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Who wouldn’t love getting paid to shop and dine at cool places and then review them? Whether you’re a student looking for a summer job or someone wanting to start a side or full-time business, mystery shopping sounds like an exciting option. But while some mystery shopping opportunities are legitimate, many are scams that rob you, not pay you.

Here are a few ways to spot and avoid mystery shopping scams:

  • Search the company with the words “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”
  • Remember: Honest companies pay you to work for them, not charge you. If the company asks you to pay upfront to get the opportunity, walk away. No real job opportunity, including mystery shopping, involves paying for the job.
  • Don’t pay companies for “certifications,” directories or job “guarantees,” all of which are usually worthless. Companies asking you to pay for such things are likely scammers.
  • If you’re asked to deposit checks into your bank account and send money back to pay for courses, fees or anything else, stop. This is a fake check scam. When the check bounces, you’ll be out of the money you sent and may have to pay more to the bank.
  • Never wire money or buy gift cards for a mystery shopping assignment or any job opportunity. Those are sure signs of a scam.

If you’re looking for legitimate mystery shopping jobs, check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association for a database of authentic companies. But if you spot any scams, report them to the FTC at and your state attorney general’s office.

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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.

  • 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.

sunshine 78
July 17, 2019
Thank you, so many, many crazy things going on ,trust no one .
July 17, 2019
I receive a check with a letter saying for to take $500 for myself then go to Walmart buy $100 of what ever I like to which I write a review on. Hey good but this when realize it was a scam. They say go two different Walmart at each one buy two $500 gift cards Then they give phone to text the card information too. I glad I realize it was scam. I know older people would may think this is ok Beleive me check things out I call the place to check the check out it was not real.
No Shopping Today
July 20, 2019

In reply to by Brenda

Happening to me right now! Got the USPS envelope yesterday, took it to a smart friend to help me decide if it was legit! We decided we would take it to their bank and cash it, it doesnt say we have to deposit it... And we have Comerica subsidiaries here. I literally was getting my self ready just to go do some "Mystery Shopping!" I cant lie, I am really bum now! But really happy I just happend to look here before I left! I just want to know.. How come someone hasnt taken this envelope to an authority and they play it out and BUST these jerks? If someone knows any thing please reply!
August 29, 2019

In reply to by No Shopping Today

Just happened to me about 2 weeks ago. $2400 check. I worked in restaurants my whole life so I was quite familiar with mystery shoppers so I thought it was legit. Deposit check and when it clears go to one Walmart and buy 2 $500 gift cards, go to another Walmart and do the same. Whatever I buy is mine on top of an extra $500. My bank put the check on hold (understandably) and then about 10 days later they let me know the check was either altered, fictitious, or both. Whew! Sure am glad they didn't cash it right away or I'd be more in debt than I already am.
February 23, 2021

In reply to by rman56

For the last 4 days i have recieved 3 cashiers checks with instructions to go to 2 diffetent wal marts and purchase gift cards and each cashiers check was woth 4,600 so wrong in so many ways
February 19, 2020

In reply to by No Shopping Today

This happened to me but, I immediately called the FTC & they told me to take photocopies of everything, mark ATTN: postmaster MAIL FRAUD on the envelope & take it to my zip code post office. After that, don't know what happened. Wish I did know!
March 25, 2021

In reply to by No Shopping Today

Just received a usps envelope today . And it's says exactly what you posted thank you for the heads up I knew it was a scam I just wanted to confirm it and thanks for your blog
January 19, 2021

In reply to by Brenda

Brenda, I am a 77 year old, just got the same thing, .....definitely will NOT buy gift cards with my own money!!!!! I am NO dummy!!! I will text him and tell him I received the check, will deposit tomorrow and then wait for it to clear....rattle him! Makes me sad some people will do it.....
Peachesi had a…
February 17, 2021

In reply to by Brenda

I had a similar experience to Brenda .
July 17, 2019
I was sent fake checks and took them to the local post office. No one sends around 2,000 for a mystery shopper.
Brenda G
July 17, 2019
I admit I fell for this not long after I was laid off. I wished I'd done my homework before falling for it. I also wished my bank had notified me an hour sooner then they did. It ended up costing me $1247. I did get about $600 back from a class action lawsuit against MoneyGram.. Now I'm skeptical about anything and everything.
Jeanette Duda
July 17, 2019
I was scammed in June of this year & now, not only do I owe my bank (since 1966) $2,300, (they already got $400.00) which was my balance & money to live on for the rest of the month, power, phone, etc. but my account was shut down & I am getting calls 4 times a day. I am 74 years old & thought I was getting a part time job.
FTC Staff
July 17, 2019

In reply to by Jeanette Duda

The US Administration on Aging has a call center and online directory to help older adults find help in their community. There are benefits that help pay for utilties, medication, home repair and other needs. Call 1-800-677-1116 or go to www.ElderCare.ACL.Gov.

July 17, 2019
My sister got scammed a few weeks ago - caller said they were calling for a priest she knows (she's very religious and trusting) - and she was supposed to buy iTunes gift cards. Ended up losing $1,500.00 - Police said they haven't had any luck trying to trace who redeems these cards with Apple.
July 17, 2019
I received a letter with the Publishers Clearing House logo. With it was a check. It told me to call a number so I can verify who I wa so I can claim a prize. They said the check was to cover expenses related to the prize. I called the company on who the check was drawn and they told me it was a scam. They had checks stolen and copies. They wanted me to deposit the check, which of course was fake. Do not fall for this scam. If the prize was real Publishers Clearing House woud send their own check that could be verified
One step ahead…
July 17, 2019
Honestly I've been scam many times instead of chasing them i just choose to let go and just think that they need that money more than i do, "saying to myself to learn it as a lesson, know the signs, educate myself to prevent it from happening again" next thing you know they scam you with a different way(thru rent homes), Again me choosing to let it go again even thou i don't because filing a complaint agains this kind of scam cost $400 fee in the court. This last one is the most painful that i can't even imagine how could my government let this kind of scam happen to their own citizens i don't know if some of them are part of it or they just choose not to do anything about it, it hurts me so bad because of using them pretending to be working for them know their victims all information convincing you that they are legit proving they got records, involving all government agencies making you take all of your money in the bank maximize all your credits (not telling you to send it to them) but convincing you to put it in a card as a evidence for the government to prove that its your own money and not part of the accusation thats under your information. Once the government releases signs of a scam in public scammers thinks of a new way, SCAMMERS THINK THEY ARE UNTOUCHABLE, BECAUSE THEY CAN FOOL OUR GOVERNMENT AND OUR GOVERNMENT CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THEM. while victims being scolded by government agencies about not being careful instead of finding those people and find out whose behind this. Most of the government agencies says the scammer is outside the country there's no way u could track that down! But if u dig into it yah they might but they have people inside our own country.
February 19, 2020
Just got this email before I read your article. This is, for sure, a scam. They target people who don't know how mystery shopping works. Barbara Cody To: Jul 16 at 2:09 PM Coast to Coast Scheduling Services, Inc. got contracted for a survey from Market Force Information Inc. Shopper pay: $30 Requirements – You are required to purchase Ebay Gift Card($200) at your nearest CVS and Walgreens.At the store you will be required to observe the following; • Were the employees friendly and courteous? • Did you receive prompt service? • Was the merchandise displayed neatly? • Was it easy to use the service? Your report will include pictures of in-store card display,pictures of gift card purchased and receipt,fill out online survey. Total reimbursement-$230 If interested please reply with: Location of interest:(You can self select 3 CVS and 3 Walgreens Stores) Full name Phone number Due Date-26th July 2019 Thanks! Barbara Cody Contracted by Coast to Coast Scheduling Services, Inc. Coast to Coast Scheduling Services, Inc. PO Box 1436 Costa Mesa CA 92628
May 16, 2020

In reply to by alannajm

Same thing just happened to me for the amount of 1950.00. Exact wording. They have a tracking number that said, I recieved the check.
July 18, 2019
I still have the check my scammers sent me hanging on my refrigerator to remind me not to think the best of companies, but to distrust them at first. My scammers actually gave themselves a name similar to a real company, so when I Googled them, they seemed legit. Then I got the instructions to buy gift cards at different Walmarts and I immediately knew it was a scam. I should have Googled the name PLUS the word "scam" to see what came up. I immediately reported this to the federal government, but I forgot about the state. Next time I'll follow up with them as well.
Pixie Dustn't
July 19, 2019
I seem to have no problems with scams, but with the companies I have no choice but to deal with. Even though I know they are scamming, they have a way of raising your blood pressure!!! I also do not become curious & wonder why I called my self. I'm laughing so hard, I just split my sides open & I hate sewing!!
July 19, 2019
ME TOO: Have been a professional mystery shopper for over 15 years and they tried to catch me. Signed up, but when I saw that I had to make my own form, etc. to even do the shop - thought something was up. What a scam! And, I guess the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, IT IS!" Thanking God this morning from holding me back from following through. Blessings to all.
July 19, 2019
I've recieved 3 checks and 2 money orders for 9000 dollars for mystery shopping.I was told at my bank they were all most likely fraud attempts,so I didn't deposit any of them.i kept them all and contacted the attourny general asking who I could turn them over to with the names and numbers of the people who contacted me but haven't recieved a response yet.They all wanted me to purchase gift cards and send them pictures of the codes.I have even recieved follow up messages asking me to verify I recieved them and asking me to complete the assignments.If I hadn't checked with the FTC website and talked to my banker I might have deposited them but one actually sent me two with the same assignment to buy gift cards before I had even opened the first one.If you deposit the checks or money orders and send them the codes they will have spent them before the bank ever notify you they are fake.Don't fall for this scam,I've recieved 2 from the same person and 2 others from 2 other persons . These people must be sending out thousands of these a day.
October 14, 2019

In reply to by Gun4hire

I got involved but nothing bad has happened yet....?? So, if you deposit their ck and it goes thru and you w/d the funds to get the gift cards and send them the gift card are they scamming me? If I cashed their ck and it went thru - I just made $500 and sent them 3000 in gift cards info. How can they get access to my bank account for just depositing a ck? Are you saying that this ck is going to bounce and I'm going to be out 3000??
FTC Staff
November 13, 2019

In reply to by Ali

Yes, the check is probably no good and it will bounce. You have to repay the value of the check. The scammer gets the value of the gift cards.

June 03, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

Thank God I did my research. A shame people are scamming during this time. Karma don't play and these individuals will suffer soon
Don't use your…
December 18, 2019

In reply to by Ali

Did it end up being okay or was it fraudulent?
Common sense
June 27, 2020

In reply to by Ali

Yes of course the check is going to bounce. Then the bank will go after you to collect the funds. I fell for this once even though I knew it was a scam, but I was desperate and not working at the time. I didn’t have the funds in the bank so the check didn’t clear anyways.
September 11, 2020

In reply to by Ali

Yes that is EXACTLY what will happen. You essentially bought the cards, money orders, etc with YOUR money. They don't need your account information., you cashed a bogus check. To make matters worse, your bank may charge you a fee if you overdraw your account .
January 22, 2021

In reply to by Ali

The check will bounce & they will take the money off of the cards by using the numbers you gave them.
December 04, 2019

In reply to by Gun4hire

Do you happen to have any information( texts, email's) for comparison? I have received exactly the same. I'd like to bust them!! Thanks
July 20, 2019
Monitor your accounts religiously! I have been "hacked"twice and cannot emphasize how important it is to be diligent about checking statements.
July 22, 2019
I just got one of these in the mail - looked odd so I started checking around.
July 22, 2019
I followed the link that they gave to be a mystery shopper but all it does is offer companies to sign up to hire them.
September 23, 2019
SCAM HomeZone Service&Consult - send you a check you cash right away and go buy gift cards and send them the codes etc. Karen - this is a scam Greetings, Your assignment check of $1860.00 has been posted posted through USPS Priority Mail and should be delivered not later than Thursday, 25th of July. Attached is your assignment guideline and feedback form. Your commission for this assignment is also stated in the assignment document. Kindly confirm receiving this email. Thank you, Karen HomeZone Service&Consult
School daze
July 24, 2019
My door bell rings just 5 minutes ago I open to a envelope open it inside a check for 2893.73 with instructions to donate $25 via Cashier's Check to American Kidney Funds, $2.500 n eBay cards my wage is $350 company TOP VIEW MARKET SURVEY SKYLINE NATIONAL BANK. I know it's a scam
August 09, 2019
I'm just really upset with how everything's going I just recently started buying things online and I've already had to call for fraud three times and only one time was true but still find a good look for somebody who just started just makes me sad
August 09, 2019
Has anyone heard of mystery shop scam that asks to evaluate the trade in process of selling used phone at gamestop? They say they will send the used phone for the trade. then I received 2 packages containing 8 Brand new Iphone X plus valued about 10,000 and to do this at 2 gamestop locations then submit store credit gift caeds and any left over phones back within 24 hrs? Don't seem right! But neither does shipping me $10,000 in phones at risk of quite a loss aren't they? Or aren't they? Plz advise I am to perform job tomorrow, and dont know what to do?
September 23, 2019
I received two emails regarding a “mystery shopping position” from two separate people through my student email. They both came from emails that appeared to be from my college; ex: JaneDoe@ mycollege. edu. So, naturally, I assumed it was a legitimate offer. I clicked the link provided, filled out the information, etc. etc. A few weeks later, I was sent an email and a text message stating that I had been approved/accepted and would be receiving my first “survey packet” in the mail. Nothing seemed too fishy about it at this point, so I didn’t think anything else of it. Well, today I received the “survey packet” and there was a check for $2,2500.00. At first, I was just confused. I thought the surveying assignment(s) would just be me visiting local stores and sending in my experiences, with possibility of reimbursement depending on the situation. So, I read the SINGLE sheet of paper sent with the check that had “instructions” on it: it stated to text +1 (323) 206-8287 and confirm I got the check + instructions. The following step was to deposit the check and text said number & let them know when the check had been deposited. I texted the number and let them know I received the packet, in return I got a text basically saying the same as the paper. The next steps were to go to Best Buy & purchase $1,900.00 in Best Buy gift cards (& the rest was for me to keep.) Once this part was done, it says to text (323)-840-1332 and let them know the purchases have been made and the survey had been completed. Then it asks you to scratch the gift cards, revealing the codes & take pictures of the cards & receipts and send it to reports @ surveyreport. After reading the instructions, I felt as though I needed to do some digging & came across hundreds of red flags and situations similar to mine.
March 18, 2020

In reply to by H12

Same here. Just got a USPS package with a letter && $1,950.00 in cashiers check. I was to deposit the ck then take pix of deposit slip & ctoss out my acct info. So they can put a release on the funds for me to have. Step 2: purchase 800 ebay gift card and 800 in walmart gift card. Then scratch off where the codes are and take pix of the codes and front of card. BUT, need to buy something with the card n do my report on any store as a mystery shopper. Report back with store name, outlook of the shop outlet, name of cashier how long it took til my turn for swrvice, cust. Service professionalism, & capture images. Of gift cards front n back and the receipts. My comments n impressions. To do it within 48 hrs. Gave me his name and text nbr and says text only. And email shoppingsport@ & shoppingsport@ . also montjimh@ . i googled that name it was a deceased person who passed away few months ago. My compensation was to keep the 300 and 50 for gas.2 800 gift cards n buy anything. Didnt say i cant keep the merchandise... Top part of metter says whole foods market / walmart agent id # wfm2020-512850. Too good to be true.. Sigh.
Wise grandma
August 26, 2019
I got an e-mail form a John Wilson asking if I'd like to mystery shop. Thought it was a good idea so I signed up. I received an additional e-mail telling me that I would receive two packages in a couple of days. I replied that I was out of town and would return in a couple of days and inquired when the shop need to be completed. When I got home the packages were there. After I opened them, I knew immediately that I was being scammed. Both checks were for about $2600 and were to be deposited in my bank and I was to keep $300 from each one and buy Reloadit gift cards. The checks were Chase Bank checks drawn on "Santa Ana's Credit Union" account. I responded to the e-mail that I knew they were fraudulent, I was turning the information over to the authorities, and not to contact me again. I haven't heard another word!
August 29, 2019
Received 2 large checks asking me to deposit them into my account and purchase gift card and money orders and evaluate Walmart. It's a scam. Luckily, I didn't fall for it.
September 25, 2019
Is't True....this is a scam. I just received a package and of course there was a cashiers check in the amount of $2510.00 enclosed. Instructions are to deposit then as the second assignment buy cashiers checks to send out to other mystery shoppers. Don't trust anything that sounds too good to be true.
March 01, 2020

In reply to by Rose

I got a text to my phone telling me my $500 weekly paycheck would be delivered to me in 2 days via UPS 4 a part time mystery job at the closest Walmart to me . They didn’t ask for no upfront $$$. I guess it’s a scam
September 30, 2019
What if you cash the check at a check cashing service? What happens when they discover the check is fake?
November 06, 2019

In reply to by UDontNeedAWeatherman

The check cashing service goes after you for the amount they were defrauded.
March 02, 2020

In reply to by UDontNeedAWeatherman

Why are scammers not caught writing fraudulent checks. Sending money to people to be mystery shoppers and have them buy items and send them gift cards and money orders.
October 23, 2019
I fell for this scam earlier this year. I was asked to be a mystery shopper, and they gave my a checking account at Wells Fargo, The use for this account was to purchase the items at on two different credit cards in my name by paying my credit card for the amount of the purchase and the $100 that was added to my account was to be used for me to ship the items that I purchased. I looked up the company and they seem legit. I had emails and phone numbers and signed papers of employment with them. So I paid my credit cards in the amounts that it cost me for the items and purchased these items which was one at $4,700 and the other was $2,500 . My credit card states it reforged payments and I purchased and shipped the items out to find out that the day after I shipped out the items Wells Fargo Bank closed the account I was issued and the money that paid my credit cards for the purchased items were returned. Since I purchased the items the credit card company stated it was my fault and I am responsible for paying these items that I charged to my account. I been trying to contact this company that scammed me but you know the phone is disconnected and emails are returned stating no such recipients! Since that time , I been in paying for the shipping cost, financing charges, and these two items that are over $7,500 ... if anyone has a way I can recoup my lost I’m willing to listen to suggestions.