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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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February 18, 2021
Why even leave a comment when there are a hundred already but I too applied for secret shopper online and received a check via priority mail for $2380. I was suppose to buy gift cards in the amount of $400 each then text my supervisor and send them pictures of the stretched cards. Ect.. ect...
February 22, 2021
I received a FedEx envelope with a $945.52 telling me to purchase Nike gift cards at any store and send my email report. If it looks too good to be true... it's usually because it is fraud.
February 22, 2021
Just received a letter and check for 4,930.00 with instructions to keep 600, and buy gift cards from 4 different Walmart’s with elaborate stories as to why. The emphasis on surveys being completed is what throws the scam off. I immediately knew to come research this company
February 23, 2021
Thomas White 346-718-7698 overnight mailed me a check for $1,950. He used Whole Foods Market on his letterhead and invited me become a secret shopper for them. Instructions said to buy gift cards totaling $1,500 and keep the $450 as my shopper fee. I was supposed to send them photos of the gift cards. Kind of looked like a fake check and the instructions looked like cheap copies with a photoshopped logo. So I googled and found this page. Didn’t cash the check. Didn’t fall for the scam. Here’s all the info so you don’t either!
Ms. D.
February 24, 2021
I received a check in the amount of $2,390.73. I was told to keep $295 for myself after cashing it with my bank, then take out the money and purchase 4 - $500 america express cards shop for $54 personal items. Hold the cards until they tell me when and where to send it. haha
Not. Gonna. Ge…
February 24, 2021
I just received a check for 1997.00 same story. If it sounds to good to be true it probably isn't.
February 25, 2021
I received a check for 2,400 with a paper full of instructions. I left it all in the big usps priority mail envelope it came in. Two days later they began texting me like crazy telling me they know I received the envelope that I needed to contact them to confirm so I. An go about n do the job blah blah blah. They wanted 4 eBay card $500 each and 4 Nike cards $500 each and $400 was for me. To take pics of the cards front and back but with the backs scratched off. I did t do anything. Not even respond to them. I knew it was fishy from the beginning it just didn’t feel right.
February 25, 2021
Received a letter from Walmart and a check for $3345. The letter was very detailed regarding my new job as a secret shopper. It included information on how to purchase money orders and send them via fedx to some guy named Mr.Paul Johnson phone number: 949-409-4904. It was real obvious from the start that this was fraud as it exemplifies the saying “if it seems too good to be true then it probably is!”.
February 26, 2021
I received a check in the mail for over two grand. This company goes by on-site shopper. The contact is Dillon Patton. They ask to buy American Express gift cards and send them in once the “assignment is completed”
Not gonna be s…
February 27, 2021
I just recieved today a "money order" to be a "walmart mystery shopper". The money order recieved was for $2500.. I took photos of the money order, and the letter that accompanied it al9ng with the "review form".
February 27, 2021
I received a check for 1950.00 from Black Swan operating, LLC drawn off Bank of Omaha, NA ( beneith the name of the bank. They think I suppose for every 100 they sent at least 1 poor soul will fall for their rediculious scam - they truly need more people have ways to verify these for people, and smarten them up. It truly sad to me that anyone, especially our older less knowledgeable individuals on fixed incomes fall for these ploys, we need someone to teach them how to see that "if seems to good to be true, it is". Please don't fall for the scams. It isn't the right thing for people to do to others it's almost painful to watch. If nothing else they need to be arrested. Please keep you elderly family from being the next In the scammed person. Thank you . Misty Rae
Mae Rho
February 28, 2021
I just received a check for $1950.00. FAKE..FAKE..FAKE. 1. Name of company is a child support agency in Frenso CA. 2. Address do not exist. 3. Zip code 98711 do not exist in the USA. 3. Area code 281 is in Houston Texas. 4. Signature on check is computer generated and unreadable. The logo on the letter is from Whole Foods, which I do not shop. Bottom line, before going and depositing these checks. Google and verify location, zip code, area code and bank info.
March 01, 2021
I was contacted thru a generated text to become a secret shopper. Then got a 2 day priority mail from a place in California. With instructions to buy 3 gift cards each for $400 from Walmart I had to answer a survey about my experience. & I was to confirm that I got these mail/cards ect thru a text or email that was provided & to also send these cards # & pictures & Along with these instructions came a check for $2400!! From a credit union in Mexico, MO!! Sounds too good to be true???!! Right?!! Also my name was not spell all the way correctly on the check it also mentioned you should be able to cash this check through your bank if not please deposited it should be clear within 24 hours No thank you! Please be aware ! This is just not real! Nobody pays more up front like this!
March 02, 2021
Got an eMail from Target a few days back about being a secret surveyor of their Stores near me in Miami, Fl. Today a Ck for $2,550.00 came in to my name, they want basically me do the things other have done here and being taken for their own money. I refuse the Offer, and where whan I give the info I have on this Scam, before they realize I will not comply ??
March 03, 2021
It's 2021 and I just received this exact scam. I have filed a report. BEWARE!
March 03, 2021
Been duped too many times. Always call the bank on the check to see if it a fraud
Don't use your…
March 07, 2021
Omg ..I hope that isn't what just happened to me ..there was an add on line for secret shopper through wallmart ..uh I said so I filled out the app few weeks later said app was accepted and sending fed ex instructions in the mail. It cam from a company called foresee 14020.oo check .deposit in bank keep 400 and 20 fir expense. Then go wallmart purchase gift cards ..or Visa wallmart scratch back send codes and after reading I did what it said..a man contacted me with instructions diff from letter ..he wanted 1000.00 visa card ..but I got wallmart card for 500 and visa fir 500 see if cashier knew what she was doing was instructed by paper ..the man then kinda sounding a little strange said I'm sending shipping label .send me the cards .so I did ...sinse I sent and sent him by text copy of label and day the cards were sent to him ..I've not heard anything back I'm not sure what's going on ..
March 08, 2021
Just received a letter and instructions to become secret Santa at Walmart. Thank God for the internet
Not today
March 09, 2021
Well they are still at it. I got one today for 2970.00
March 11, 2021
Yep. Still at it. I live in Chicago and received a check for $1450 to buy a bunch of Nike gift cards. I have done Mystery Shopping for 25 years, so I knew that it wasn’t legit. Then when I started looking deeper, I knew for sure. I will take the check to the bank so they can learn from it. Banks want to see fraudulent checks so that they can educate their staff what to look for. This is from Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, which I have never heard of. Check looks completely legit, but I knew that it wasn’t.
March 11, 2021
I received a check today for 2,390 I am so glad I typed this in google because they would have scammed me I need the money I have 3 kids during a pandemic but it’s not worth getting my bank account closed. Thank you for this site
Trust No Man
March 13, 2021
If it does not involve sweat from your brow, it is a SCAM
March 13, 2021
Similar situation. Received cashier’s check from Target research company - Mark Armour for $2550 to buy target gift cards. Check looked real w/ a seal, but I looked it up (as I am very skeptical) & it’s a scam.
March 14, 2021
Thank you for writing this story/received a fake check in the mail yesterday. At first I was so excited the extra cash could not had came at a better time. Fortunately something didn't feel right. I am so glad that I did not rush to the bank and cash it. To God be the Glory!
So Fake
March 16, 2021
I got the whole foods letter CSET. Check for 2970.52 to buy Nike gift cards also. From BBV bank. Don't fall for it. I had a bad gut on it and my bank said it was a scam.
Not dumb enoug…
March 16, 2021
I received my "Kit" yesterday. It was too amateur to be legit. So glad I checked it out. In our corruption-ridden society one must maintain a healthy sense of skepticism.
JohnDon't use …
March 19, 2021
Just received a check for 6925 dollars but I was giving a ol addige if it's to be true then it probably is.hope you bust them soon cause I can see a desperate person falling for this.good luck
March 20, 2021
I had just received a check from global link. They sent me a $1845.49 check and want me to go get 3 $500 Best Buy gift cards The rest would be mine. Well I’m glad I decided to look everything up before I did anything with it.
March 20, 2021
I received a check in the amount of 2100.00 was told to purchase gift cards and in various amounts. 500.00 to 50.00. Scratch oof to reveal the code and send a picture. I would receive a bonus if i complete with 24 hours of receiving. Bank in California, number to call is in Tampa from Anthony Corbett..
Danielle O.
March 21, 2021
Thank you for sharing your stories. I just received a $2500 check yesterday and searched all over the letter for a website. It only has a phone number and email address. The letter urges you to deposit the check within 12-24 hours. The check has no company name and the letters has nerve to have Copyright 2020 on it. Who do I forward this information to for tracing and help to prosecute these scammers?
March 22, 2021
Received this on 03/22/21 from # (346) 287-6452: “ Hello WHF-EValuator .This is Steve Carter. You submitted your information via our SMS marketing to work as a Whole Food Markets store Evaluator . Your details have been verified and you are shortlisted as one of our representatives. Your first assignment package has been sent and will deliver to your front door /mailbox on Today. Confirm you received this message by saying "I Confirmed with your Full name" Steve Carter (Survey Collator) Whole Foods Survey”
Tamiko78 Lewis
March 23, 2021
Got one for 2930 telling me to keep 350 for myself and I get a $100 bonus if I Complete my first assignment within 24 hours I am to get Six Walmart gift cards totaling $2400 which is 3 $400 at 2 different Walmart’s and they key in on in bold Italic letters about being discreet as possible they should not know They are being surveyedWhen I’m done I’ll send in my assessment how clean was it how fast was the service the persons name that help me I’m glad I inquired before I deposited this check into my bank account
Pink Bear
March 24, 2021
I just received a text from 434.777.9276 "Borte Inc Services" is looking for shoppers. $400 on every task. Click on the link below. I did a quick Google search on Borte Inc Services, and found you. I knew it was a scam! It looked pretty good, though. The grammar was correct, and that usually the first clue. Stay safe.
March 25, 2021
I got a check for $2,600.30 with almost the same instructions. However I was out of town when the packet came. No person’s name, just instructions. When I texted the number that I was supposed to use for the gift cards I got a name. Mrs Meryl Hall , Survey manager of Interlink Research.
March 25, 2021
I received a check for $2700 they asked me to buy E-bay card for the amount of $1700. I did not do so. But they keep insisting me to complete the assignment. Until now I have not done that. We need to be careful with this stuff
March 26, 2021
Apparently these scams work because they are still attempting them. I received a package USPS today with a check and survey & research instructions. Just as with others, the check is issued from a bank not in the senders state (which can legit happen), and it is also sent from an address in yet another state. *Remember the cardinal rule of "if it's too good to be true, it probably is"? Trust it, because there are VERY few things in life that would be this easy and/or free
March 27, 2021
I just received a 2600.00 check from mystery shopper walmart
Somewhere in Texas
March 27, 2021
Got a check in the mail for 2400 about a week ago. Figured it was a scam and I tore it up and text the number letting them know I would be contacting the authorities. No one is giving away free money like that, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably isn’t a good idea to go along. Don’t deposit the check, no matter how desperate or in need you may be.
March 29, 2021
They are back at it again with an amount of $2,390. They must be needing a bunch more money this time around. Don't be fooled by this. Always call the bank the "Cashier's Check" is drawn on verify it is an actual VALID check. I cannot stress that enough. This one looks so legit I was actually a little surprised when all the information clicked until we hit the number of the check. DON"T deposit this money in your account or cash at your bank = you will be on the hook for this money and it is a considerable sum everytime!!
March 31, 2021
Raymond Morgan from Whole Foods. Money Transfer
Mark Peterson,…
April 02, 2021
Beware of this name, they send a counterfeit cashier's check for you to but mystery crypto currency. DO not fall for this scam, the bank is legit but the check is 150% fake. garbage, and it comes from a company with a website on the internet.
April 02, 2021
I have received two checks separately claiming to be for a Walmart store shopping survey. One is drawn on Huntington Bank and the other on Arvest Bank. They're both for $2,445.50. They both want me to cash the check and then purchase Walmart gift cards. They want five $200 cards from one store and then another five at $200 at another Walmart. And then of course, you are allowed to keep whatever is left. They have been texting me and calling me like crazy to check to see if I've received these checks. This has happened many times before... I don't know how they get my name and address as I do not ask to do anything like this. I am ignoring all of them but please be aware of this scam. There is a contact name and number on one of the documents with just looks like a photocopied letter about what it is you're supposed to do. The name is Henley Watkins who is supposedly the survey coordinator at 510-358-8255.
April 03, 2021
Got a WALMART check today 3,650.65...was ask to deposit & SEND BACK...3 Money orders for 1,000 EACH...and to not write ANYTHING on them...was told to keep 450 for myself and 200 for expenses then to run to FedEx and ship the money orders OVERNIGHT EXPRESS....never said anything about the extra 65cents....the 65c is what caught me as they didn't account for it.....TAKING IT ALL TO MY LOCAL WALMART MANAGER TODAY......DO NOT DEPOSIT THESE CHECKS....mine is a Cashier's Check from Lovell Bank in Lovell WY....will be contacting them on Monday...ITS A SCAM!!!
April 05, 2021
Got one today. They are getting slicker. But i may have been born at night but definitely was not last night!!!! Lol
April 05, 2021
Inter link sent me a prority envelop with a “cashiers check” for $2630.0 From ESL federal credit Union. And addressed from Rochester Ny.authentic looking In the inclosed letter I was asked to but two $500 Walmart gift cards and send the pics of the backs and grounds to them by text or email. It all sounded like the other mail I got a couple of years ago. I burned it too. Lol
April 07, 2021
I also recieved a check for over 2000 dollars but was skeptical because the company that was printed on the check was different from where the priority pkg came from also it was too different states. I haven't cashed the check so what do I do with this check?
Fred Phipps
April 07, 2021
The hits keep coming. I just received a priority mail with a check for $2410.00 and instructions to buy $2000 worth of NIKE gift cards yesterday. Thank God I checked this site first.
April 07, 2021
I received a priority mail envelope with a cashiers check for $2450 with instructions to deposit the check and send the company "Kelton Research" back $2000 in gift cards...When I text the number provided I was told only that the person on the other end was "Agent John" and that he needed me to deposit the check and buy the gift cards...I reported to FTC. The end.
April 07, 2021
I just got one of these last week.and these people can be extremely pushy with timeframe obviously the faster the better and easier for them to get away with it they impersonate real businesses also so if you don't research extremely deep it can appear legitimate even though it's not