Do Not Engage Mystery Shopper Scammers

phone-womanHave you received one of those mystery shopper scam bogus checks? In addition to the fake check and the form you are supposed to use for your “mystery shopper assignment,” the package includes a phone number where you can call the “mystery shopping company.”

It may be tempting to call the scammer and give him or her a piece of your mind. However, telling them that they are low-life slime and threatening to call the police on them is not your best course of action.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported about a 68-year-old woman who avoided becoming the victim of one of these mystery shopper scams. She took the fake check to her bank, where it was immediately identified as counterfeit. After threatening to call the police on the scammer, “Suddenly I am getting phone calls from all over the country saying why did you send me these emails and checks? They are using my name and address. I have gotten calls from at least 30 or 35 people from all over the country, from California to Florida to Pennsylvania.” The scammer has now started using her contact information in their emails and on checks.

So what should you do if you are one of the intended victims of this mystery shopper scam?

Of course you should not cash the check. That should go without saying, but I am saying it so there is no doubt in your mind. The check will bounce, and you will be responsible for the amount of money you received, plus bank fees. You may even have to spend some time convincing your bank and local police that you are the victim of a scam, and not a criminal who is knowingly passing fake checks.

Next, you may wish to notify the authorities. Local police can take your report, although they may not be able to do much about the scam. The origin is usually outside of the county. The Federal Trade Commission takes reports on these crimes, and they have information on reporting check scams to the authorities on their web site.

Do not contact the scammers to tell them that you are “on to them,” or that you are filing a police report. Simply do not respond. They send out hundreds of these bogus checks, so if they do not hear from you they will probably not even notice. They will be busy picking up the money wired to them by the people who fell for the scam.

If they do call you, there are a few things you might do. One is to say that you never received the package. Play ignorant. “I don’t know anything about a check. I didn’t receive a check.”

You could also say that you can not do the “mystery shopping assignment” because you do not have transportation or your spouse will not allow you to do it or some other excuse. Tell them you have been sick and start describing your symptoms to them. Make the symptoms graphic and disgusting. Tell them you had a death in the family. Don’t worry about telling them something that is not true. There is nothing wrong in lying to someone who is trying to steal thousands of dollars from you. Play dumb. And don’t worry that they might think you are stupid. Their opinion does not matter.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to contact them and tell them off. It will not make them change their ways, and may make you more of a target.


  1. Eric Mitchell says

    Why is everybody so scared they will be arrested? If the bank says a check has cleared, there’s no way they should be allowed to ‘take it back’. We, their customer, listened to OUR BANK. If the check is fraudulent, let the bank take it up with the government for forcing them to ‘clear’ checks before they actually know if they are real! Come on, America, don’t be so scared and soft! Stand up for your common sensible rights!!

    • says

      Why are people scared of being arrested? Because people get arrested for passing bad checks, and some victims of these scams have been arrested for presented forged checks.

      The banks are required to make funds available after a few days. That is not the same as a check “clearing.”

      You do not have a “right” to money from a forged check, whether you keep it or wire it off to a scammer.

  2. Tracy Sherwood says

    I also was stupid! What do I do if I cashed the Money Grams but didn’t deposit them? Is there a different process to follow?

    • says

      Joelle, yes, it is definitely a scam. Glad you discovered the scam before you sent the money off. Let your bank know right away. You may have to pay a small fee when the money order is returned, but the bank may even be willing to waive that.

    • says

      No, a scammer can not arrest you. He is not with law enforcement. Do you think he could have you arrested? For what, refusing to be scammed? He is trying to scare you into becoming a victim. Ignore him.

  3. Kenny walker says

    I just got a check for $2855.00 it looks real, it’s from Regions bank and it’s from the secret shoper associated with William mcknight do you think it’s a scam because it asks me to buy money paks.

    • says

      Kenny, I don’t think it is a scam I KNOW it is a scam. This is not how mystery shopping works. Mystery shopping companies do not pay in advance, and they do not ask you to wire hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone or buy pre-paid cards and send them the codes.

      It is a scam. You can ignore it or report it to authorities, but do not cash the check or do anything the scammer asks. Read the other articles in this category and there will be no doubt in your mind. Anyone can produce an authentic-looking check. It just takes a laser printer.

  4. jennifer says

    I got the same thing a check for $2750 I knew something wasn’t right,nobody sends ppl money in advance, the only thing different was they didn’t ask me to send them any money, just take out $400/survey. I know the most I’ve ever gotten paid for a ms was $80…. I’m not cashing it, I’d cuss them out, but they have my name & address….

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