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If you’re looking for a new job, getting paid to shop might sound like a dream. Companies hire mystery shoppers to try products or services and share experiences about things like buying or returning something, or their overall customer experience. But while some mystery shopping jobs are legitimate, many aren’t. So how do you spot the scams?

In many mystery shopping scams, a scammer pretending to be from a well-known company “hires” you to be a mystery shopper. They send you a check (it’s fake) and say to deposit it to buy gift cards from the store and keep the rest as pay. Then, they ask you to give them the numbers on the back of the cards. But it’s all a scam. The scammer gets the money you put on the gift card while the bank will want you to pay back whatever you spent.

If you’re considering a mystery shopping job, here are ways to spot and avoid scams:

  • Research the job first. Search online for the name of the company or person who’s hiring you, plus words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what others are saying.
  • Never agree to deposit a check to buy gift cards and send the numbers back as part of a mystery shopper job — or any job. Only scammers will say to do that. It can take weeks for a bank to figure out that the check is fake. By that time, you’re stuck repaying the money to the bank.
  • Don’t believe guarantees that you’ll make lots of money. Only scammers make these guarantees. Mystery shopping jobs are usually part-time or occasional work — not something to replace a full-time job.

Learn more about mystery shopping scams and other job scams at If you spot a scam, tell the FTC at

Mystery shopping 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.

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April 18, 2024

Found very educating.

April 18, 2024

Thank you for informative articles like these. It shows your commitment to "we the people"

Al Hartman
April 18, 2024

Thanks for your info!

Eileen Tuominen
April 18, 2024

Great information. Thanks.

April 18, 2024

There is always great information provided, and all consumers needs to be aware of the scams.

Susan Marie Eads
April 18, 2024

Thank you for the update! I was scammed by a car wrap company a couple months ago. I knew better but Still Fell for it! If it's too good to be true, it's FAKE! If you are to deposit a check and return a portion, it's FAKE. RUN DON'T ATTEMPT IT & SAVE YOURSELF AND YOUR ACCOUNT!

Georgia Trehey
April 30, 2024

In reply to by Susan Marie Eads

Please don't feel embarrassed. Scammers are very good at their jobs. Too bad they don't use their skills in a legitimate business.

Shlawn Burrell
April 19, 2024

Thank you so much for the information! Very valuable information in deed!

April 19, 2024

My husband fell for the ol deposit this check scam. As he sat in the drive thru at our bank, a number of police cars surrounded him! He was escorted into our bank and questioned. What an embarrassing nightmare. He, of course, was found to be innocent but gullible. Ha!

Alanna J Mozzer
April 19, 2024

Another clue is that the company that is pretending to hire you will have a website that shows no evidence that they are also looking for clients. Clients are the companies that pay for the mystery shop.

Fabulous Jones
April 22, 2024

No, REAL mystery shopping company sends you checks to cash to BUY anything. I've been mystery shopping for over 5 years. If you mystery shop a restaurant or grocery store you use your OWN money to make the purchase. If your report is acceptable with the proper receipt the company will reimburse you and pay you your shopping fee with whatever payment method and on whatever pay schedule they use.

April 23, 2024

Thank you for this information!

April 24, 2024

I accidentally applied for marketing job on a “fake website”. The scammers said the assignment it was for Walmart and the scammer sent me the check before any service had been performed. The scammer sent a check drawn from a salon. The instructions were to send a gift card and “keep the rest”. I contacted the company the check was drawn on strongly suggest to close that checking account.

Donna Pizer
April 24, 2024

I am a senior and feel we are easy targets. This information help me to stay on top of the latest scams and many of the old ones. I share your web site with all my friends!

Christopher gastelum
April 30, 2024

I seen how scammers work once they get a gift card number the go online and use lunth algorithm decoder to generate the last four numbers mostly the exp date will be used the same so after that they call a bank merchant number to process a one dollar payment once they get a valid payment they know that that card number has money .. my name is christopher gastelum and I stand with exposing these scammers as im a victim of identity theft and its bin hard to fix but gods on my side

Gloria Grant
May 15, 2024

That mystery shopping scam is what got me I lost $2,522.89 and now I have to pay my credit union back for the money I took to the bank. I feel really stupid and now I am paying the cost for that loss to me and the credit union. People do nasty things to others who try to do good as citizens but look at what happens to the innocent. Now I have to move my funds to a different bank all because of people like this so-called Lewis Timothy. I will forgive this man like Yeshua said no good comes from bad.