Mystery Shopper Check-Cashing Scam

The popularity of mystery shopping has again brought the scammers out of the woodwork to prey on the unsuspecting. People around the U.S. are being offered “easy money” to cash a cashier’s check for a large sum of money, evaluate the service they receive, then wire most of the money to the phony “mystery shopping company.” The scam? The check bounces a few days later, and the person who cashed the check is held liable for the amount of money they wired to the scammer, often thousands of dollars.

There are reports of this scam in many locations around the country, with more people being solicited every day. In some cases, the materials sent by the scammers use the names of legitimate mystery shopping companies. However, these companies are not involved in the scheme.

If you receive such an offer, contact your local police department. Never cash a check, even a cashier’s check, and send any of the funds to someone. This scam has been run a long time, but now the scammers are seeking legitimacy by making it appear that it is a mystery shopping assignment. Don’t fall for it.

Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual. Get free mystery shopper resources here.


  1. says

    I’ve also had reports of Paypal scams being specifically targeted to mystery shoppers. Use your head out there – why would a transaction need to be thousands of dollars to test a wire company, but yet you’re purchasing $1 of gas? ;)

  2. Carrie says

    I too have received a large check in the mail from these mystery shoppers people it was almost $4000.00 and the first thing I thought was too goo to be true so there for it is. My husband said you cash the check it bounces then they take that money out of our account the only way I was going to cash the check was if I did it at the bank it was issued from. On the check there is no bank name just says franchise facility concessions. I also tried calling the number that was on the letter and got a voice stating that the mailbox was full and couldnt hold any more messages then hung up.

  3. Clifford Hutchins says

    Hi Cathy,

    On Nov. 30, 2009, I received a bogus check in the mail for $3,789 from a so-called mystery shopping company in Canada that I’d never worked for before, nor had I ever applied or signed up to work for them to My knowledge. According to the genuine looking letter that came with the bogus check, I was supposed to be paid $500. I was supposed to spend at least $100 at either Walmart, K-Mart, Home Depot, Sears, JC Penny or Best Buy and buy and keep whatever I bought. I was supposed to wire $3,019 to either John Stewart in Canada via Western Union or to Sam Williams in Canda. The service charge from Moneygram or Western Union was supposed to be $170 for the check total of $3,789. I blocked My phone number when I called to verify My suspicions about the check being bogus, which I guess caused the foreign accent speaking male that answered My call to tell Me to call back in about 15 minutes, which I didn’t do, nor did I deposit the bogus check in My bank. I still have the bogus check and genuine looking letter here in My apartment in front of Me now. The genuine looking letter has a company name of a company that supposed to be in Mechanicsburg, PA, but the check was mailed to Me from Canada with no return address on it, but it has a Canada stamp on it. Oh, I forgot to mention that I was supposed to fax My evaluation form from My mystery shopping assignment and the receipts from My $100 purchase and $3,019 wired money transfer to the scammers immediately for verification.

    • Cathy Stucker says

      This sounds like all of the other mystery shopper scam packages I’ve seen or heard of. Pretty standard.

      Glad you saw it for what it was and avoided the scam.

  4. says

    Clifford, I would advise to turn in everything to the local police. They may not be able to do anything but it can help identify a pattern. Also, if there’s a solicitation in a newspaper, job site, magazine, or on Craiglist, immediately report it to the classified ads department as fraud so they can shut it down. Report the email address if the solicitation is by email to the ISP in the email address. If it’s a legit account holder, they can shut down the account.

  5. MICHELLE says

    I too have recently been contacted by a mystery shopper. i made the mistake of emailing my contact information to this person. He called me to tell me the check is on the way and I should receive it in a couple of days. I have emailed this person to tell him I’m not interested and I think it’s a scam and to never contact me again. He’s threatening lawyers and saying I’m responsible for the check fee plus I’ll go to court. Please help in what I should do? I haven’t received any check nor have I agreed to receive a check. I also didn’t enter into a foney employment contract.

    • Cathy Stucker says

      You were not contacted by a mystery shopper. You were contacted by a scammer.

      He’s going to take you to court? And say what? “This lady refused to let me scam her!”

      Ignore him. When the check comes, you can refuse it or you can turn it over to law enforcement. Do not let this slimeball intimidate you. He can not take legal action against you because you wouldn’t cash a forged check.

      Oh, you may go to court in one scenario: If you try to cash a fraudulent check, your bank could have you arrested. But the scammer is not a threat.

  6. CJ Chaplin says

    On May 19th I found an UPS express letter on my porch with a check for $2450 inside. No instructions, no return address except for a street. The tracking number indicated it had originated outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The week before I had answered an email looking for secret shoppers to join a mystery shopping company. They wanted standard contact information, and no personal info like a SS#. I figured that is pretty standard so I had applied. No more info followed so I called the company on the check. They didn’t have any record of the check. I decided against cashing the check unless I found out what it was for.
    The following Weds. I got a second check by USPS express mail.It was for this same amount but from a different company. Again it had been sent from Atlanta. This time I got an email with instructions to cash it, buy an item from WalMart, then wire the remaining money to an address in the Phillipines using western Union. There are just enough discrepancies to prove this is a scheme. The check is not an official cashier’s check. The company doesn’t have a record of the check. The person sending the email ‘works’ for a company the shopper has never registered with. I checked the mystery shopping company’s website(GAPbuster) and it mentioned they do not use Western Union for any shops. I went on line to see if there were any check cashing schemes associated with mystery shopping.
    Beware – if you didn’t earn it legitimately it probably is a fake. I did know enough that I would be accountable for the funds if I cashed the check. Don’t get caught up in these schemes.
    Stay sharp, we’re suppose to be observant as mystery shoppers. Do some research first if there are any questions. I’d rather lose a few dollars for a shop than to be convicted of a felony!

  7. noel says

    i got a check from a company out of new york but the letter was sent and post marked from spain. after some excitement and then some common sense and some research i discovered it is a scam just like y’all are talking about. thanks

    • says

      Noel, I am glad that you checked it out and didn’t get scammed.

      Just a note to everyone reading this: Mystery shopping companies never send checks like this and ask you to wire money. SCAMMERS send fake checks. This has nothing to do with mystery shopping or mystery shopping companies. It is purely a scam.

  8. Ron says

    Cathy, I just got this in the mail today, and have been suspicious of it. I did aspire to participate in mystery shopping, but I declined to do it when a website asked me to pay in order to be hired. Then about a month later, today, I received a letter in the mail from AJF System Inc based on me indicating my interests in an additional income on a part time basis, that I have been selected to participate in a paid mystery shoppers program. The letter tells me to deposit the check in my checking or saving account, but does not ask me to wire money anywhere. The check is just under $2000.00. Tomorrow I am calling Bank of America(which is the Bank name listed at the top of the check)and give them the routing number and account number to verify if it is a real check or not.

    • says

      You don’t have to call Bank of America. The check is a forgery. It is possible that BoA will tell you that the account numbers are for a valid account, but that does not mean that the check is valid. It is not. If you deposit the check (which I do not advise you to do) your bank will release the funds to you within a few days. That does NOT mean that the check has cleared. The bank is required to release the funds within a few days.

      The check is a forgery. If you deposit it and withdraw any funds, you will be responsible for repaying the bank when it is learned that the check is a forgery. It is also possible that when you deposit it you will be arrested for passing a forged check. You can send it to the bank, turn it over to law enforcement or just shred it. Whatever you do, though, do not deposit it, do not cash it, and NEVER wire money to anyone you do not know for any reason at all.

      This is a scam. Don’t fall for it. If you want to mystery shop, sign up with any of the 200 companies listed here:

  9. Denise Bewley says

    Today I received an envelope with no return address and Spanish stamps. Inside was a check from Amazon Services Inc, via Wells Fargo Bank iao 1995.50 to complete a Mystery Shopper training program. I was told to go the website to activate the check with a job id# and password. After I activated the check the site told me to deposit the check and only then generate an assignment. I thought it might be a scam so I tried googling aspects of the company but couldn’t find anything. Thankfully I found this website instead. After hearing about scams with wiring I decided to generate the assignment anyways and lo and behold this is what it said.
    Survey 1A is to send money through MoneyGram
    Receiver City: ATLANTA
    Receiver State / Province: GEORGIA
    Receiver Country: USA
    Receiver First Name / Last Name: CHET BEWLEY
    Amount to Sent: $864.00
    Fees: $73.00
    Test Question: FAVORITE COLOR?
    Test Answer: BLOND

    Survey 1B says asks to wire money through Western Union
    Fill up Money Transfer Form, for $590.00 plus $50.00 send fees for Money in Minutes.

    Receiver full name is ROB BEWLEY at our International processing center:

    City: ATHENS
    State: ATHENS
    Country: GREECE

    The last assignment was:
    You will take out the sum of $68.50 for shopping at one of the retail stores listed: WAL-MART, COSTCO, BESTBUY, HOME DEPOT.
    Items you buy are yours to keep as bonus.

    • says

      Denise, it is definitely a scam. Do not cash the check and do not have further contact with the scammers.

      I’m glad you found this site. The scammers try to look credible by doing things such as co-opting quality brand names. This one suggests that they are working for stores such as Costco and Home Depot, as well as using a web address that looks like it might be (it’s not).

      Just another lesson not to take things at face value.

  10. joan says

    me too! I took it to my bank, and the manager took a copy to distribute to other branches so they would be aware. I also sent it to the FBI. the old adage buyer beware!

  11. Joy says

    I too just received two checks from some person in Arizona. I received several emails from a lady named Maria stating that she works for company Multi-Value mystery shopper. I provide my name and basic information after a few days I received two checks 1425.00 and 1460.00. Then this morning I received a email saying that my assignment would be for me to go to two different Wal-marts , and purchased 5 Reload it cards add 500.00 on each and email her the numbers for each card. I was skeptical from the beginning but once I receive the email this morning telling me to purchase the ReLoad it card I knew it was a scam.

  12. Luzy says

    I just received a check of $3,758.70 from Branford survey inc. located in Scarborough , ME.
    The letter say I was been selected to become the lead member of 3 person and the position is ” independent private evaluator” this assignment was to go diferente store and buy 6 vanilla reload network card of $500 each then I have to sent the format with all the 6 card info etc …
    I just could believe how stupid this letter sound ..I hope nobody felt for it …

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