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.

Melissa houck
April 08, 2021
He took me for 900. And he wants me to give him 200 more with itune. And american express cards. I contacted online to c if it was a scam. It is. So hes not getting another penny from me.
April 08, 2021
I got the $997 Postal Money Order and a letter to deposit, keep $200 and buy two gift Visa Walmart cards for $395 each. Thank you. Ripping up and throwing away.
April 08, 2021
April 8, 2021 - they're still at it. I got a check with my name on it for $2953.47. But I signed up with my college through e-mail, I assumed it was vetted. But if something doesn't seem to add up. Someone sending this type of money to you with no additional information is irregular. Always use google to verify the sources. If you cash it and spend it, you are liable to repay back that debt. Even if you cash it and dont spend it, you still have to pay a fee for that bounced check. So sorry to hear about everyones experience.
April 08, 2021
I got a fake check or scammer check by UPS mail today and the amount was $2380 . There is two letters attach and ask me to buy and tack a picture and send them Back. There is the instructions for the assignment. What should I do? I do know this was scammer . Do I need to pay back even if i didn’t cash out or put it in my bank acc. I don’t want to touch this kind of dirty money from scammer. What should I do? And will anyone will come after me? Will the scammer send me again and again?
Jeffery smith
April 09, 2021
I just received 2 checks worth 5,900 in total and a paper telling me to go to my nearest Nike store and spy on their service also to deposit the check into my checking account and buy Nike gift cards and send a picture of the codes but thank god I did my research before doing something ridiculous
April 12, 2021

In reply to by Jeffery smith

April 12 the scam is $2950.52 check to buy cards and more cards and let the shopping service people know . But I sense an attempt at money laundering embedded here. Beware!
April 13, 2021
Rec'd one today through USPS priority mail for secret shopper for Kroger s wanting me to deposit check and go buy gift cards. First cards now folks. Listen, I don't know why USPS, Fed Ex or the feds can't tract these people down by what is sent to us and especially how it's sent. They need to be stopped. Philadelphia, Pa location.
April 16, 2021
i was sent a check, took it to the bank glad my bank verifies all checks. found it was a fraud.
DoCandyn't use…
April 16, 2021
I just received a check for $10,400.00. The FedEx came from Lowe's. The check has a different name. They want me to secret shop at Wal-Mart. Fake or not??? I also received on for $4500.00 to let them wrap a add on my car. Fake or not?
Brooklyn Family
April 16, 2021
Just received a $1,450 cashier’s check to complete a customer service evaluation assignment and purchase Nike Gift Cards totaling $1,100. The check includes survey service commission payment of $350 plus bonus incentive of $200 to complete the assignment within 6 to 12 hours. Thank you for sharing your experiences and exposing the fraud.
‭+1 (346) 306-9340‬
April 17, 2021
This number texted me offering the secret shopper scam today. ‭+1 (346) 306-9340‬ Beware of these scammers.
April 17, 2021
I received a check from him today for 2450.00 for monster energy car wrap, im glad I didn't give him anything...
April 19, 2021
My wife just got the Whole Foods fake check for $2950 from ACR Service in SF with instructions to buy Nike gift cards at various local stores. (We are in FL). The rat had a bad smell and the return address on the FedEx mailer turned out to be a condo. Next call, police.
Keeping you informed
April 20, 2021
I received a check in the mail for $2,600.00 and a letter from Target. I was a secret shopper and was supposed to deposit the check and then go purchase 4 target gift cards at $500.00 and send the picture of cards and receipts. I tore it up because I know better. Just want to inform anyone out there that these scams are real. Please be careful
Missouri, USA…
April 20, 2021
4-20-2021: I just received a check from CBRE written off of The Bank of New York Mellon. Wow, a check for $3,345.00 looks good but I had a bad feeling about this from the moment that I opened it. (instructions to deposit, write money orders, send the money orders and an evaluation of the store to an address) After doing some research I have determined that it fits the profile of this type of scam. There are really some crooked people out there! Thanks for the confirmation
April 26, 2021
I received a letter and a check today. I’m glad I googled it and found this information first. I thought it was fraud cause it seemed way to easy. Thanks guys!
April 29, 2021
This is still happening people. Desperate poor seniors are falling for this until someone that cares steps in and reminds them "If it's too good to be true IT IS!" Thank goodness I caught this one before mother deposited it!
April 29, 2021
Hi, I was looking in Alibaba website a graphic card. I found a supplier Taizhou Jinhaoli Sanitary Ware Co., Ltd. manage by Thomas bh. I bought 2 graphic card and at the other day a received a message that he send 15. He sugest that I paid for 10 and I accept but when the package arrived. He use the company of Electronic Kart to pick up the package and the Aereo Courrier Express to ship the items. He contactme after 3 days and told me that insurance fee must be paid to release the shipment from Bahamas. After several messages I accept because I contact Electronic Kart, Aereo Courrier Express and douglas mike
April 29, 2021
I am sitting here looking at a check for$2630.00 Then my assignment is to buy something personal for me and purchase gift cards worth 500 each. I am also supposed to keep $500 for myself as my wages. The check is from Southern Bank and the research co. is InterLink
Disgusted with…
April 30, 2021
So what's the best way if they send me a check. Is there a way to give to police or anyone who could go back at them?
May 06, 2021
I just got one. Looked like a scam right away. Sorry for the people who were scammed.
May 13, 2021
I just got letter & check asking me to deposit then by 10 gift cards of $20£ each at 2 diff walmarts & of coarse send all number on gift cards. Wish i could put picture on hear.
May 17, 2021
They just sent me a check of 2520 with first mail priority and eveything, came with paperwork asking you to fill out and send it to the email address am pretty sure its a scam so jokes on them
June 05, 2021
Just received my package today. Wanted me to buy $1500 worth of gift cards. I received it through the USPS. Isn't there a federal law against using our country's mail system for fraudulent actions?
June 07, 2021
Just received a check today and was kinda excited about it but decided to do a little research just to be sure and glad I did. Thanks to whoever is running this website!! Anyone know the best place to report this to?
June 07, 2021
I received a letter in the mail from a Mark Henderson for a Customer Service Evaluation Tool (CSET). And a check for 1,950 with instructions on what I'm suppose to do. The address they sent this to me is ASLA GROUPS 1414 GREENFIELD AVE SAN FRANCISCO CA 94103-4321.
June 25, 2021
So I received a check via FedEx in the amount of $3.450, the envelope came with instructions to deposit the check and text my full name, check number & amount. It was already a given that it was a scam due to the instructions. Please be weary of these type of scams or frauds.
Don't use your…
June 28, 2021
I received cashiers check to deposit in my bank but I didn’t deposit it because it was to good to be true .
June 28, 2021
I just got a letter from Christopher Black at 1323 14th St Apt C Santa Monica, CA. Supposedly from a company called Nike shapshot consult. Sounded like a scam when I read the letter and decided to do some research before doing anything with the $1950 check from First Merchants Bank. The check says the remitter is a Stephen Bryant which was also suspicious since the letter and envelope bot have other names on them as well. Thank you for having a website that normal people like me can find to see and report scams like this.
July 13, 2021
I have received a sketchy letter from someone named Patricia Powell. It’s a letter about buying gift cards and being a secret shopper.
July 13, 2021
I received a check after signing up to ne a secret shopper. Instead of depositing it , I cashed it. Got my 2000.00 worth of Walmart gift cards. They Walmart’s not visa or any cc. My instructions are to scratch the bar code send a pic of front and back of card get a 30$ cashier’s check made out to kidney foundation. I will stop right here. Keep the gift cards or try to return them? And wait for the bank to call me about the check I cashed. It was a Cashier’s check. Any suggestions?
July 14, 2021
Just received a text from a Missouri phone # 417.383.1206.. Borte Inc. Services...Looked them up. The company was incorporated in N.C. in 2004. Records show business was dissolved. Looks like a SCAM to me. Phone # lookup does not equate to Borte Inc. Svcs.
July 15, 2021
So I just got the check in the mail, I was not aware of scammers doing this. I got a gut feeling and decided to look up this “secret shopper” stuff. Sure enough this popped up. Letter stated to buy 2 x $500 eBay cards. Send the info to a Jonathan and they would pay me additional $250 if I did it within 12 hours. Also the letter stated it was against the law if I didn’t deposit the check! Man I’m glad I googled this before falling for it. I don’t know who to report this to.
Dr. Barb
July 16, 2021
Just received a text message from David regarding my first check that will be delivered today or tomorrow. I got a real funny feeling that this was not right when they told me to deposit the check in my bank account, so I did a little research and found all the wonderful and sad comments on this website. Thanks for giving me a heads up and a wake-up call. I responded to David's text message by telling him I know this is a scam and the Federal Fraud Dept. has been notified. I work too hard for my money to give it to some crooks out there.
July 17, 2021
I just got a check today my husband wanted to cash it right away I’m glad I did my research first I’m Not going to cash it. Should I report it? If so then to who?
July 20, 2021
Got a check today, but i know better than to cash it.
July 22, 2021
I received a letter and a check for mystery shopping saying that the money must be used for jobs and I can take $300.00 out of it as pay the check is $2250.00 I didn’t do anything with it cause I don’t trust it. The logo says US Mystery Shopper. Just wanted to get some other opinions on this subject.
July 22, 2021
Yep just got a check for $1960 came with instructions it through me off talking bout scratch off gift card send picture before I could get the check out lady at bank said Check is FAKE
July 28, 2021
I just got a check to buy the American Express Cards also. Keep $300. My question is what prevents people from using the cards purchased? I knew it was a scam I'm just curious.
Nancy Esther. …
August 03, 2021
Yep just got a check for $1960 came with instructions it through me off talking bout scratch off gift card send picture before I could get the check out lady at bank said Check is FAKE
August 08, 2021
Received my fake check from the scammers today
August 09, 2021
I received a cashier's check for $3890.00 with instructions and a assignment guide to cash check at bank and if unable deposit it for 24 hrs. take $350.00 as my salary.Buy Walmart gift cards totaling 1700.00 at 2 Walmarts etc. Thank God, I said to myself...No one is ever just going to send me $4000.00 It's fraudulent! Amen!
August 10, 2021
I received a check for $1,950.52 and instructions on buying EBay gift cards. It seemed suspicious so I started doing some digging and found this information. Thanks to all who took the time to share their information.
August 13, 2021
I received a Grocery Store Survey for AMEX gift cards. It asked me to deposit the $1950 in to my account and then go to any of the stores listed near me that sell AMEX gift cards. I was instructed to buy 3- $500 gift cards. The balance was my payment. I called the number to verify and lo and was not a working number! Everything (the letter, the check, the Priority Mailer) looked legit but since I did not solicit this Secret Survey assignment I figured it was a scam. Checked online and found this website.
August 25, 2021
I received a letter for secret shopper along with a check little over $3000. Knowing there are scams out there I had my bank put a seven day hold on it to see if it was legit or not. After 7 days they released the hold and I let it sit in my account for another 3 days just to make sure. The bank told me it was fine. I took cash out of my account went to Walmart. Had to call number and send so much of the funds by western union and after it was sent my bank was calling me to bring money back. I tried to get Walmart to retract funds but was already too late. Even though I did what I was suppose to making sure it was ok, it wasn’t enough time. The bank manager was kind enough to loan me the money to pay back and I paid for being scammed even after taking precautions. Anytime someone sends you money in the mail look up the bank, look up company on check, look up name who sent you the mail. And the best way to find out anything is google name on letter ex: “interlink scam letter”. It will most likely come right up telling you exactly what you got!
August 25, 2021
I received a text saying I was picked to do a shoppers survey and they told me it was in the mail...the info. N didn't mention a check ...the paper looked n felt unusual as well as the check was not familiar or the name of the bank they sent the ups within hours of texting me weird I looked up ftc immediately upon reading the letter about buying gift cards..also there were 2 extra phone numbers to text with my info main question was if you sent me a job you should already have my info ..duhhhh...keeping the envelope n reporting tonight 8.25.21...the only money I've only ever received money the same day was when I worked for daily labor jobs so don't let evil people scam you or get you caught up in stuff that you can't get out of
August 26, 2021
I received a check for $2,630.00 from a bank in Little Rock, Arkansas. I didn't deposit it. Along with a letter saying that, " I have been pre qualified to take part on their secret shopper program."
Scammers beware
August 27, 2021
I received a $2900 check but it had expired. There were also Printing errors on check face. Always inspect checks and always report fraud. If you’ve deposited it already make sure to notify your bank immediately! Scammers steal trillions annually. Good luck out there.
August 30, 2021
I received a check for $2,630 and did nothing with the check. I knew it was a scam.
August 30, 2021
First Thing I noticed was grammatical errors. Second thing I noticed was the logo was cut off, LOL!