Mystery Shopper Scam Victim Put in Jail

handcuffsYes, you read that right. The victim of a mystery shopper scam was arrested and put in jail.

A woman in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (near Minneapolis) received one of those “be a mystery shopper for us” scam emails promising $300 for a simple mystery shop. After responding, she received a check for $2700, with instructions to cash the check, perform the “mystery shop” and wire most of the money to someone in Africa.

When she went to her bank to cash the check they immediately spotted it as a fake, and called the police. The good news is that she didn’t wire the money to Africa and lose thousands of dollars to scammers. The bad news is that the wanna-be mystery shopper was arrested and spent the night in jail.

Police say they have not decided whether or not they will file charges against her. (My guess is that they will not. It seems pretty likely that she truly was the victim, not the criminal, in this scenario.)

The lesson: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And passing a bad check could land you in jail.

You can see the mystery shopper scam story from CBS-affiliate WCCO at their website.

07/31/09 Update: Same basic story, but this time in Georgia. Another mystery shopping scam victim jailed.

Learn more about mystery shopping scams.


  1. Priscilla says

    I was almost a victim! I received a letter with no return address a couple of days ago. It had a check for $2799. and instructions on depositing it into my account, waiting a couple of days for it to clear, wiring most of it to an “agent” and taking $100. to spend on whatever I like at a certain store so that I can give details on my shopping trip. It said I was allowed to keep the merchandise and the rest of the cash. I called the company and they said to call back AFTER I had deposited the check into MY account. I then noticed that it was mailed from Canada but the company was based in Texas. Red flag right there. The check itself had an entirely different company name on it which I looked up online and called. The person who answered said they were victims of identity theft and for me to shred the check. Thank God I really looked into it instead of thinking it was legit. Hope people out there will also take the time to look into something that may be a scam before they end up in jail as well. Like the old cliche’ “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!”

    • Cathy Stucker says

      You went about checking this out the right way. If there is a phone number on the check, it may be to the scammer, not the company whose name is on the check. Looking up the company online is a good way to get the correct contact information and get the truth.

  2. Shanon Frasier says

    I too received a check from an unknown source that sent me an email and told me it would be coming. I then called the bank that the check was drawn from and inquired about it, once I told the banker the account number she told me it was not a good check! You can never be too careful these days!

  3. Jeanette Wheable says

    I applied to be a mystery shopper and got an assignment w/o knowing I was hired. I was stupid and did the assignment because my friend said her sister worked for this company and it worked for years for her… WRONG company! I lost $1,600 dollars last week thinking there was no way a money gram from Wallmart could be bogus… I was WRONG! I am now out the money and no promise of the employment I was desiring! Where do these people get the money grams that are NSF?

    • Cathy Stucker says

      It is easy with today’s printing technology to create very real looking fake checks and money orders. They even fool the bankers.

  4. Brandy D. says

    I also was scammed too It was last week I applied for a Mystery Shopper Job onlne then a couple of days later I got a 2600 check in the mail I knew it was something wong cause it had my name printed of the buttom of the amont written out under the line and it had a Females name on it on the top it was sent from Kansas City which the company said that Its from Altanta Ga, (BIG RED FLAG!) I went to the my Bank to cash It cause I mos DEF knew it was a fake then My bank seized the check I told them they can have it cause I knew it was too good to be true!!!!So I went back to Email the FAKE COMPANY and it was not a Nice email either!!!! so Please Be careful……

  5. Jerry Turner says

    I just got a check for today 3,850.00 from HS Brands International Mystery Shopping wanting me to be a secret shopper at walmart money gram I knew that it was a scam. The check was from Eastern Financial Florida Credit union
    3700 Lakeside Drive Miramar Fl 33027
    I checked the address through FDIC no such bank.
    I called to talk to the weasle that tried to scam me. Of course just got answering machine. I just left a message for them to contact me so I would know where to wire the money. I hope they call me.
    These people need to be in jail along side of bank robbers.
    What makes me so upset is how many people that are in a desperate situation that will fall for this and end up in ruin.
    so if you get anything from MR. Mike Peter 647-678-2452
    do not fall for it.

    • Cathy Stucker says

      It doesn’t matter what the bank name, company name or contact name is–when someone asks you to wire money to someone you don’t know, for any reason, it is a scam. Glad you didn’t fall for it.

  6. paula yox says

    omg i dont know if i got scamed i cashed the check but when i tryed to call to wire the money the phone was no longer on so now iv got the money

    • Cathy Stucker says

      You haven’t been scammed yet, because you haven’t sent the money any where. Contact your bank and let them know you unknowingly deposited a forged check. Don’t wait until the bank comes to you to tell you that you tried to scam them.

  7. Don Stover says

    i received such a letter today June 6th,2010 the address is there from them but in a font size of about of a 4 or 5 very small all in one line:497 R?e Raoul-Jobin, Quebec, QC, G1K1N6
    Canada Post postage paid #5564306 heck even the postage might have been scammed, who know’s.

    i received a check for $2,980.60
    this assignment has been put together to be completed in two different locations. the first evaluations will take place at any “western union” agent near you. you shall pose as a potential customer evaluating the process of international money transfer through the western union by sending money to our training agent: (even gives name here) Roger Madore “31 maria cristina ave. valencia spain of course they capitalized i didnt cause i am lazy and don’t want to yell…
    the object of this exercise is to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of this payment system. the second evaluation assignment will take place in one of these major retail outlet:Walmart, Home Depot, JCPenny and K-mart. the objective of this second evaluation assignment is to determine the customer service quality of the retail outlet you choose to shop at. the program is run on a weekly basis.

    please find a check enclosed bearing the required funds to cover your assignments. it must be expended as follows:
    1. 4 hour evaluation pay @ the rate of $80.00 per hour (For YOU)…………$320.00
    2. western union to Roger Madore adress ……….$2,455.00
    3. Estimated sender’s fees, to be paid to western union…..$125.00
    4. Your second assignment- shopping (you will choose the item to buy, they are yours to keep)….$80.60

    please call Mike Roberts, your cordinator at 1-888-411-9160 ext.234 (number actually works call and here it for yourself very perfessional would fool alot of people im sure. to activate your check and for futher clarification if you don’t understand what to do. then go ahead and deposit the check. once the check is through, usually in about two (2) business days, withdraw all amount required for your assignment only; go to any nearby western union agent’s office and evaluate it. Next go to any of the listed retail outlets and evaluate it too. then, call your coordinator with the wesren union Control Numbers (MTCN) immediately after completion and fax your market report forms and all receipts to 1-877-202-0012

    Melissa Hillman Ph.D.

    Director Human Resources

    i did not cash it as much as i would have loved to…
    i am unemployeed, but i do use secret shoppers services and has paid off also been out to eat at a really nice restraunt which i paid first but was re-imbursed.
    i also took a job through them someone found me in the system and wanted me to set up diplays at sam’s plus inv.
    which went well. but people please be careful some of these people don’t care they will steal you blind.

    i took the check to the court house, the sheriffs office and then the attorneys state generals then off to the news papers to warn others in my local area about this scam.
    young and the old have fallen pry. here is a snapshot of the check not as good as i have like it to show but you get the idea, check this link:
    [chart][hodp003.JPG[/chart] i didnt have any other place to store it online so i place it in my directories there.
    im 46 years old and never made 80 an hour working a real job so why would they pay me 80 for this.
    let me hear your thoughts

  8. kasia says

    Please help !!!!!!!!!!!
    I am such an idiot ! I don’t know what to do ! I have cashed and wired money twice to England via western union . Now my eyes opened after my friend told me to check out this site .
    What should I do now ? Am I gonna go to jail ?

    • Cathy Stucker says

      Notify your bank ASAP. Do not wait for them to come to you. Let them know you were the victim of a scam. They will still make you pay the money back, but they may be less likely to bring criminal charges if you go to them and let them know what happened.

  9. Ann Evans says

    I did two Texas state jail sentences thanks to these type of scams. I don’t want anything to do with mystery shopping ever again. I was a school teacher and now I am a convicted felon and can’t find a job.

    • says

      @Ann, I have to think this is a phony comment. You did TWO jail sentences for cashing forged checks that were sent to you as part of a mystery shopping scam? You didn’t figure it out after going to jail the first time?

      And as for the comment, “I don’t want anything to do with mystery shopping ever again,” you can’t say that you don’t want to deal with mystery shopping “ever again” when you have not ever done so in the first place. These scams have nothing to do with mystery shopping.

  10. Angela Fencil says

    I Too This Week Got A Check For $1,990 And My Boyfriend Said Call The Company Before We Do And He Did And He Told Them That He Does Not Want To Join And They Hung The Phone Up On Him.My Question Is How Can They Afford To Send People The Money Anyway.I Talked To Them On the Phone And they Told Me To Cash the check At The Bank And Give them A Call The Next Day.My Boyfriend Thinks That Everything Is To Good To Be True But After What I Read Here I Am Glad I Listen To Him.

    • Cathy Stucker says

      They can “afford to send people the money” because there is no money. All they are doing is printing fake checks and sending them. There is NO MONEY! That’s the scam.

  11. Qelilah Solomon says

    My daughter was picked up for passing a bad check that was from the Secret Shopper.
    Any help is needed. She is in Gwinnett Detention Center. I live in Texas.
    Subject Secret Shopper Scam or SS Scam

    • says

      Your daughter’s best bet at this point may be to try to prove she was an innocent victim of a scam. If she has the original documentation from the scam (emails, letters, forms, etc.) that could help. A lot will depend on her behavior, too. Some of the people arrested for cashing checks in these scams did things such as going to several banks before finding one that would cash the checks. (The others warned them that the checks were no good.) Or they made no effort to repay the bank when notified that the check was no good.

  12. Pamula Dawson says

    You didn’t answer the question paula yox asked that she cashed a check at a check cashing place and she wasn’t able to wire the money, what was she suppose to do. I’m curious as to what she should do as I’m sure she would like the answer as well. Thank you

    • says

      I did answer her question, as follows:

      You haven’t been scammed yet, because you haven’t sent the money any where. Contact your bank and let them know you unknowingly deposited a forged check. Don’t wait until the bank comes to you to tell you that you tried to scam them.

      To add to this answer: You should never cash these checks and money orders. They are always forged. The bank or check cashing place may release funds to you, but when they discover that the check was no good, they will come after you to repay the money. The checks are worthless. This is a scam.

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