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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.

Want to avoid the latest rip-offs? Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at FTC.gov/Scams.

2,010 Comments

Kiwi
October 17, 2018

In reply to by jmorge

I received the same “Kroger” secret shopper scam. A guy by the name of Bill Smith (horrible fake name) that was sign number one. He emailed me, then texted me, and now I received a USPS mail with a fake check for $2900 and my first assignment to purchase $2500 with of Giftcards from eBay and keep $400 for me as my fee. Thank God my bother knows a few criminals and they told him it was a scam. Lol
RD116
October 18, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

Yes,I just recieved a text with the instructors for 2,350.00 to complete a survey for Walmart. I'm not going to cash this check. The person just keeps texting me " have you deposit the check?
All scammers
November 12, 2018

In reply to by jkatz5303

Yes I just received a check too and they beep texting me asking y haven’t I cashed it. I had no clue what it was for told myself you best leave that alone. Thank god I did. They wanted me go do money grams. But they need to stop texting me. I just blocked them.
Jayla
January 11, 2019

In reply to by jkatz5303

I have been online job searching for weeks , I received a check in the amount of $2,300 on yesterday l searched online the name of the company "Endo Mystery Shoppers" and lo and behold they also have a page, I deposited the check into my account with the promise of making $200 if I shop at Walmart and now I decided to go back online since the check has not cleared in my account yet and do more research and comments is what I found smh thank God the check has not cleared yet, I will be taking this check out of my account ASAP
Sherryb
January 25, 2019

In reply to by jkatz5303

I'm from Mississippi, I received a check today for $2,950 cashier's check to make a deposit in my account 24 hours it would be cleared 350 was to do in the secret shopping. They wanted me to go to one Walmart and purchase five cards for $300 shopping gift cards scratch out the numbers send them picture and give them all the numbers plus the past four digit code on the card. Go to another Walmart and purchase three more gift cards at $100 a piece and it was the same as hearts scratch off they back with numbers send them a picture. And this was only be my first assignments. Also we believe this is a scam. First of all I've never heard of VyStar credit Union. It's supposed to be a cashier check. I need money but I'm not stupid.
MB88
January 28, 2019

In reply to by jkatz5303

I almost fell for this! I received a check for 2,600. Who does that? I was asked to go to two different Walmarts and purchase multiple gift cards in 350.00 increments. Then, I was to scrape the gift card numbers and take pictures of them. I tried calling the phone number which no one answered. I put my phone down and 2 second later, I get a text saying, "hello" when I tried to text back, the message failed to send. I feel really stupid that I almost fell for this. I would like to report these scammers, I 'm just not sure how to go about that.
Emily2324
February 28, 2019

In reply to by jkatz5303

Same thing happened to me. Do I answer their texts or just ignore it
RMMiller
March 26, 2019

In reply to by jkatz5303

Same thing happened to me. I called the bank the check was drawn on and the confirmed the cashier's check was fraudulent.
same thing
August 02, 2019

In reply to by jkatz5303

Same thing happened to me. $2600 cashier's check to mystery shop Wal-Mart and buy 2 $1000 money orders to be sent to them. Don't think so!
DoJudith Borch…
May 13, 2020

In reply to by jkatz5303

A friend of mine warned me about this so I got on Google and found out it was a fake this secret shopper I thought I felt was a bit iffy for me I don't like secrets there is always a problem with secrets. Halleujah
Jade4092
May 17, 2018
I was a victim of this scam, the worst day of my life !!
peppino
July 17, 2018

In reply to by Jade4092

what are you doing about the scam? i know someone who has fallen a victim to them, what should they do?
Gig economy
November 29, 2018

In reply to by ctressler

Thank you for the tips! Did the scammers who sent my $2,999.99 check & “surveyor assignment“ via FedEx break any laws on par with mail fraud? If not, these folks are learning & evolving.
Roxxxy73
July 31, 2018

In reply to by Jade4092

This happened to me today except that I went to a check cashing store they couldn't verify the check I sent a text message and an e-mail didn't get a reply and the check cashing place immediately wanted to call the police and insisted I leave the store and they added me to their do not cash checks list I am mortified and livid. I have been on the phone reporting to every possible place I can report and then I just got a text message back a few minutes ago saying the check is not fake. I said, "you are a fraud, you will be found -good luck.
Summer2018
September 06, 2018

In reply to by Jade4092

So was I - happened just a few days ago. I reported it to the authorities. But sadly, the reason why these people have not been caught yet is because the police refuse to do anything about it and the FTC and FBI are only taking reports yet not actively pursuing the criminals.
DEno
September 08, 2018

In reply to by Summer2018

I received an email from an email address believed to be a principal at another school in the district i worked. I signed up for it and received a text that i would be sent information in the mail. I came home yesterday to find the check in my mail box and very detailed instruction. I immediately became suspicious. I thought who would send me a check for that amount of money trusting me to do the job and send them money an they don't even know me. I texted the number and told them I received the mail but was nervous about the check. I got an text back asking why. I told them I was concerned if it was legitimate and I received a ext stating it was but I'm not that gullible so I decided to do a little more research and found this information... I knew it was too good to be true!!
JaniceD
May 17, 2018

I have a long list of phone numbers calling for different reasons plus jobs, large amounts of money left to me all I need to do is send money to get it I just write scamer and send back last call I got wants my banking information number is 323-786-7060 no name no information

csdfg2
May 17, 2018
Thank goodness for the FTC being on the job and alert to the latest schemes & scams. Great job. Thank you!
ricoshe
May 17, 2018
any scam alerts about skype? I heard you can get hacked by skype easy
Eagles
May 17, 2018
Have had a couple phone calls regarding Irs trying to get in touch with me regarding a lawsuit
Scott
May 17, 2018

In reply to by Eagles

That’s a scam people pretend to be the irs and charge your phone bill for calling back them they try to get info from you to scam you more
Diana
May 21, 2018

In reply to by Eagles

The IRS will only send a letter, not calls. Do not call back or give information. I reported the phone number and blocked the phone number.
jjhanzely
June 06, 2018

In reply to by Diana

The problem with this is, every time you get this call....it comes up as a different number. EVERY time. These people have some kind of tool to show on your caller ID, a LOCAL number, that way there is a bigger chance of you picking up.
AmishFan
June 23, 2018

In reply to by Eagles

I have had too many to count for that scam. I don't answer the calls and immediately block their phone number.
Mika 5150
June 28, 2018

In reply to by Eagles

Are you still doing the lawsuit regarding IRS scam? If you are I'm interested in the lawsuit.
patrice
May 17, 2018

I put my resume on Career Builder and get an offer from a company asking me to be a Mystery Shopper. I checked to see if it was a real company and it was. So I applied. Then when they sent me the 2nd email I knew that they were a scam. They sent me a check in the amount of $3935 and they wanted me to put this check in my bank. I contacted the Local Police Department but was told this is not a crime and was told to inform these people to just stop communicating with me. They then started to threating me. I still have the check and they have now finally stop texting me.

txgee
July 05, 2018

In reply to by colorado

Blocking the call with my phone company only allows 5 FREE Blocked calls. Then I have to start blocking them by going into my phone settings and blocking them myself. When that no longer works, have been advised to contact the FTC! Which I have done. Only good thing about these good for nothing people is that there is a place for them one day!
hipthe
May 31, 2018

In reply to by patrice

Give checks to your bank for collection. Don't try to deposit them, however. They should ask for any other paperwork that came it and how it came to you and why. It can be send to the FBI. Writing fake checks is a crime. The more checks they get, the chances increase that people will get caught. Do your best to not touch the check much, in case they left finger prints.
almost
June 21, 2018

In reply to by hipthe

I recently had the same thing happen. Do I contact the FBI or let the bank take actions?
ARAJCO
May 17, 2018
Nov.2010, I was new in the country, I didn't know that scammers in USA are more than Africa. I received 5 checks of $970.00 each which I deposit at Chase bank and after 3 days they allow me to withdraw amounts, but they come back to me after several weeks. Wish to know what we can do when we receive false checks with big amounts??
FTC Staff
May 25, 2018

In reply to by ARAJCO

Some people destroy the fake checks, some people give them to staff at a bank or a local police office. If you receive a check by postal mail, you can give it to someone at your post office, because they investigate mail fraud.

txgee
July 05, 2018

In reply to by FTC Staff

Thanks Bridget for this info. Will be on the way to my P.O. tomorrow with my $2,900.38 check! Hope they will investigate but suspect there are so many of these misfits sending out these big checks there will be little the P.O. will be able or will do! They will eventually be caught though and when they are, I hope authorities will fine them for every fraudulent check they sent out AND in the exact each time that their checks were written for....PLUS jail time!
Meft
May 17, 2018
Even when a real company asks for a Western Union Shop I just delete it. Better safe than sorry.
Cindy …
May 17, 2018
Thank you for the information.
Cappy
May 17, 2018
Fake checks deserve fake gift cards.
SarasotaSharisma
May 17, 2018

In reply to by Cappy

Save your used up and expired gift cards. Send them those numbers!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA
mrsmike6
May 17, 2018
I once got a check for the secret shopper job for $ 19,000.00. It was drawn on a Wells Fargo Bank! Not only did I not ” cash” it I went to a Wells Fargo Bank with it. The poor employee went nuts. You didn’t try to cash this did you? No, I just brought it to you to see it! I then shredded it....what a scam!
Roni
May 17, 2018
I was also taken by this scam...they are so smart that they even sent me a contract for employment. It was an energy company.
dee
May 21, 2018

I've seen many opportunities to be a Secret Shopper at Walmart. Continous IRS threatning lawsuits,Thanks for the heads also. Keep up the good work.

Roll tide
May 17, 2018
I use to get calls like this all the time but i never acted on any of them.but the only way i was able to stop the calls from coming i start telling them i accept cash only.
Big Dls
May 17, 2018
I was scammed by this dude called himself Marcos Coletti, a real scammer with the fake job offer, I-Tunes, Amazon Gift cards theft ring. STAY CLEAR, BE VERY CAREFUL!
Angel
June 14, 2018

In reply to by Big Dls

i just got scammed doing this is there any way for me to fight this i don't have the money to give back to the bank ?
FTC Staff
June 14, 2018

In reply to by Angel

You are responsible for the checks you deposit. If you deposited a fake check and withdrew money, you must repay the bank for the money you withdrew. You could talk to someone at the bank about repayment and report the scam.

What's Up With…
August 14, 2018

In reply to by Angel

I'm sitting here with a check for a $1,000.00 Very tempting, down on cash, but ever thing about it said SCAM. Glad I came to this web site first. As the the saying goes, if it's sounds to good to be true, then it truly is to good to be true.