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. Donna says

    A few Day ago I received a cashier via us postal mail. regarding a mystery shopper assignment. I was ask to have funds put into my bank wait 24 hrs and them with draw all but 200.00 which is my wage. told to go to money gram and send 2 persons money for 635.00 each. melvin Johnson 400 main street Rowlett, TX —- John Williams 3411 Powell way Mossouri City, TX turns out that these address are all location of propertys that are for sale. mean while this harisine.201@gmail.com is texting me from this number 312-763-8527 wanting me to hurry and complete my assignment. I took all paper work they sent me and gave it to my bank. haven’t heard from them . I let him know I knew this was a scam and he was getting one cent from me.

  2. Jennifer says

    Today I received a cashier check for 2,550.00 for secret shopper remitter was Andrea Smith person of contact is Robert J. Payne he says he is with Kmart Survey Evaluation. I am supposed to email or text him when I receive the assignment which I have not done, I am going to call bank tomorrow and find out what I can then I will go to the authorities. His email is robertpayne893@gmail.com, he wanted me to spend 100.00 at kmart or Walmart then send 1050.00 to two different people in the Philippines via western union and 300.00 was my pay.

    • Ross says

      I got the same scam from robertpayne893@gmail.com. I reported it to the banking institution, sent them scans of all of the documents, and turned all of it over to my local police department.

      I can’t believe anyone would fall for this, but the check really looked legit. The instruction letter, however, just reeked of fraud!

      • says

        Ross, there are several reasons that people fall for versions of this scam. As you noted, the checks appear to be valid. Many people do not understand how the banking laws work, so they do not realize that the bank releasing funds does not mean that the check has cleared. They assume that the bank would not give them money if the check had not been proven to be valid, but that is not true.

        It always pays to be suspicious when someone you do not know sends you money out of the blue. Glad you didn’t get scammed.

      • paula says

        I actually first got an email from jobs@kmart.com for a mystery shopper I think that’s how they got my email address. I got an email (robertpayne893@gmail.com) and text (910-361-2530) from a Robert Payne.

        • Jesse S. says

          I got that same email. I signed up for it awhile back. I thought it was a little suspicious, but I figured what the hell. Yesterday, I got the check in the mail and a letter with some grammar mistakes. I thought it was a little odd and that it could be a scam. I’m not working at the moment, so I stupidly let my guard down and went to the bank and deposited the check, since I needed the money. The phone number on the form I got is the same as yours but the name it Ronald K Webster. Around 20 minutes ago, I looked up the phone number and found this website. I immediately went online and chatted with a rep from my bank and he said to call the fraud department tomorrow since there’s nothing he could do to stop the deposit from going through. So tomorrow I’m going to call the fraud department and tell them to cancel the check. I’ll tell you what, though. Every suspicion told me not to go to the bank and deposit the check, but since I needed the money, I let my suspicions go by the wayside. Man, do I feel foolish. Hopefully my bank’s fraud section can get to the bottom of this with no harm to me.

          • says

            Jesse, as long as you don’t withdraw the money, the worst that will happen is that the bank might charge you a fee for the bounced check. Because you notified them about the problem, you might be able to get them to waive the fee. I’m glad you didn’t go further with this and end up getting scammed.

    • Julie says

      I also received this scam in mail today. The check was for $2550. Spend up to $100 then I was to evaluate two western unions. The money was going to be sent to people in thePhillipines. The letter came from Ronald Webster in Mississippi . The phone number was (910) 361-2530. ( located in North Carolina)
      The check had two different names on the front. I’ve never heard of the Pelham banking company.
      We took it to our local police department.

  3. Marlene says

    I received a 2780.99 cashier’s check today via priority mail. Even looks legit! However upon reading the letter that was sent with the bogus check, TONS of misspelled words. The real interesting thing about the check: it had no bank address listed so I Googled the bank name and the bank does exist. I called the bank (Associated Bank) gave them the cashier’s check number and just as expected: no such check came from that bank. I feel badly for all the people that fall for this type of scam.

  4. kristin herrmann says

    i received a check for mystery shopping a for 2,865.00, i cashed it and received a letter a week later from my bank saying that they were unable to locate the account, so now im responsible for the money. right? i have some money left so i have to give that back to the bank. i feel so stupid.

    • says

      Kristin, you will have to repay all of the money you received from the bank ($2865) plus any charges for processing the returned check and overdraft fees (if any). I’m sorry you got caught up in this.

    • Jesse S. says

      Yeah, I deposited mine today. I’m not working at the moment, so I let my suspicions that I had about it go by the wayside. Luckily, though, I caught it this evening and my bank said to call the fraud department tomorrow. Make sure you call your bank’s fraud department too. They should be able to help you. After I call, I’ll return and report what my bank did to help me, if anything.

  5. Jb says

    I really wanted to read one success story but have read none. I am quite disturbed by the seemingly world wide scope of involvement in this. Letter was from Spain, assignments were to send money to Spain and USA! So how easy would it be to catch the person picking up money in the us? On other sites the letters from a couple years ago looked exactly the same, and they got my info from a seemingly legit site. It’s quite an involved operation. I still get daily nutty emails from Nigeria saying there is a 10.7 million dollar package somewhere. It’s so overdone it’s comical, and most people must get that scam by now, plus unless it is a lottery most people won’t have a multi million dollar container of cash. But wouldn’t it be great if somehow it did come through? Especially for a really innocent person.

    • says

      JB, I am not sure what you mean by “success story.” There are hundreds of thousands of mystery shoppers working around the world. That seems like a success story to me.

      As for catching the scammers when they pick up the cash, there are so many places they can make the pickup, that knowing when and where to look would be impossible.

  6. Valerie says

    I have gotten so many of those checks that I made a file to put them all in. I receive at least 4 to 7 of those checks each year with the same name and also different names of people wanting thousands of dollars sent to them within 24 hours. I got three checks in one week from different people just because i signed up with a mystery shopping site and have been working for them for some time now. I make legit money with them but those checks are not legit at all so please please do not cash them and spend any of the money. You will have to pay it all back and the bank will wipe out your accounts to get their money back asap. They also charge you a fee for cashing a bad check. Talk about adding insult to injury.

    • says

      Valerie, it is unlikely that you received the scam checks from working with a legitimate mystery shopping company. Those companies do not send the scam checks, and they do not share your information with scammers or others.

  7. Elda says

    I just got one this Saturday. I emailed the guy to ask him some questions but I am so glad I googled his name. So, my question is what do I do with the check? Do I go to the police department?

    • says

      Elda, you can shred the check or turn it over to law enforcement. Here is some info on where to report a mystery shopper scam. Just don’t cash the check, and do not respond further to the scammer. Glad you caught this and didn’t get scammed.

      By the way, the scammer’s name may be what tipped you off, but the name never matters. This scam is run under many names and using the names of many companies.

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