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Did you get an offer to be a secret shopper for a well-known company? It might come as text, email, or letter inviting you to work on a ‘research project starting soon in your area.’ Several people who got offers to be secret shoppers for grocery stores, like Whole Foods, thought they were scams, and wrote to the FTC to warn others. They were right — the offers are scams — and now we’re extending the warning.

People spotted signs of a fake check scam in the bogus Whole Foods secret shopper offer (which was from a scammer, not really Whole Foods). That’s when someone sends you a check and convinces you to deposit it and quickly send them money. In this scam, the recruiter would send shoppers a check for more than $2,000 and they would:

  • Cash or deposit the check immediately
  • Buy gift cards with most of the money
  • Keep about $450 as their pay
  • Scratch the coating off the gift cards to show the PIN codes
  • Send pictures of the cards’ front and back (with the codes) to the recruiter

If anyone ever tells you to deposit a check, withdraw money, and send it to someone, that’s a scam. When the check later turns out to be fake, the bank will want the money back. And if anyone tells you to go buy gift cards and share the PIN numbers, that’s a scam, too. Once the scammer has the PIN, they also have all the money from the cards.

So, if you get an offer like this, don’t respond. Tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If you already cashed a fake check and sent money to a scammer, find out how to report to gift card, wire transfer and money order businesses. Read more in How to Spot, Avoid and Report Fake Check Scams.

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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 ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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