How to Handle a Mystery Shopping Scam Check

bank-checkIf you have gotten one of those checks for thousands of dollars from someone representing themselves as a mystery shopping company, you are about to be scammed. Unless, of course, you follow the advice in this article.

Mystery shopping companies do not send checks for thousands of dollars to potential mystery shoppers. Ever. They do not ask you to wire money. Ever. I have written about mystery shopper scams many times, but even some of the people who read those articles will want to believe that their situation is the exception, and they are going to get paid $400 for a couple of hours of work. Not gonna happen. Ever.

Before you cash the check and wire the money off to the scammer, humor me for a minute. Do a couple of things to check them out. If I’m wrong and the “offer” if legitimate, you can post a comment and say I was wrong. But if I’m right, you will save yourself thousands of dollars, lots of aggravation, and possibly some jail time. (Cashing a forged check is a crime, and you may have to convince the police that you are the victim to get out of trouble.)

Here’s what to do…

Call the company listed on the check and see if they sent it to you. Do not rely on a phone number on the check or in the package you received. Go look them up online and find contact information for them. Sometimes the check has the name of a legitimate mystery shopping company on it, although they did not send the check. But I have seen some drawn on accounts for auto parts stores and other businesses. Why would an auto parts store be paying you to mystery shop WalMart and Western Union?

Anytime a scam involves a cashier’s check, official check, or money order from a bank, and you believe that it could be counterfeit, you should contact the issuing bank directly to verify authenticity. As with the company that supposedly issued the check, when contacting the bank, do not use the telephone number provided on the check, as this number is probably not associated with the bank, but rather with the scam artist.

To locate a bank’s mailing address, you can check the FDIC’s Web site at:
http://www2.fdic.gov/idasp/main_bankfind.asp.

So now you have learned that the check is a fake. What should you do next? Resist any impulse to call the person behind the mystery shopper scam. One option is to shred the check and throw it in the trash. Another is to contact the authorities. In addition to notifying the bank named on the check, there are others whom you also should notify if you receive a counterfeit item. They include:

  • For all scams: Federal Trade Commission (FTC): by telephone at 1-877-FTC-HELP or file an electronic complaint via their Internet site at www.ftc.gov.
  • For Internet-based scams: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Fraud Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov.
  • For mail-based scams: U.S. Postal Inspector Service: by telephone at 1-888-877-7644, by mail at U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Office of Inspector General, Operations Support Group, 222 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 1250, Chicago, IL 60606-6100 or online at http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/MailFraudComplaint.htm.

If I was wrong about your check, post a comment and let me know. You can even taunt me. But if I was right…well, I won’t even say, “I told you so.”

Comments

  1. Jasmine Gutrez says

    I received a text message asking if I wanted to be a secret shopper. How they got my number I don’t know… So I replied. Two days later I got envelope priority mail. It had a u.s postal service blank money order for $994.20. The names involved were 1) Robert Alex- sender’s name 2) Holly brown- name I was to put on the money order in the ‘from’ space 3)George wilson- person that would receive the money gram I was to send and 4) Tommie hampton- head of recruitment with a phone number of 347 363 5305, text messages only…. Emails I was to the reports to (evaluationupdate105@outlook.com) and (ms.secretshopper9500@gmail.com)…… Of coarse I did not do as they requested. I just wanted to get these names and email addresses out for people to beware of… The instructions I was given did not make sense to me that’s what made me believe it was a scam

    • says

      Jasmine, thanks for the info. The important thing for everyone to remember is that the names don’t matter. If someone sends you a check and asks you to wire money or sent pre-paid cards, it is a scam. Always.

  2. Martha says

    I am at a lost right now. I am not directly involved but my friend asked me to read a letter that she received early last week re: being a mystery shopper. I would say that we were not smart enough to check online or ask so she proceeded with the instructions. She deposited the cheque worth $4,000+ and was instructed to send money through Western Union and MoneyGram and for doing this, got herself $500. Later during the week, another friend of ours happened to learn about this and told us that most likely, this was a scam! And that the bank will phone her one of these days and ask her to pay that huge amount. Worse is, her once good record with the bank will be tainted. I know it’s rather late but hopefully, others would think a hundred times and manage to check online or ask people before taking any action on such stuff. Is there any action that she could take now while waiting? Thanks, I really don’t know what to do.

    • says

      Martha, sadly you friend is probably out any money she sent. Two things I would suggest:

      Contact Western Union and MoneyGram to see if the money was picked up. There is a 99% chance that it was, but if for some reason it wasn’t she should cancel the transfer.

      The other thing she needs to do is let her bank know what happened before the check is returned. By being proactive and letting them know she was scammed, she may be able to preserve her relationship with the bank.

      Sorry to hear about this.

  3. Darnesia says

    Hello,
    Is there anyway we can get the site indeed.com to take them down because that’s how they get information? When applying to many jobs even those titled mystery shopper they get your information and proceed. I think indeed should check before letting “employers” post.

    • says

      There are lots of reasons why sites such as Indeed.com and CraigsList.org do not review every post before it goes live. They will probably review and remove posts if someone flags them, so when you see one that appears to be a scam, flag it.

      Ultimately, we cannot expect someone else to protect us from every danger. We have a responsibility to exercise due diligence. When something sounds odd, trust your instincts.

  4. Tova Rogers says

    I just received a check yesterday for $2865 from Micheal Hazard with a letter asking me to cash it and keep $300 for myself and then transfer $1200 to 2 different people in Cyprus using Money Gram and to mystery shop them.
    I of course called the bank it was drawn on and they confirmed it was fraud. I have reported it the US postal inspectors as well.
    This guy Micheal as already texted me to let me know that i have received the check and wants me to cash it now .
    This all originated from a text message i received asking me if i wanted to me a mystery shopper.
    I am holding onto the check, letter and text message received today for the authorities,

  5. Zaida N says

    I got some emails from a man names Ronald Perelman offering me a job as a so-called “secret shopper”. I’ve been really in need of work so I greatly considered it. They sent me a package with the instructions, which were to evaluate a CVS or Walmart, buy some things and then transfer money to some guy in china. My mom was totally up for it so i figured its a check in my hands and I need the money so I transferred the money into my bank account today and it should go in in 24 hours. Though, now i’m very suspicious of it and I’m kind of scared what will happen. What should I do? If the money get’s transferred should I not send it to the man in china? Please help me.

  6. LaRayne says

    I received a check for $2872.30 with instructions similar to the others I just read. I am glad I decided to check it out before doing something with it. I was wondering what would happen if someone opened an account with this check and just let it sit there and see what happens. Might get interesting.

    • says

      LaRayne, what would happen is that after a few days or weeks, the check would be discovered to be forgery. The bank would remove all of the funds from the account, charge one or more fees for the returned checks, and maybe have you arrested for passing a forged check.

      In short, there is nothing good that would happen from depositing the check, and potentially a lot of bad.

      • Melissa says

        I was stupid and deposited the check they sent me I called the bank and the flagged it as fraud and will be closing my account. I filed a complaint with the FCC what else should i do i am very worried i will get in trouble with the police for being stupid and falling for this Scam

  7. Melissa says

    I fell for the scam. as a mystery shopper with M S Service also known as Step Recruitment
    i answered ad online when you google mystery shopping its the first one that pops up so i answered the questions and a few days later got a email saying that i would receive a package with my first assignment .. the package came and said i was to deposit the check into the bank and then go to money gram and western union.. well i deposited the check but something told me that something was not right so i called the bank and they told me that it was fraud and that my account will not be closed. I did not withdraw any of the money in fact i wanted them to stop the deposit but was informed i could not do that. I filed a report with the FCC as well as with others that is shown on another website. I just got a text message from a Wilson Kane asking if i have completed my assignment yet . then got another email asking when will be be able to complete .. I can not believe i fell for this scam. please be aware.. I am not sure what the out come will be

  8. Earl Davis says

    November,2015 received a cashiers-check in the amount of $1,930.42 with directions to deposit into my account, spend under $50 on each item for myself and send $1,530 to a person (JAMES BRAUN) in Chicago,IL also a mystery shopper and my next assignment will be sent immediately,but in fact if you miss the red-flags,your next assignment may be in a prison. People no one is giving away money,if its too good to be “true”,trust your first instinct .What company has to trust their money to strangers honesty,none ! These scammers are scum of the earth who will rob the poor,weak,elderly,young,helpless or whoever falls for their con.

  9. Phyllis M says

    I got involved in the same type of thing over 5 years ago and was already a mystery shopper in Nevada. We have to get licenses here. I had previously been a legal secretary. The first thing I did was to call the bank, then I called the Attorney General’s office in Nevada, then I shredded the check and did not reply to their emails to me.

  10. brenda brown says

    I received an email from paul goldsmith mystery shopper assc he is sending a packet in the mail on what to do is he for real or is it a scam thank you Brenda brown

    • says

      Brenda, it is a scam. When someone approaches you out of the blue and says they are hiring you as a mystery shopper and sending a package, it means they are sending you a forged check. Ignore it, shred it, whatever–just don’t cash it and send them any money. Scam, scam, scam. No question about it.

  11. Alicia says

    I received a letter in the mail with a check to be a mystery shopper. It was around $1900. It said to call a guy listed and gave a phone number for my assignment. It said $300 would be mine and the rest would be for mystery shopping and to fill out surveys of customer satisfaction to certain stores and fax the surveys in with a listed fax number. It also said to call the account manager to activate any funds before depositing the check. I haven’t called yet, but it’s suspicious. I looked up the credit union listed on the check and it seemed legit, but I couldn’t get the FDIC link to work for me to check it out on there. I don’t even know if I should waste my time looking into it.

  12. sandra says

    I fell for this too. I waited for the check to clear with my bank and when it did i thought this was legit. until 2 days later they called me that the check was on hold. can you sent me the websites I can contact to report mystery shoppers scam. thanks

  13. Ralph says

    After being contacted by mystery shopper by priority mail on 1/14/16 a package from Alfa Box Corporation that contained a check in the amount of $2,900.00. The instructions stated I was to cash the check at my bank or deposit it for a period if 24 hours and then proceed with my assignment.
    – deduct $200.00 for myself.
    – with my assignment I am to the $2700.00 and wire $2600.00 to Alissa
    Barnes in Warsaw Poland zip code 01-029
    – the remaining $100.00 goes to Western Union which I am tone evaluating
    – when done with the assignment I am to email the supervisor evaluationreport.ms@gmail.com and task coordinator marksisodia@gmail.com
    Of course I never intended on depositing or doing anything with their check that I am pretty sure is a fraud.
    I do intend on contacting CitiBank and inform them. The remitters name is Alex Beglot.

      • Gloria says

        I received the same exact package today, with the same exact instructions. Came from Alfa Box and to send to Sarah Bryant in Poland. My letter said 2 assignments but the instructions didn’t tell me the 2nd assignment. Taking it to the bank the check has on it and reporting in the morning. Thanks!

  14. Sherry says

    I responded to an email a few weeks ago about mystery shopping opportunities in my area. I just received a check from a company called Shop ‘n’ Check. I started to suspect this was a scam because the instructions didn’t make sense. It said another mystery shopper located in Georgia would complete the transaction, but the address where I was to send the money was in Chicago, IL. Glad I looked online before I went ahead with cashing this check. The name of the person contacting me claiming to be the manager is Jeremy Boyle. The 2 email addresses given are jayda3398@gmail.com and donwalker0011@outlook.com. These email addresses were another indication that this is a scam. Legitimate companies aren’t going to use gmail or outlook as their email. It would be listed under a company name. I will not be responding to these people anymore, and I intend shred the check!!

    • says

      Sherry, this is definitely a scam, but there is/was a legitimate company called Shop N Chek. The scammers often use the names of legitimate companies in an effort to appear like they are the real deal.

      The bottom line is that if they send you a check BEFORE you have done any work, and they want you to send money to someone else, it is a scam. No exceptions. Glad you didn’t fall for it.

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