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:

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
  • For Internet-based scams: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Fraud Complaint Center:
  • 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

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.”


  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 ( and (…… 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

    Is there anyway we can get the site 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 and 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.

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