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. Paul Wood is gonna turn everyone away from trying to do job’s like these. He sent me 2 checks in the same day and told me to do all the same things that you other people have stated. Glad i looked into it first!

    • Lisa, there is no “Paul Wood.” It is a fake name used by a scammer. These scammers have nothing to do with mystery shopping–this is just one variation of a common scam.

      What matters is learning to think critically whenever you are dealing with someone you do not know. That will protect you from all kinds of scams.

      One important aspect of that is doing exactly what you did: You researched it before taking action. That is smart, and it kept you from becoming a scam victim.

  2. I am SOOOOO Glad I read this… I too received two checks on the same day from “Paul Wood”. They arrived via priority mail and both contained the same instructions including a note at the bottom that the phone number listed is for text messages only… That was my first flag.. I then researched the banks the checks were drawn on (flag #2, two different banks). One was a legitiment bank in California, however, when I called to verify the “bank check” I was told it was not a real check… I have been unable to find any contact info for the second cashiers check written from a Credit Union in Texas. Third Flag, two checks, two different banks in two different states.
    I can’t imagine what might have happened had I been someone who would have only seen $4000 sitting in front of me and run to the bank and cashed these…. I truly hope everyone who receives ANYTHING like this has the wherewithal to investigate before jumping in….

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