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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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December 22, 2020
Last week I was looking for a part time job to keep me busy and I came across this listing for shopping. It's one of the things I do best. So, I said what's the harm? Yesterday, I received my first assignment. I thank goodness for my experience and world travel because I spotted the phony money order check right away. The young newlywed couple was NOT so lucky! I hated the fact that in this trying time, the scammers and thieves are out in forces. Please, tell me that there is something being done about this!! Young people don't have the experience to protect themselves from stuff like this
December 22, 2020
Recently got a check, but didn’t do nothing with it.
December 25, 2020
I just got such a text asking me to apply. Thank you for this article.
December 26, 2020
I called the bank and they said that the checking account was good and they had plenty money to cover. The check was from a sanitation company in California, I live in Virginia. When I asked my shopping representative about the organization, he said that they were the one requesting the shop. - I should have listened to my gut and not did it. I feel really stupid and now broke
December 26, 2020
Hello, I received a cashier's check for $2450 and a survey packet from a company called Mirant Survey, Inc with instructions to deposit the check in my action checking account and text when it's done with the number they provided me with a picture of the receipt of the deposit. They want me to go to my local Apple Store and purchased 4 $500 gift cards and I can keep $4oo as my salary/wage and if completed in 48 hrs there is $50 bouns. After completing the assignment there are more instructions I suppose to "scratch the back of each card to reveal the codes, send a clear picture of each card showing all 4 corners along with the receipt of purchase and my report to the following email addressed only..." I did some research on Google but nothing came up. Does anyone hear of this company? I am not sure if I am being scammed.
December 28, 2020
Omg!!!! I literally deposit a check I receive 2 weeks ago. And now my bank has blocked me from going into my mobile account. I don’t even know what to do... this is crazy I didn’t even know though...can we even recover our money from the bank? Smh if we only knew this was a scam
December 29, 2020
today 12/29/2020 they still trying
Chele bell
December 29, 2020
I received a check in the mail for 2,9500.00 and I was instructed to go but Nike gift cards and keep $450 and to text Patricia Powell at (281) 881-8851. I looked up the bank on the check and it’s a real bank. I didn’t deposit the check in the bank! It even says warning This Document has security features in the paper. What should I do?
December 30, 2020
I fell for this a couple of months ago. Deposited and waited for check to clear before shopping. Bank said check was good but within a week the funds were deducted from my account along with a $35 fee. Now I keep receiving packets. Also text threatening to call the police and report me! I haven’t done anything with the other 5 packets except file them away.
December 30, 2020
It happened to me by a Eric Jones and I caught on to him he was really texting me every day to go cash a check for $4900 but I said that didn't sound right cause he wanted me to send $4000 to him I said hell naw and tore up the check I knew it was a scam
January 02, 2021
Received a fake check from Nelson Giltrow today. Knew right away that it was a scam. The letter had multiple gramma errors. The instructions did not make sense. When I googled Nelson Giltrow's name, this site surfaced. His scam will be reported!
January 05, 2021
I recently received a scam check wfor $3420 with instructions to deposit. It seemed suspicious so I investigated and came to this site. I think I won't do anything and watch them try to get ahold of me.
January 05, 2021
My check was from Consumer Research Network and my target was Best Buy. Be careful. If something is too good to be true then it is.
January 05, 2021
I received an evaluation survey yesterday with a check in the amount of $1,845.49. I realized this was too good to be true so I Googled and found this website. Thanks to all of you I did not get scammed. I have the check and document. Should I contact the Post Office to let them know that I received this through the mail? Any advise on what I should do with the check and documents? Thanks again for keeping me from losing money during a time when every penny counts.
January 05, 2021
I receive a money order from United Research llc for mystery shopping. I was instructed to cash, not deposit the money to complete the assignment. The amount is 995.00 and 200 hundred goes to me, is this a scam. The mail came today. Please help.
January 10, 2021

In reply to by Tatertott1976

I also received the same exact paper and money order for 995.00 said to cash it and buy two vanilla mastercard gift cards. Is this a scam
January 15, 2021

In reply to by Tatertott1976

Tattertot,this identical to my situation. It is DEFINITELY a scam .I turned mine in to the post office and they have investigators to handle this kind of thing Please don't fall for it. If you deposit or cash it,you will be responsible when it turns out to be fake. Good luck.
January 09, 2021
My story is very similar to those here, i got a check for $2,400 from Citizens Federal Credit Union located in Lubbock, TX with an objective to purchase 2 WAL-MART and 2 STEAM Gift Cards totaling $2,000 with a $100 fast start bonus for completing it within the first 24hrs of survey packet delivery, and my wage of $300. Later down the packet of instruction, it says:" N.B- It is mystery shopping because no one knows your purpose at the store. This helps in getting the untainted environment of the store" and this automatically caught my attention because how does buy gift cards help with getting environmental information about a store? it makes no complete sense, and at the time of me writing this, I'm currently on the phone with my bank to see if they can cancel the deposit before I get arrested for Fraud, and I will be reporting this incident to the police station this evening. Anything that sounds too good to be true is a SCAM!! Be careful!!
March 29, 2021

In reply to by David

Hello well we have this of 2390 from BancFirst of Oklahoma. WalMart 5 at 200 each with that fast start bonus. I had this happen several years ago and the check was not valid thankfully Wells Fargo checked on it before handing me the money of 900. The scam changes every so much but does change! company - FPS Inc
Olga Garza
January 11, 2021
I got pakagebut i checked all info. Bank location. Mr Perry Hamilton and check validality! No one sends money before job, its a scam!
Didn't get me
January 11, 2021
Just got a text from 430-502-3443 stating" Borte, Inc is currently under contract with Walmart and accepting applications for qualified individuals for Walmart shopping survey. This project happens each week, so we need to choose Shoppers to work as a store evaluator. You will get $350-$450 on each assignment. All assignment requires 20-30 minutes of time at the store in addition to time to review your post-visit reports. Click on the link below to process your application." I did not click on the link provided. Beware. They are still running this scam.
Rita G
January 13, 2021
I just recd my 4 th she knows and secret shopper assignment. It doesn’t stop. Be smart, be alert.
January 14, 2021
I received a copy for $4900, when I saw that the requirements were to send 4 $1000 money orders with no names on it and text Lonny as soon as o purchased the MO. I knew it was a scam. The routing number for the bank they had the check was not the same as the banks L&N credit union. The routing number was the same as the check number at the top of the check. Be careful everyone because my secret shopper was for Walmart . The other thing I notice was the letter heading was fake, the check was printing was off.
January 15, 2021
Just received $2,850 cashiers check from Florida Hospital Credit Union to do the same....secret shopper and buy gift cards. Sending photos to FTC now.
January 18, 2021
They’re still at it. Got one check for $1981 to check out Walmart. The other $1941 was to do a Dominos wrap on my car. Checks were made of the same paper, but different banks. Into the shredder they go.
January 20, 2021
Got one today Walcard auditoria assessment they lucky got me once not this time as bad as I need money I don’t like to owe anybody either but it’s sad for those they scam n sad for whoever monies they took to do this with
January 21, 2021
I first received a text from a coupon page that I follow asking if I would like to be a secret shopper. I didn’t think to much about it because I’ve done it before. Anyway I get a check in the mail for $2950.52 and $450 of that was for my service. There are 3 different companies tied to this check, but when I googled Coastruck Brokers it led me to the article about the fake shopping surveys.
January 21, 2021
Yeah I just opened a package with a “check” and instructions on how and where to buy gift cards. I work at a bank and know a scam when I see one!!! Do not fall for this bologna!!!
January 24, 2021
I was just recently attempted to be scammed by inquiring about a secret shopper job. I received a ups envelope with a cashiers check for 1,954 with instructions to deposit in “my bank account “ then purchase 3 Amex gift cards for $500 ( $494) is mine for the “job” and I was to send a pic of the gift card numbers !!! This was a common scam with probably a bad cashiers check and they’d get real money through my real Amex gift cards
January 25, 2021
It is still happening. I got one of these in my P.O. box on Jan 1 2021.I realized it was a scam because the address didnt match up.The 909-460-8615 # responded,asking if I had deposited the check.Beware of these creeps!
January 26, 2021
I first got a email, stating that I been selected to work as a mystery shopper. I then got a check for $2,525.00 and a letter giving instructions on how to deposit the check and buy gift cards. I knew that it was a scam. I did my research the next day, I wanted to report it.
January 28, 2021
Please be aware of a company by the name of Frede More Logistics, LLC and a man named, Blake Clark. I signed up to become a secret shopper under what I assumed to be Whole Foods Market brand. I received a text message from Blake Clark, basically saying I had hired and I should expect a package in the mail. The package came yesterday through priority mail sent by Frede More Logistics LLC. When I opened the package there was a cashier’s check for $1,450 with instructions. This was for a Nike Gift Card Assignment and I was to pay for gift cards in the amounts of $100, $200, and $500 and keep the $350 as my first payment. I also was to take pictures of the front and back of the cards and send them to Blake Clark. Well something smelled phisy to me and I decided to lookup the company and notice that there have been scam reports of of this particular company and this Blake Clark who appears to not exist. The check was drawn from Capital City Bank in Tallahassee, Fl. So I decided to call the bank to see if this was a fraudulent check, which I suspected it was...and guess what!!! It was a bad check! So if I didn't know any better, I would have followed the instructions, deposited the check, and then got stift with and had to pay my bank $1,450. I think not! I had to sign up to secure my identity because I could not remember how much personal information I had given them. Please be aware.
Alyssa Goldberg
April 20, 2021

In reply to by Tsomp

I also received a text from Blake Clarke - Global Operations Manager in relation to Whole Foods. The phone number it came from was (615) 684-1399. I hope someone from the FTC tracks this person down so they don't scam anyone else. I did an online search to see if this was a scam and fortunately I ended up on this website and deleted his text.
Almost got scammed
January 30, 2021
Received postage directly to my front door. A check for 2,581.15 from Navy Federal Credit Union. They want me to go secret shop and buy all these different types of gift cards at three different stores. It was too good to be true. I am so glad I found this site and saw that I am not the only one. It is ridiculous how far people will go for the sake of money. We need to learn how to care and love one another. Thanks for all of the comments. It helps others to not get themselves involved in these scams.
January 30, 2021
I received a check for over $2,400 and told to purchase multiple AMEX gift cards and shop at Walmart, CVS pharmacy, & Target etc . The is a letter with the check but no return address ( Very suspicious) I will do nothing with this check.
NYC Resident
January 31, 2021
I just received exactly what’s described here. Good thing I checked the internet and FTC website. They sent a check for $4900.00 dollars with some funny letter. The fact that no one ever asked me to fill out employee forms like tax or citizenship and never talked to the human resource office is a huge red flag.
January 31, 2021
Got a check from whole foods for 2850. And 400 was supposed to be for me. Until I found this advising me about the scam. SMH
Sick of scammers
February 01, 2021
I received this text message today! I decided to investigate it!!! I’m disabled with absolutely no income,and would love to do anything to earn some money. I’m not sure how they have my information, but would love to bust people like this!
February 01, 2021
Just got check for $2630 do not cash fraud call bank n verify funds before you ever take check to bank. Simply call bank and verify funds are there this is a cashiers check so funds are held with banks own account always
ms pam
February 01, 2021
Got my check today..smh.. I was born at night, but not last is unbelievable what people do to hurt other people. Im going to let the police handle this. Its tempting, but not much in life is free, except love! Whomever is reading this " dont believe the hype"
February 02, 2021
Omg! I thought it was true. I got a mail today with priority service and tracking number. It has a Cheque of $3,345.0 and asked to use $3000 at the nearby Walmart to purchase 3 Walmart money orders in the amount of $1000 each and report about the service via text to Mr. Paul Johnson at 310-953-4397 and go to FedEx to mail via FedEx first overnight! Bay Area, California
February 03, 2021
I received a check with me as the check writer and recipient, for 4480.00 I thought it was strange but I took it to my bank, with my bank so vigilant and awesome they pulled it and turned it into the fraud department without me receiving any repercussions.
Don'tzenaida u…
February 04, 2021
On Feb 6, 2021 I got an overnight w/ certified check for $1,940 plus instruction to buy 3 gift cards @$500 each and take pictures of both sides then email to them. The remaining $400 would be commission & 40 bonus if I do it in 24 - 48 hrs. After analyzing it, it downed on me I’ll lose $1,500 once the ck bounce.
February 05, 2021
Here is a scam that I received by priority mail today. Its a Cashier's Check for $1,835 dollars. They say to cash the check or deposit, it in my account, if I were to do it within 48 hours, I would get a $150 bonus. Ha ha, what's the rush? LOL! Go to three of the stores that they listed on the cheesy letter that lists what I am to do for my assignment. I am supposed to buy three Nordstrom gift cards at $500 a piece, one from each store. Then, take the gift cards and scratch off the back to reveal the numbers for them and take pictures of the cards, then send it to them via text or email. Then, of course, tell them all about the service at each store. But, there is still $35 left? Oh yeah, that's for my next assignment, as long as all goes well with this one. You all know that old saying..... If its too good to be true, then it probably is! The name of this quote on quote, company is Nord-Conifer, Survey Inc.. I just wish there was a way to string them along. Does anyone know of who I can report this to so maybe they can try to catch these idots?
February 10, 2021
Got a check with USD 2950 with instructions. Since I did several marketing research (legitimate) in the past, I almost believed it. I deposited the check to my bank and about to go to “assignment” only found out that the check was returned as fake by my bank with a financial charge $25 to me. I am asking this to investigate further as my bank account may be affected. I checked this site abd realized it was a scam. Such a foolish person am I !
February 13, 2021
If I got the check and don’t deposit it..will I be okay?
February 13, 2021
Got a check in the mail for $1950. Was told to buy $1500 in Nike gift cards, and keep the remaining $450. Was told I would get a $200 bonus for purchasing within 12-24 hours. This is obviously a scam. Beware all!!
February 17, 2021
I signed up years ago to be a mystery shopper. I was recently contacted by text so I responded yes I was interested. Yesterday I received a check by priority mail for $4930.00. I am to go to Walmart's and purchase (2) $500 gift cards at each one. Scratch off backs of cards and send copies via text to a number. Oh yes, don't forget to note name of cashier, time, cleanliness of store, etc., for survey to be emailed for me to complete. For this I am to keep $800 once I deposit/cash the check. Of course, if I do this within 24 hrs, I will receive a $200 bonus. I will NOT be going to the bank!!!
February 18, 2021
Just received a totally random certified envelope with a copied letter with a check for $2,390.73 to deposit and purchase thousand of dollars worth of gift cards and personal grocery items. Totally a scam! It came from Dillon Patton with on-site avoid them!
February 18, 2021
Received an email about being a secret shopper. Thought it would be interesting until I got a set of instructions and a check for $2450. I was to go to walmart and check their service, buy some gift cards and leave. I would then submit the report. Fortunately, when I tried to reach Wesley Thomas and could not I got suspicious. Should I burn the check?