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. Mr. W .Washington says:

    i recieve a chech from trust group. Investing In 1111 Marcus Avenue, SuiteMz 200 lake Sucess Ny 11042 tel , 1855-7423762 ext 203 fax 1302 – 371 -0000 Vice President Finance w. hunter . my assignmjent was walmart , after that sears, and t-j max or kmart, i listen to the coordinator and then i recieve a check for 1165;25 dollar i was so please the coodinator explain the mystery you do the more you make,. on the evalution paper and the survey questionnaire sheet i gave them my information like i did online and fax . deposit the check and it came back into my account,. OMG i got on the phone and try to call the company no answer,. but recieve the fax,. why they do this i am honlest work hard for my money ,. I don’t what to do? now i have to explain everything the bank. i am shame i work and went all the stores . dam them .

    • I’m sorry this happened to you. Why do they do it? Because they are scammers, liars and thieves. And they do not want to be honest and work hard for their money.

      The best way to protect yourself is not to take anything you receive in an unsolicited email as truth. Check these “opportunities” out before participating.

  2. I do Mystery Shopping / Secret shopping. Ive been doing it for over 6 yrs. Today, I opened a priority mail envelope and saw a check for $2240.00. I was shocked. I never got paid in advance for any job I have every done. The remitter 1101 Victoria St. Brandon, FL. 33510. The instructions basically said, Deposit today, take the money out tomorrow and go do a mystery shop at stores (listed) Money Pak cards. ( Prepaid Credit Cards). Then scan the cards, scratch off the pin and email the results to Paul Wood – Paul.wood@evaluatesecretshopper.mobi . Well, I knew better but went to my bank first. The Bank the Check was written on was Old Florida National Bank. My personal banker attempted to call the bank to see if the funds were available. The number she called said they couldnt do that. The number on the letter was a text number 480-630-1511. I told my personal banker that I was not about to deposit the check because my fear was they would have access to MY personal bank account, as well. I will be calling the Post Master General & the FTC. Please pass this recent scam along, with the peoples names involved.

    • Jennie, thanks for sharing your experience. More and more of these scams are using the prepaid cards instead of wire transfers. I will be posting an article about it soon.

    • Jane Doe says:

      This same person sent me a check also. Same bank, Same amount. Wanted me to purchase $500 money pak cards and send him the codes I thought it to be a little fishy. Why would I buy money pak cards and send someone the codes? This guy is still is still out there with the same address and everything. Why doesn’t the FBI investigate? I already cashed my check and withdrew the money as my bank just cashed the check without looking into it first. So, now my bank account is going to be overdrawn $2240 money I am not able to cover on my own so they probably will close my account now. I will be more careful next time this occurs. I wish I would have seen this post before I went and cashed that check. Paul Wood and the same text number 480-630-1511. I also e-mailed him that I never received the check to see his response. He told me it was sent and gave me tracking for it and never got back to me.Why can’t the FBI track this crook down?

    • jane doe (latina) says:

      I too received a priority mail envelope just yesterday. Who would have guessed it would be from the same guy. PAUL WOOD! It was a different bank though. It was the Ohio university credit union. P.o. Box 476 Athens, Ohio 45701. Website http://www.oucu.org. The check came by mail after I had signed up to become a secret shopper. It was obviously a lie. Thank god I did not deposit this $1,850.00 check. My husband was smart enough to talk to our banker to see if it was legit. It wasn’t. Its sorta stood out that the check literally had re: derrick bramble typed on it but the signature said Phil meyer. Thanx to my husband, my banker and this website I’m going to make a report on this case as well.

    • Exact same thing happened to me. EXACTLY!

      • Paul has changed his methods, he sent me a money order for $725. But the rest was exactly the same stating to deposit it for 24 hours then take it all out. Keep $170 for myself, spend $50 at Wal-Mart and keep whatever I purchase and then email him about the experience. Name of cashier, time for check-out, what I purchased, etc. Then take the other $505 and purchase a green-dot card and load the $500 on it and scan the numbers as well as the pin and send it to him with-in 48 hours because the rest of that money is going to be sent to CHARITY! so dirty.

        • The Green Dot cards are becoming the new standard for this scam. Instead of wiring money, lots of the crooks are asking for the PINs from Green Dot or other prepaid cards. A new twist on an old scam.

  3. I have just received a check in the mail from a company offering me a cashier’s check and assignment. The cashier’s check is worth $2,237.00 and they want me to deposit it into my account, then keep $270 and use the rest for purchasing “money paks,” scratching off codes and sending the info to them with a form. Pffffttt, riiiigghhtt.
    First, I’d like to say that the emails I received from the “supposed” company had so many spelling and grammatical errors in it. This was my first hint at the scam. If you were a true, professional company, you would know of a little thing called “spellcheck.”
    Second, I receive a text every day asking for me to let them know if i received their packet and when I would be able to start my “assignment,” but the person never leaves a name or company name.
    And last, but not least, I searched the address on the envelope i received the “check and assignment” in, and it turns out that the address belongs to a Children’s Hospital. I can honestly say its smart to do the research before taking action. If the letter turns out to be a fake, the obvious clues WILL start popping up; all you have to do is put them together. Plus, I’m not one to be cashing a $2000 check into my account without thinking about the outcome! LoL
    So, without further ado, I will be calling the bank on the check tomorrow along with the Post Master to report the fake check and hopefully they can catch whomever is behind it. I have a cellphone number as well, so hopefully something good will come out of this. Thanks for listening :)

    • Bree, I am glad you didn’t fall for the scam. There is a theory that the scammers make all of the grammatical and other errors on purpose, to screen out people who might be more likely to catch on to the scam or ask too many questions. I don’t know if that is true, but they certainly do include a lot of errors in their emails.

  4. Cathy Wilson says:

    Well, I suspected fraud with the one sent to me but being strapped with bills was not going to do the assignments. Instead I took the check, cashed it and kept the money. Cashed it at a local gas station that knows me fairly well so they didn’t ask any questions. So, instead of them scamming me, I scammed them. Now they keep e-mailing me about when the assignments will be completed.

    • Cathy, while you are congratulating yourself for your cleverness, you might want to think about two things:

      You didn’t scam the scammers, you scammed the gas station that cashed the check. The check didn’t have any money behind it, so the scammers are not out anything.

      You are now a criminal, for knowingly passing a bad check. You can be arrested and sent to jail for stealing from the gas station.

      It would be a good idea to refund the money to the gas station ASAP.

    • jane doe (latina) says:

      Don’t get me wrong on this but I had honestly thought of doing the same with the check. But in my case I sat a thought about it, put myself in that store owners position and I decide not to go thru with it. You would not enjoy someone scamming you so why do it to the poor shop owner. That is my point of view.

      • Ultimately, you would be held responsible for the check, so you would only hurt yourself. There have been cases of people being sent to jail for doing this.

        You were right not to try to cash the check.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this article. I received a $960 postal money order with a letter for a mystery shopper assignment, telling me to go deposit the money order at my bank, then go purchase moneypak cards, email the codes to them along with my evaluation of the service I received. They told me to keep $150 for myself for doing the assignment. That amount seemed very high for just going in a store and then writing a few sentences afterwards, so then I decided to look into the company “CIG Inc” I couldn’t find anything about them online, then checked the money order for the watermark it’s supposed to have, and couldn’t see it. The guy’s name on the letter was Larry Lawton. The email was from gmail.com and outlook.com, which I wouldn’t think a legit business would have free email accounts. Oh well, if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Time to report them. Thanks again.

  6. I also have received a check for $2790. I’m not going to cash it, I know better, not sure if I should send it back or rip it up. The note is from Derrick Bramble sent to me from people in Tulsa Ok. Yeah cash the check and buy green dot cards. Not gonna happen. The audacity to give me 250 for all that work. I make more at my job and will not risk my world for this crap. Thank you for posting this, hope more people do research before getting caught up in this mess.

  7. I received a large cashier check as well yesterday in the mail. Mine was from a Stephen Fowles. It instructed me to also buy the moneypaks in four $500 increments and send all pin numbers to surpremeshopperinc@gmail. I searched the email address and found a link to a sheriffs department in MS (I am from TN) warning of this scam back in June 2014. I am contacting the bank which is out of dallas TX first thing Monday morning to alert them, the BBB, and the post master as well. I knew it was a scam as soon as I saw the check. These things are to good to be true and when something seems to good it always is.

  8. I received a check for $1970.00 in the mail with the name of Paul Smith from Homestead Florida. I googled the address its some shabby home not a buiness address. His cell number on the contact is (770)852-0876 he tried calling my cell and that number is (866) 874-8380, I won’t answer it and he told me he tried calling me. Alaska Federal Credit Union is the bank. There is no phone number or address on the check. Wanted me to take 250 as my pay and do the money pak visa cards same thing buy 4 of them at 440 a apiece and scratch the pin and send it to him. I actually thought this was legit and how could I get in trouble, but then I googled scams and this buisness and found similar scams, I replied that he was a scam and now he’s harrassing me. The sites to report him to, I can’t find that your links are sending me to.. The web pages aren’t there. Is there somewhere else to report this slime ball to.

    • Debbie, the links are working for me. To report him to the FTC, you can go directly to their complaint center at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.

      For future reference, never interact with the scammers. Do not tell them you know it is a scam, do not curse them out, do not respond at all. Just ignore them.

      • he keeps calling my number.. I blocked the number now.. I only replayed that I wouldn’t cash a check and I don’t want to deal him him to stop contacting me.

      • Hi Cathy.

        I received another email threating to report me to the CIA, FBI and whatever. I did not respond and I did spend the email to spam@uce.gov which was a place on the link you provided. Guess I want to know if thats all I need to do?

        • Debbie, you might just want to set up an email filter to send this guy’s emails directly to trash. That way you don’t even have to look at them.

          If anyone reading this takes this idiot’s threats seriously, think about this: What is he going to report her for? “Hello, FBI? Someone refused to allow me to scam them out of thousands of dollars. Please arrest her.” I don’t think so. And the CIA? For realz? The best thing to do with these jerks is ignore them.

          • I am ignoring him but it’s taking all my willpower not to respond and tell him what I think, but I didn’t. … I did report it. I can’t imagine how they can catch these slimey people. Hope they do because, someone may take his treats seriously.

  9. I was online in search of a job via Craigslist and came across this mystery shopper ad that was hiring. I sent my resume and information and in return I received a message from a man claiming to be Devin Tripp. I never contacted him back and he sent the $2600 check in which I received today. I was to take the check to my bank deposit it and withdraw the funds immediately. I was to keep $400 for my pay and do the survey at any local Western Union sending the remainder of the amount to: Here is the information for the other secret customer you are to send the money to: Receiver’s Name……..Amanda Salinas
    Address:……………3251 Atletas Way
    City:………………Redding
    State:………………..CA
    Zip code…………….96002
    The envelope has on it: Finch Services Inc. 1127 Littlestown Pik Westminister, MD. 21157
    The check contains the following information: NRG Systems, Inc. 110 Riggs Rd. Hinesburg, VT. 05461
    TDbank, N.A 111 Main st. Burlington VT 05461

    • Christy, I assume that you now know this is a scam. These always are.

      For everyone reading this, just another reminder: When you are asked to wire money to someone (or buy prepaid cards and send the PINs), it is ALWAYS a scam. It doesn’t matter what name they use or what company they say they are with, it is a scam. They have no association with any mystery shopping company. They are just scummy scammers.

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