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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

Bobbie
August 19, 2018
I just got a check for $2950 for a Walmart Secret Shopper. Keep $350 for me then buy gift cards at two different stores and report info back by test message to 323-947-2941 for David Moore. Glad we looked this up first. They probably found me because I have been actively looking for a job lately.
timste7970
August 28, 2018
Same deal here, got a check for $2800, told me to cash the check and immediately purchase $2500 in itunes cards, scratch off the numbers and send pics of them. Texted me from 646-979-8146, when i refused they told me i had to pay $200 for inconveniencing them or they would get their lawyer involved.
cad1949
August 28, 2018
Received a check for 2950 dollars. Suppose to buy two gift cards worth 2600 wait to deliver to appointed sponsor to pick up. I checked the name of the bank on the check....can't find it on the internet? community National Bank Bayton Tn.
Christinap0808
November 30, 2018
So i received a cashiers check for 1.998. Im to deposit it in my account keep 200 commission and keep deposit receipt then send pic of receipt to ( johnsonsap1 @gmail. com. then 2task of going to walmart and money gram once the money has cleared im supposed to email them so i can get the instructions of the secret shopper assignment. There is no company name just the email address and the name Andrew Mann. The cashiers check has the bank name of The Bryn Mawr trust company. Im glad i read every ones story because i was about to make a big mistake. These people should b locked up what do we do about this
Don't use your…
September 05, 2018
was contacted for a mystery shopper job. I also do legitimate secret shopper jobs non pay you $400. And why would you have to send $1000 to judge customer service $50 would do. Check was for $1450 I called the bank it was written on 2 times 1 lady told me she found the account and money was in there. the next lady said she did not find the account? Should I take this to the police? Alos the check was from a out of state bank the person texted me from 2 different numbers from 2 different states and the check was fedex from austin texas , and then the person i was to send money to was in lubbock texas . They told me a name of company but that name not on the check, and could not find online search jerks!!!
Momof2
September 08, 2018
I just fell for all this ... please dont do it.ots a scam. I thought I was smarter than this
any one heard …
September 08, 2018
ANY ONE HEARD OF A THOMAS MILLER OR MR WALTERS
JButter
September 10, 2018
I got an email May 3, 2018 from Walmart, Inc. Subject: Job Opening for Walmart Secret Shopper. I filled out the information. On September 7, 2018 I got a federal express package with a check for $2,380.00 and an instruction guide sheet spelling out just what I'm to do with the money. I was to first deposit the entire cashier's check in my account. Then go to my local Walmart store and shop or ITunes vouchers, buy 20 vouchers @ $100 each. Purchase $80 worth of merchandise of my choice from Walmart and $300 is mine for doing this. My daughter gave me this website for FTC and I'm seeing exactly what I have here on this comment section. It would have helped me a lot if it were true but its fake to. Just like you all are saying its to good to be true. Beware. I texted back to them I don't have a bank to put the money in. I haven't heard back yet but I'm sure they are done with me.
Revanna
September 12, 2018
I recently received a call about the amazon org one. Luckily I saw this posting will I researching. I have, also, received the irs one about taxes owed. They say they are from texas litigations. The number is a Florida number. I reported the number and blocked it. I, also, received one about an old account I had. They wanted money up front to settle the account. I, however, said to take me to court and I would settle it there. Never heard from them again. I blocked the numbers of these calls. What really bothers me is that they are preying on the seniors. Many dont check if its legitimate. They paid at irs or a government agency. I've always taken the stance that to research it. Or that if its legitimate to handle it in court.
Cent 2018Don'…
September 13, 2018
I got a post office money order from AZ .. and I don’t live in AZ.. and they delivered it on a Sunday. That was already Suspicious. I just don’t know how they got my info tho. Plus once I ready the letter and the grammar was all off I knew. Then got a text asking me about my 1st assignment. I said well call the police they have my Secret shopper evaluation... lol
Afrost
August 10, 2019

In reply to by Cent 2018Don'…

I had the same thing happen and I told them I’d report them to the police and they said they were already reporting me. What could they possibly report me for? Because I didn’t complete an assignment I never signed up for.
ldsheppard
September 17, 2018
I received a check for $1,500 telling me that my first assignment was for the Apple Store closest to me. They instructed that I was to deposit the check in my active checking account. I was then supposed to go to Apple and buy a $1,200 Apple gift card. I was to keep $300 as my salary. The letter said to send a picture of the receipt and the scratched off number of the gift card. I received this "Mystery Shopper" opportunity through my college email as well. I almost did it because it looked so real but thank you to this forum I didn't.
Grace360
March 22, 2021

In reply to by ldsheppard

Same thing happened to me but I tore up the check and reported them to the local news
sistadocta
September 19, 2018
Just got a check for $2,985 (Cashier's Check) with instructions to purchase at the Apple Store. I was going to take to my bank and have them verify if it was a real check. Glad I decided to do my homework and check on line to see if this was real or not. Just got a message from a "friend" through LinkedIn (got the first one that way as well) saying for me to follow a link to this mystery shopper job opportunity. I emailed her and asked if she had sent ...of course she said No. This is a hot mess and wish we could do something about it.
Ronin
September 19, 2018
Some of the Mystery shopping gigs are the biggest ones and also these new ones, to be a debt collector for these forgien companies, they’ll pay you 5000.00 a month and a 5% commission, but you have to deposit that money’s colkected in to account and then wait to be paid.
Mh71
September 20, 2018
Just got burned by James Berman on the Kroger shop. Sent check for $2450, bank put hold on funds for 3 days. Now I’m on the hook for $1710 . Check came back as returned. How do we fight this to get charges reversed?
Rsd12
September 24, 2018
Same thing happen to me. What do I do next?
donttrustanyone
October 12, 2018
I was contacted by mystery shopper www. vppa. ltd via text message then 2 days later I received a check for 2922.00 of which I was supposed to keep 320.00 as payment and wire the rest via western union, Walmart2walmart and money gram to three individuals who where also mystery shoppers we were to evaluate the services of sending and receiving the money transfer. Too good to be true. The heck looked legitimate so I deposited sent confirmation of deposit receipt to a urview. pm. me lucky I did not make the wire transfers and only left the deposit in the account. Later I felt uncomfortable and went on line and found out this was a common scam. I called my bank and reported it they said that as long as I didn’t wire the money to recipients I was still in the safe zone but that I would have to go to my bank and report the item. Thank God for internet sites that monitor theses activities. It’s a shame that when you are pressed for money you can become a victimized .
PA Bank Fraud Expert
September 26, 2018
The article has a major flaw. The 2nd paragraph states, "and the bank even tells you the check has cleared." Any respectable financial institution will never tell you that a check drawn on another bank has cleared. The only bank that can tell you that a check has cleared is the bank that the check is drawn on.
Romosoup
September 26, 2018
Thomas Wells, Carlos Sanchez Walking Mart shopper scam Buy 4 $400.00 gift cards send code on back by text message to 323-417-5776 guardian credit union cashier's check 1950.00 watch ou
RD116
October 18, 2018

In reply to by Romosoup

Yes I recieved the same scam from this number as well 323-417-5776. With the FedEx check to my door for 2,300.00 this person keeps harassing me asking did I cash the check now there calling me too. I'm going to take this to the police department.
I got a check too
September 27, 2018
Received a check for $2,300.00, along with a letter of instructions for mystery shopping. Since it was such easy cash and yeah I can use the money, I did old school technique, I googled the address of the bank, got the number, called and inquired about the check. It was confirmed a fake. I'm so glad I listened to God. This is not money from heaven.
Maxi
September 30, 2018
I applied as a secret shopper and somebody responded, sent me a check of $2300. I was to be paid $320. Before i deposited the check, i asked the teller if the check was legit bec if it is not, i won't deposit it, but they couldn't say for sure. They said to be safe, we will put a hold on the check for 7days before i can withdraw. So i told the person i was communicating with through text. Upon knowing this, he did not respond anymore. After 5days check bounced but the worst part, i had to pay a bank fee of $30 for the bounced check. People....BE CAREFUL, SCAMMERS ARE EVERYWHERE!!! TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
Twodolphs
February 02, 2021

In reply to by Maxi

Your first clue should have been that your only contact was via text message. If somebody's going to hire you for legitimate job, the initial contact might be via text message, but at some point they're going to want to talk to you. Also, a legitimate employer is not going to just send you a check for $2,300, and tell you to keep three or four hundred dollars out of it. A legitimate employer is going to have you sign a W-4 form and verify that you can legally work in the United States. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
ScottMc101
September 30, 2018
My wife just started to participate in this scam. How can I report this to the federal government. These people need to be prosecuted, we could have lost our house over this!
FTC Staff
October 31, 2018

In reply to by ScottMc101

You can report to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations. Thank you.

Innovalist Alm…
October 31, 2018
I received a Cashier's Check for $1960.20 on October 2, 2018 from Innovalist Research in Louisiana. Sent to me in a Priority Mail Express envelope. The "instructions" were to go to cash the check immediately. The funds would be available within 24 hours. Keep $300 as my "Commission". Go to Walmart and spend no more than $50 on a personal item. Then later buy (2) $500 Walmart gift cards, and (6) iTunes Gift cards worth $100 each. Scratch the backs and text them a clear picture of the numbers on the back of the cards to (504) 605-0624...REALLY??? SCAM SCAM SCAM!! Where are the authorities "Serving and Protecting" the poor suckers who fall for these scams, and have their bank accounts stripped? All the information is right there in black and white to find these creeps. Research Manager Mr. Steven Longman (probably fake name) Innovalists Research Int. (who opened a BBB file on Sept 29, 2018) 1055 St Charles Ave New Orleans, LA 70128
FTC Staff
November 30, 2018

In reply to by Innovalist Alm…

These are useful details for a complaint. Please report this to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

The messages you put here on the blog don't go into the law enforcement database.

Agnes
October 03, 2018
I received check on $1000 today.But first I check the company which was Hearing Advantage inc.Later I did my research online and here I am.I see that I am not alone with this scam.Im glad that I do nothing with this check .Thanks for all informations.
InTouchInSight…
October 04, 2018
Yeah. Got an e-mail asking if I wanted to become a secret shopper. I replied. They sent another e-mail letting me know that they would be sending me my first assignment with instructions. I received it a couple of days later by Priority Mail. For 1,840.00. I was deposit the check in the bank, give it a day or 2 to clear. then to go to any one of the stores listed, buy 3 reloadit cards. Put $500 on each. and send them the pins in an e-mail and send in the answers to the questions regarding my shopping experience. Send the report by e-mail and then wait for an address to send the cards. Anybody else have this. I did report it to the Federal Trade Commission and received a Ref. #. But it doesn't show up on the site. This was after I contacted the Intouch/Insight company. They told me there was a scam out there using their company logo
Twin
October 07, 2018
They tried to scam me , luckily this post save me. They asked me to connect on linked-in and told me about the mystery shopping job . I agreed and 2 days later I received a $2900.00 check . My task is to deposit the check in my account then use the cash to buy I tune gift cards up to $2500.00 the rest is mine to keep. They asked me to crash off the pin and numbers , take a picture and text to them. My husband is a cop and I tell him about this job . He said to me this is a scam.
Missnette
October 08, 2018
I received the same thing but they start asking me tobget and iTunes cards and give them the number off the back of the card. But I went to my local police department and showed them the check. I called the number they gave me and told them I lost the check and said hold one and when they found out I was a the police station they hung up in the office face. Be careful people
Heb
October 11, 2018
I did apply to be a secret shopping. I have been getting emails and text messages about it. They sent me instructions on exactly what I needed to do. They are to be sending me a check for $1450 to buy to Apple cards for $550 each the told me I get $300 plus $50 for logistics. Also told me that I would send them the codes. Company is Marketview?? Have any of you heard of this company?
mo
February 11, 2019

In reply to by Heb

Received a cashier check for 2,900 wants me to deposit and buy gift cards .. then take gift cards and purchase apple products from the store then a person would come and pick up the merchandise. Marketview research
Raul
February 11, 2019

In reply to by Heb

Heb, I currently have a similar experience with Marketview, with a similar purchase and compensation amount. I would like to know what you'd done, and if this company is legitimate?
Ticked off
October 11, 2018
I received a package in the mail today with 3 $900 MONEY ORDERS and they want me to survey a local apple store. The guy listed on here is Dave Ewers with Polarbay Analytics INC. No such website nor person. I typed in the phone number 323-840-1332 and it brought me to this page. Thank GOD I researched, the money orders were written on Community First Credit Union.
Mantis
October 12, 2018
Thanks for posting this. I received this fraudulent offer yesterday via overnight mail. I assumed that this was to good to be true! I really appreciate your verification that my instincts were correct.
Jordache
October 13, 2018
So glad I saw this post I got a check for 7995.99 claiming to be a settlement from a class action lawsuit from a car I bought. My husband was mad I ripped it up and threw it away but now I can show him I was right!
Pissed and Burnt
October 19, 2018
i was recently scammed as well it was called the new mystery shopper. i received a check in the mail for 997.32. They wanted me to give 10 dollars to Charity and then they said for me to take 200 out for my salary. For the rest that was left they wanted me to purchase gift cards from the Apple Store. I took the check and deposited it into my new bank account and the check bounced and the bank closed my acct. i even told them it wasn't my fault and i was a victim of a scam, i even provided the letter they sent me, but they still closed my account. I don't believe that the Gov't is doing enough to stop these crooks!
FTC Staff
October 19, 2018

In reply to by Pissed and Burnt

You can report a scam to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give will go into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

You can also report a scam to the website where you found the ad. If the check came by postal mail and you have the envelope, you can take it to a post office.

NoName117
October 31, 2018
This just happened to me. I was sent a check for $2900 for the “Kroger Mystery Shopper or Evaluation”. I was to deposit the $2900 in my bank, take $400 for myself and use the rest to purchase an eBay gift card for $2500. Then I was to open the pack, peel the silver scratch off area and take a picture to send back along with the store name, address, date, time, etc. etc. If this really was a Kroger secret shopper, they’d be concerned with their actual store items, employees and cleanliness of the store...not an eBay gift card!!! The guy’s “name” is Bill Smith. The e-mail he gave on the paper is billsmith1831 @gmail. com and phone number is (302) 754-0304. SCAM SCAM SCAM!!!!!
Not falling fo…
November 16, 2018

In reply to by NoName117

This exact thing just happened to me, only his phone # has changed. Same email address, but the # is now 765-507-3604.
NoName117
October 31, 2018
I just got another e-mail from “Target” (offer @target .com). The e-mail reads: “We are accepting applications from qualified individuals from all-over the United States to become Reviewer. There is no charge to become a reviewer and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials from us. You will receive a free gift card of USD 300 per assignment. No commitment is made on this job and you would have flexible working hours. We will provide you the funds for all of your evaluations.At least 2 evaluations a week will be assigned to you because this is a part time job and we think this job suits you.”SCAM SCAM SCAM!!!
Secret Shopper…
October 22, 2018
Just received a check for $967 drawn on from Windmill Farms Nurseries, Zolfo Springs, on a Wachula StateBank Florida check. Letter has a whole spiel about secret shopper for EBay Cards. I almost fell for it until they said deposit through ATMor phone deposit. Also, about two weeks ago I got an email from Kroger Stores asking me f I wanted to be a secret shopper so I didn't think anything of it. Who do I turn this in to. This is also Postal Fraud?
Unbelievable!
July 26, 2020

In reply to by Secret Shopper…

I just got a priority mail package containing a check for 2430.0. I get 430.00 and 30.00 for expenses and am supposed to go to two Wallmarts and buy 5 gift cards for 200.00 at each one. Scratch off the numbers and pin and send them the pictures. I really need money right now because I lost my job... how disappointing that it’s just a rude scam. I had almost felt hopeful things would be okay.
Jeanie
October 23, 2018
I just wanted to say that I did receive one of those checks and I got taken for $2,400. That was before I was aware of this site. They were from a company called customer 1st. They told me to do a Walmart to Walmart transfer for $2,200 which I did do and lost that much money-- what scammers!
Karen
October 26, 2018
Hi, Today I received a similar piece of mail along with a check for $2070.96. I was offered a Mystery Shopper Job that included going into a Walmart store and gathering detailed information, such as the cashier's name, the cleanliness of the store etc. I was to deposit this check into my bank account and put aside $400 as my commission fee. There were several different steps following including purchasing gift cards, scratch off the back, taking photos of the cards and emailing them. The awkward thing was that the check was from Angelo Iafrate Construction Company, Red Flag! After reading some other stories here it helped me to realize that this was a scam. It is really sad that people would try to put you in a situation that would end up hurting you financially as the end result. I am really glad to have found other stories similar to mine. Also, glad not to have participated in this fraudulent activity.
Pfunk
October 30, 2018
I got a Check in the mail. what would happen if I went to a check cashing place and tried to cash the check there.
Louis
July 16, 2020

In reply to by Pfunk

The same thing happened to me I received two checks in the mail one made out to myself and another made out to Heaven Butler. With instructions PMA evaluation form for me to go to Walmart as a secret shopper buy gift cards iTune cards Etc. I recognize this right away that is a scam. It's a shame how far people go to just to scam other people for a dollar
GITTY
September 19, 2020

In reply to by Pfunk

Did you try it at cash checking place, if so did it work?