittsford federal credit union. No instructions tho so I guess I will be contacted soon
October 27, 2020
I just reported a secret shopper scam that got me. Does anyone know if I can file a refund claim and how I go about doing that? I am not sure where to go on the website and how I get to wherever the claim forms are.
October 27, 2020
I received a text with almost similar information from phone number 2816276247. I know it is fake just want share and report.
October 28, 2020
I have received a money order and a check off a bank for a hal Sherman and I just don’t trust to put this in my bank so can anyone let me know if they have had anything from United researchers
October 28, 2020
I just received a Cashiers check from Consumers Credit Union for $1,2500 for reporting customer service at any Post Office in my area. I was instructed to cash the check at my bank and keep $200 for my assignment and purchase 2 $500 money orders to send in a couple of days when instructed. They informed me that the extra $50 will be used for fees to send the money orders off
October 30, 2020
What is actually being done about these secret shopper scams? They are committing mail fraud, involving banks and stealing. It would seem that these fall into federal domain . Where is the best place to start reporting , and how do we find out what is being done?
October 30, 2020
I just received a check for $1250 and I immediately felt like something was off. So I looked it up and I'll be darned it was a scam. Thank you guys!
Wondering 1
October 30, 2020
What happens if you cash the 2450.00 check and deposit it into an account and do nothing with it?. Can you scam the scammers?.
December 05, 2020

In reply to by Wondering 1

No you can't scam them that way. It's not their check so they don't care. That's the scam. You deposit the check. Then the real account owners file the check as bogus. The money is then taken out of your account and given back to the rightful account owner. That's why you're on the hook for it. So what happens if you deposit and do nothing? Nothing. The money is eventually taken out of your account and given to the rightful owner. The account the check is drawn on doesn't belong to the scammers
November 02, 2020
Hello, all! I just received a cashier's check from Philips Product Testing Survey. The check for 1900.00 is on Liberty Bank, Chicago, Il. It's asking me to take a 300.00 as my pay and buy numerous gift cards. Duh! When will this madness stop?!?
November 02, 2020
This exact thing happened to me today receive a check for $2,570 to be secret shopper at Wal-Mart or CVS to buy cards take a picture front and back with receipt so i tore it up and trashed cause i a friend that got hit like a year ago and the bank hjt him for the money and closed his account
November 02, 2020
I recieved a check threw the mail ,but i have,5 dine anything with it i figured it was a scam
November 02, 2020
Then a couple of days later they texted me asking if i recieved the shopper job i haven't replied
November 23, 2020
Recieved a customer service evaluation tool with a 2,950.52 cashier’s check today in the mail, asking me to buy Nike gift cards. Told me to deduct $450 as my payment. However the package it came said the package came from me. Neither the envelope nor the CSET form had a return address or a name of a company. There was a phone to notify them when the transactions were complete - 3463664252 email storeseva@
Your light-
November 03, 2020
I received a 2,999 dollars I was going to put it in my account but my boyfriend stop me, and we start reaching in google and we found this site .
November 03, 2020
So I just received a check for $2,390.73. I have not did nothing with the check and I don’t intend to. I signed up to be a mystery shopper just to make extra money but I googled the place where the check comes from and everything is legit but I still do not trust it so I will not be doing this and risking my bank info and/or account taking away because of a scam. So I will be shredding the check and the directions they told me to use. If they call back I will say I have the coronavirus and will not be participating in the mystery shopping assignment.
November 03, 2020
I got a check for 2600 and I'm not cashing it either. They keep emailing and texting me trying to get me to complete the assignment they say. Lol not in a million years I ain't no sucker
November 03, 2020
I just received a secret shopper check and instructions. The check is $1,895 from the account of Spirit of Texas Bank from College Station TX. The instructions FROM Greg Logan are to buy (3) $500 EBAY cards from Walmart, Target, Kroger and send pics of cards. Clearly a scam. Don’t get fooled!
November 03, 2020
I just got a check for 2600 with the same instructions but I don't have a bank account so I took it to Walmart to cash it but they rejected it researched the bank the cashier's check is drawn on and it's the housing authority I will be taking the letter and check to my local FBI office tomorrow
November 04, 2020
I’m so glad that I saw this information about the different types of Scams and Fake Checks that they offer to secret shopper scams!! Please keep posting this types information do the public and the people. I’m grateful for this information!!
November 04, 2020
I got one from Kelton with check from a trucking company. I worked in law enforcement, so all kinds of red flags went up. I knew it was a scam. Reported it to FTC. Also handed it over to the postal service for investigation since it came priority mail.
November 05, 2020
I just received a postal money order for $1000 telling me to cash it right away and go buy some visa gift cards. It looks like a real postal money order however the first thing I noticed was the date on it was from early September this is November and I think the legit money orders have the zip code of purchase location, this one did not. The font looked off. The very top of the money order appeared to have been part of a sheet and the perforated paper Is visible I believe the post office money orders or not but I’m not sure. Taking it to the post office tomorrow and asking them to have a look. I’m not foolish enough to fall for it - the money order was completely blank!
Grateful Grandma
November 05, 2020
Thank you for your blog. You saved me from being scammed out of $1,000.