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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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November 06, 2020
I just got two checks from Capita Snap Survey and they want me to deposit it. Then take money to buy gift cards and check out Wal-Mart. I knew this had to be a scam. Who gives 6000.dollars worth of GOOD checks to a stranger.
November 06, 2020
Just received a secret shopping check form MarketForce for 2425. I am suppose to buy Vanilla or ONe Vanille cards and email the back of the cards to them. Should I take this to the police department or the bank.
November 09, 2020
Dang, I got one about two weeks ago. Knew right away it was a scam, tossed it in the trash and I’ve just been ignoring their texts. But then last night I get a message saying that the fbi will be at my door by 10am this morning unless I follow the instructions I was given with the check. I’m thinking jeez I should at least send the guy a couple bucks for making me laugh so hard.
November 17, 2020
just got a $1800 check! Woohoo, going shopping. DO NOT DEPOSIT into bank account! Your account could be closed. You could also be arrested!!!! Just give to the bank, they will forward to law enforcement. Senders fake info: SHERWIN HUFF BANK: GOLDEN1 CREDIT UNION. EMAIL: INFO.SHOPPERPAID.AGENT1011890 AMOUNT: $1875
November 12, 2020
I just got a letter and a check in the mail today. Check for $4900 wanting me to purchase money orders from Walmart and send them off. Person name Grimes Lonny 201-579-0240
Scammed by Col…
November 12, 2020
Phony check from M & T Bank Hauppauge, Ny. Company called Young Equipment Solutions, Inc. 325 Rabro Dr. Hauppauge, Ny. 11788. Called the Bank without success to confirm the validity of the check.
November 17, 2020
I just received a check from First National Bank Of Kemp $1,450 to get 2 $500 gift cards. Once purchased, scratch-off pin and send a picture of the info front and back to 815-240-0224 and goodhome2015 --- Whole Foods Group
scammers shoul…
November 13, 2020
I just received the priority mail yesterday addressed to my daughter a check for $4620.12 for her to put into her bank account and follow their steps as to what to do with the cash, she just became an adult and the scammers are after her ALREADY to mess up her life before it starts. UGH!!!
November 17, 2020
I just received a check and letter in the mail just like the ones reported in above description. my check was for $2450.00 on united community bank 153 e kytle street cleveland ga 30528 and the company listed on the check is american sites, inc 1203 ridge road helen ga 30545 the numbers listed on the bottom of the check are as follows: 0010517 061112843 2031133008 date of the check is 11/10/2020 check number is 10517 signed by what looks like tiri or tori m simm and again what looks like ty tim as a second signature it asks that i send a copy of the 4 debit cards $1,000.00 each, front and back to 6678377778 text only and email charitada letter salutation is mike henson task manager secret whole foods and i was to keep $450.00 of the check $400.00 for payment and $50.00 for fuel
November 16, 2020
I just received $2480.00 and the scary thing is that they had my full name! I knew it was a scam when I was told in the letter they sent to cash they check and if the bank won't cash right away to wait 24 hours! A bank hold is atleast 14 days!!! Then I was told to scratch off the gift cards and send a picture!!! This bad and these people need to stopped.
Sickened by Scammers
November 16, 2020
Of course I know it’s a scam and didn’t plan to deposit the check. But I’m sickened at the fact that during a time like this were people have lost jobs, are struggling, that scammers would take advantage of people. I pray for those who did cash the check and have been put into a deeper whole when they may have been looking for a financial way out.
Short& sweet
November 17, 2020
I just received a $2,620 cashiers check with instructions to deposit it into my bank account and when it clears take &500.00 for me as commission to be a mystery shopper and another $100 for gas and fees. Then when it clears withdraw the money and go to Wal-Mart and purchase 2 money orders of $1000. 00 each...heep the receipts and text this person for the address of where to send them along with my feedback of my experience shopping there. . I then was instructed to mail it ups overnight and once I was done they gave me an email to send them the pictures of the money order, receipts and my feedback. What should I do? I'm so tempted with the holidays around the corner and all...but is it worth it? What if it really is a scam??? What's funny is that I was the one who inquired about this mystery shopper job. Oh and they said if I didn't send it to them they would call me and come to my address to get thier check...what should I do???
Short& sweet
November 17, 2020
I just received a $2,620 cashiers check with instructions to deposit it into my bank account and when it clears take &500.00 for me as commission to be a mystery shopper and another $100 for gas and fees. Then when it clears withdraw the money and go to Wal-Mart and purchase 2 money orders of $1000. 00 each...heep the receipts and text this person for the address of where to send them along with my feedback of my experience shopping there. . I then was instructed to mail it ups overnight and once I was done they gave me an email to send them the pictures of the money order, receipts and my feedback. What should I do? I'm so tempted with the holidays around the corner and all...but is it worth it? What if it really is a scam??? What's funny is that I was the one who inquired about this mystery shopper job. Oh and they said if I didn't send it to them they would call me and come to my address to get thier check...what should I do???
November 23, 2020
Exact same story just in 2020. Check from Topside federal credit union, all looks convincing enough. $2930 to basically secret shop your bank and 2 walmarts buying giftcards and cashiers checks. Total scam. Contact info on paperwork 770-288-9832 Nelson giltrow@
November 17, 2020
Just got text wholemarketwixsote tellinge secert shop they give money want me to doo ey transfer also got virus alert some encypt alert .com sends me news I'm so sick of no regulating federal phone criminals
November 20, 2020
I have received a text message saying if I wanted to receive payment of $800 every week for advertise Monster Energy Drink on my vehicle. They could have an artist come to my address to put on a decal. I received the check and instructions on how to process the whole decal and stuff. I had to first deposit the check into my account. Funds will be available immediately after it is deposited. Deduct $800 for my first weeks pay and to go to a local CVS, or Walgreens and purchase a gift card ($500x4) will equal to $2,000. And that it will be for the artist to decal my vehicle. At this time I'm thinking...ok! But wouldn't it be easier to just pay them and not have me do all the run around. I mean we are on lockdown because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. So I instantly contact Monster Energy Drink for answers. I also text the # given to me by a person called Peter Larson. Just to kind of see what they have to respond. They text back wanting me to deposit the check. But I respond with "Deposit it where?".... The response I got back was " Into your account ". I respond back with " I don't have an account". So I start to do more research into the AdvertCoordinator. And the sender Timothy Cast age from a Kelton Research LLC located in CA. It starting to come in...this is all a scam. I still have not received a text back as well.
November 21, 2020
Received a check from CPlant Federal Credit union for $2,480.00. Wal-Card Auditoria Assessment. Text my supervisor once a get the priority mail with check. Ask me to buy ro gift cards from Wal-Mart scratch with 16 digital take a picture. Buy some cashier checks from my bank worth $30.00 to donate to the Kidney Foundation. Scam. Worked for the bank before chech has red flags. Don't Do it. Hope this helps
November 22, 2020
I just recieved a letter and check in the mail yesterday to deposit and buy Amazon gift cards. What should I do with the letter and check? I am willing to shred it or mail it back.
guy from ATL
November 23, 2020
Received cashiers check $2,390. Google searched routing number on the check, when it didn't match anything, proved it's fake. Reported to FTC and sent email to the bank listed on the check, letting them know of the scam.
November 25, 2020
I was just taken today for $2400. Is there any recourse? 11/25/2020
November 26, 2020
I am holding 2 scam letters in my hand right now. And I have been sent tons of these scams. One thing all these scam letters have in common is: the english is terrible. The sentences sometimes arent full sentences & make little sense. The grammer is horrendous.
tim bowman
November 27, 2020
I was told today in a text I was going to get a check via fedex for 2950 to wrap my car
November 27, 2020
I just received one of these text messages, tell me i will receive $400 per assignment to do a survey on a store. Each assignment takes 15 minutes and will be once a week. I've done Mystery Shopping in the past and for many years. There us not a company out there that is going to pay you $400 for 15 minutes of your time. Plus they don't send u text messages. There are legitimate sites you apply to work and get jobs from legitimate companies.
November 28, 2020
I received a check for $1900 and was told to deposit, keep $500 and get a money order for $1400. They were very pushy about me doing this quickly. It looked like the money had gone through and I told them I was getting the money order. Within an hour my bank posted “fictions check”, they had recalled the money. Total scam !!
Got scammed
November 28, 2020
What website do I go to for complaint and can I save my bank account?? They’re threatening to close my account I’m the victim here.
Bobbie Long
November 30, 2020
I just received a cashier's check for $2850.00. They explained, that I deposit the money in my bank account. Send pictures of the all transactions. They explained that they were sending me the money, to buy gift cards. To be a secret shopper. Send pictures of the gift cards, front and back. I am just amazed, the boldness of some people. I hope that they get caught.
November 30, 2020
Just received a check for $2450.00 from Kelton Research. Decided to check it out. The check comes from Frontera Grill in Chicago IL. They were asking me to buy two $500 gift cards in Walmart and then go to another store and buy two more $500 gift cards. Found it interesting that. Restaurant was sending me a check to go buy at Walmart. Googled it and got to this page....Im taking my check to the police.
November 30, 2020
I just received a priority mail envelope today with very similar instructions. I decided to do some research on the bank that the cashier's check was from, only to find out that the bank does in fact exist, but there is a long list of complaints regarding this bank on the BBB's website. I love how people think that they are so slick, when I have been in the marketing world for many years now, and I'm well aware of how the system actually works. No legitimate company is going to prepay you for working as a secret shopper. Usually, a secret shopper is employed by a retail company, and they send them out, while on the clock, to their competitors, and then simply report back to them on things like prices, merchandise, etc. Never in all of my years working retail, customer service, and marketing have I ever been told to purchase anything for the company that I was working for.
November 30, 2020
I received a check today 30 November and I didn't deposit the check. Why would someone you don't know pay you in advance? It just didn't add up! How can people be so evil and heartless to other people! Is this on the news? It should be.
December 01, 2020
A friend of mine just got a check $2,970 they asked her to deposit the the check in her account. She didn't thank God. So can we just tear up the check. Who do we report this to. In this mail fraud.
December 01, 2020
I received a text message from +1 (667) 204-0151 soliciting me to be a secret shopper for Whole Foods....I immediately knew something was wrong with this. Why would they text me or anyone for that matter. Be careful and if it feels funny it’s go with your gut. When I researched it I found out it was a scam.
December 02, 2020
I received a check unsolicited and suspected something was up. It became even more apparent when the person seemed anxious for me to get started and complete my tasks. No harm done but so many people can be swindled by someone who seems legit.
December 04, 2020
I recently received a text offering me hundreds of dollars to become a secret shopper at Walmart. I responded with my name and address which they asked for, and a couple days later got a text saying I'd been approved and to watch my mail for, "further instructions and assignment details." I was to text back to confirm when the package arrived. About a week later I received a priority mail envelope that contained a check for $2350, with instructions to cash or deposit the check. I was to then purchase $2000 worth of gift cards at two different Walmarts (3 gift cards at the first Walmart and 2 cards at the second, with $400 on each). I was to keep the remaining $300 for myself. They claimed some Walmarts were selling banned gift cards, and they were trying to locate the stores selling these banned cards. I was supposed to text pictures of the gift cards I'd bought as well as comment on the ease of the transaction, the appearance of the store, etc. I am a 46 year old woman living on disability. The desire to make an easy $300 is tempting. I was suspicious because the grammar in the letter was less than stellar and they claimed to be an, "Audit firm based in the United State of America." I figured if they were based in this country they would probably know it consisted of more than one state, and would have better grammar than a first grader. Fortunately, I did my research before running to the bank. It is a tough time for everyone in this country, and we could all use some "easy money". That someone is taking advantage of that is disgusting.
December 04, 2020
i just received $3250 check written off WSB wellington state bank Its a real check and the bank is real as well. Of course I am to cash the check and buy gift cards and send the codes via text to some phone # LOL.. I get to keep $350 for doing the work. What a scam !!!!!!!!
December 05, 2020
I received a check dated 12-1-2020 in the amount of $4,950.00 written on Towne Bank which is a local bank here in Virginia. I am instructed to deposit into my bank account wait a few hours text the batch supervisor then keep $550 and take the rest and buy 4 $1000 & 1 $400 totaling $4400 then immediately fed ex next day air to the recipients address which will be provided to me after I confirm with this person stephen pedro via email. And the purpose of this survey is because there have been complaints regarding Walmart personnel and store appearance. What the hell I am not stupid I am going to turn it over to walmart maybe they can remedy the situation.
December 07, 2020
I just got a $3,050.00 check same thing for wal mart and I called the bank that the check was sent from and they told me if was a fraudulent check. I lost my job in march and now someone is sending fake checks and making people get their hopes up. I never deposited the check because I did not trust it. Who do I report this to? I live in Tampa, FL
December 09, 2020
Who can we report these scams to? I just got one!
December 10, 2020
I believe I just been scam lol ok well I had a check for 1825 and got the same well Dead club here I come
December 10, 2020
Just received a $1500 cashiers check from Foresee. Fraud. What company would invest that much in a survey? None.
December 11, 2020
Yes. Exact thing just happened to me. The bank is actually a real bank because I looked it up. The scammers keep texting me and asking if I have deposited the check yet. Now I'm just messing with their heads. I pretended to deposit the check. I wrote them a long thank you letter. Telling them my 2 children were hungry and my husband just died. Etc I really want them to feel bad for what they are doing.
December 11, 2020
Just got one of these cashiers checks with a letter stating what to do and it described exactly the same thing. The company is D & M group plc. Be aware
December 13, 2020
I got a check also for $1970.24 a few days ago but funny thing is there was ONLY the check mo letter or instructions nothing. All places are legit check even has security marks, BUT I am not going to fall for it. If its legitimate someone can contact me in person. Or prove it in some type of way. Until then Ill just sit and look at a $1900 check
December 14, 2020
I also almost got caught up in the secret shopper scam. I got a cashiers check in the mail 5 days ago with a letter giving me instructions calling it a "task" on how to deposit it into my bank account and then what to purchase at Walmart and that being gift. Cards and ti take pics first and send to them and then wanting me to purchase more with the cards. Im not a fool! Lol. I can recognize a scam when I see one. The name on it was mathew Connelly so I googled it and the obituary's started to pop up all over the place! He's been dead for a couple years now! I picked up on this right away. Im 51 years old and I've been around including prison. I haven't been an angel the first half of my life but never resorted to ripping off good honest people. They will have their day. God wont let this go unpunished.
December 14, 2020
I received an email in my college email account about a part time job making $400 per assignment. I thought this was being offered to all students at my local community college and with the pandemic closing the restaurant I work at, I jumped at the opportunity to make some extra cash. A few weeks later a check for $2400 came on a very convincing looking check with my name on it. The instructions, however, were printed diagonal and very sloppy looking. The instructed me to deposit the check and buy two vanilla visa gift cards at two separate locations and record the names of the workers who sold them. Then I received an email the next day asking if I completed the assignment and I asked them if they could call me to answer some questions. Someone name “James Powell” sent me a text message claiming to be my “survey assessment coordinator” from Prexius. I did some digging and realized it was a scam but I am a little worried about this individual having all of my contact information. Please beware! This scan is still out there!!
December 15, 2020
I received a check from Amazon. To put a logo on my veichle. My bank opened a new account. Notified me that the check was fake.
Average Bear
December 16, 2020
Started receiving text and then check in mail with instructions for cashing and "first assignment". Apparently this scam is still active and happening in southern California.
December 16, 2020
I received the same scam last week in the mail. It says whole foods but they want me to buy Nike Gift Cards and the check is obviously printed on copier paper poor quality.
December 18, 2020
I just got a check for 1906. was suppose to deposit it and get 3 500 dollar best buy git cards. send them pictures and keep for 400 for my self.Bank said if it looks like a scam it is.SO glad I didnt follow instructions. She said there have been several people coming in with these's checks
December 20, 2020
I also signed up for Kroeger secret shop, and received a cashier's check for $2850.00, of which $350.00 was supposed to be mine. I deposited the check, thinking it would bounce if it was fake, but it cleared. My kids then did some research, and we discovered it was a scam. So I reported it to my bank, and the police department, and left the money in my account for the bank to take back once they realize that the check is not good.
Suspicious let…
December 21, 2020
Like many other I received a random text and email with an invitation to participate as a mystery shopper. I wanted to believe it’s real, but the more I thought about it, I knew I wanted to uncover why anyone would offer a gig like this! Then I received the package in the mail with a check from WSFS Bank located Wilmington, DE and issued by Moneygram Payment Systems Inc. The typical routing numbers and account number do not add up or can be traced to a specific bank. This needs to stop and folks need to be penalized for these actions!