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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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September 01, 2021
I received the same Walmart scam through my i-phone on a text on 7/29/2021. I said I was interested, they sent a check for $2,350.00 DO NOT CASH THESE CHECKS, this is a total scam. I reported it to the federal trade commission, hopefully, they will address this scam and lock up the crooks!
September 07, 2021
My mom got a check for $1950.52 with a secret shopper assignment for ebay gift cards. I knew it wasn’t right. No one sends you a check right off for nothing. She is going to be really irritated when I tell her this is a scam.
city wise
September 09, 2021
received a phony fraudulent check along with instructions to deposit and shop at walmart. Being a sceptic and smart enough to look up bank and call them , found this was not legit . well they tried but was easy to verify that this was a complete scam and ripoff arrest them ASAP
Happy in iowa
September 17, 2021
I just received a check yesterday 1550 telling me to deposit it in my bank account it should clear in 24 hours than take 50 an do some shopping at Walmart than take take the 1000 an buy 2 gift cards for 500 each than leave the store scratch off the back of cards send them a picture via text , I was all in than I told my daughter to look into the situation an here I am I'm a Christian woman I was set in my mind the lord sent me this money so glad my daughter is suspicious of everything an got me to this web site will be contacting the fraud alert an turning in all information thanks for sharing I hope this never happens to anyone without them finding there way here first an I pray to the lord that these people are caught an punished .almost had me
September 22, 2021
Yep…got a cashier’s check for $2500.52 today and instructions for buying gift cards and taking pics of the cards. The check looks very real, but when I read the instructions and thought “hmm, send pics of the gift cards?” My instinct kicked in and I googled “Rabbi West” and found this. Thank you for posting this! Knew it was too good to be true.
October 05, 2021
* * * JUST GOT IN THE MAIL - SCAM * * * September 27, 2021 I just received a notice letter from Maxie Nolan and a check for $2,390.73 with a Provisional assignment assigned. Wants me to purchase American Express Gift Cards. Wanted me to shop at CVS, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, 7-11, and Family Dollar. Wants me go to my bank and to "cash the cashier check."
Tampa, Fl
October 20, 2021
+1 (256) 269-0900 Keeps texting me asking me for my account and routing number all hours of the night. They sent a check for $2600 and told me I can keep $400 . I deposited the check and it was returned instantly. I decided to google survey shopper gift card and here I am.
November 08, 2021
Same stuff different day! I wish I would have seen this before my bank accounts were frozen!
Wm. Solchenberger
November 08, 2021
Got a check sent by Bucplanet for $3350.00 to buy my car and get it delivered to Cal. On it the remitter was named as Martina Dalvo. It was to come from someone named Casey Williams according to a text message from 619-323-0535.
November 16, 2021
I just received this package in the mail yesterday 11-15-2021…I became Leary initially and started my due diligence the next day, by making phone calls as such… I am great full for this consumer information and at the end of the day my intuition would not have permitted me to deposit this check. Be careful , everyone…