Secret Shopper Scam Arrests in Canada

Two operators of an alleged counterfeit cashier’s check scam have been arrested in Canada. This secret shopper scam has cheated potential mystery shoppers out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. Variations of the scam have involved lotteries, eBay and CraigsList purchases and other scenarios, but the mystery shopper angle has gotten a lot of attention lately.

These scams involve sending checks to potential mystery shoppers, often people who have posted their resumes on online job sites. The scammers try to look legitimate by using the logos of respected companies, such as Western Union, WalMart, Starbucks, and many others in the letter that accompanies the bogus check. Many times, the scammers use the name of a real mystery shopping company although, obviously, they are not connected to a legitimate company at all.

Christopher Nduka and Alicia Obermuller of Brampton, Ontario, operated an alleged counterfeit check scam out of their home by mailing letters to U.S. residents stating they had won a lottery or were selected to be a secret shopper. The recipients were instructed to deposit enclosed checks and wire a portion of the funds back to the operators of the alleged scam. However, after the victims deposited the counterfeit checks and sent the funds, the checks bounced and victims lost their money. It is estimated that hundreds of U.S. residents have fallen victim to this alleged scam, and have been bilked at least $150,000 in total to date.

Nduka and Obermuller were arrested this week after officers found shredded copies of the “Secret Shopper” solicitation letters in their home. A check printer and blank check stock were also found. The two accused have been allegedly operating fraudulent schemes such as “The Advance Fee Lottery” and “The Secret Shoppers” since January 2005.

Variations of the scam involve overpaying for an item purchased on eBay or CraigsList, then asking the victim to wire the amount of the overpayment as a refund, or claiming that the person has won a lottery and has to pay taxes or other fees before their winnings can be released.

Although these arrests are good news, this scam is not likely to go away any time soon. Be alert. If you have any doubts about what you are asked to do, do not call the phone numbers on the letter or the check. Those numbers will generally connect you to the scammer. Do an internet search for the bank on which the check is drawn and call them. Better yet, if you receive an offer involving cashing a check and wiring money, do not do it. Destroy the check or notify local law enforcement.


  1. janique says

    I got a check in the mail for 1810.53 but I went to the bank and tried to cash it not knowing there were any scams out there…and the bank took all of my money, so in other words I lost all of my money what should I do now?

    • says

      You can file a police report, but don’t count on getting any of your money back. Once you wire it to the scammers, it is gone.

      Sorry this happened to you.

  2. Donna says

    I received a check in the mail and I am very thankful now that THE ONLY way I bank is through a PREPAID debt card. The place I cash checks could not get there check reader machines to read the check so they would not cash it. OH I SO THANK YOU PREPAID CARD FOR BEING MY FRIEND

  3. angel says

    i have emailed a secretshopper company with info in regards to a check i recieved in mail along with directions how to do the shop,i recieved a really wierd text last nite and have been recieving numerous amounts of phone calls different numbers ofcoarse prior to getting the check i recieved a text at 330am asking how i was doing….i replied who is this got no reply2 days later i recieved a test asking if i got the payment by fed ex yet not even 10 min later i opend my front door and it was there on the doorstep.Im not sure if its a coincident but i also replied to an ad on craigslist for tile work and was emailed back about being a personal assis. to recieve checks cash them wire money to bank account go shopping keep items i shop for….am i being targeted by these people how can all that happen ??

    • says

      There is probably not any connection among the text, the phone calls and the check, but there might be.

      The check came because you responded to the CraigsList ad. It is a scam. Ignore them.

  4. shirley warr says

    I was looking for a part time job and answered to the add re:Mystery Shopper and was sent several cheques to shop with and had to pay the banks back with all my savings,I am not one to be easily fooled but they covered all basis and then i called all the phone numbers that i recorded and one was in Nigeria,and another lady was from MONTREAL SO THE SCAM IS DEFINITELY WORLDWIDE! Iam now well aware of how it hurts to have the little money you managed to save for your family all snatched away from these crooks who would sell their parents for money,they are cold,heartless,and care nothing about you or any one else but themselves,please continue to get the word out!! i went to the police but they had no interest in this,whats 2000.00 to them when they are looking for crooks who higher on the scale,but these little amounts add up when 200 people fell into it just like I did.

  5. Karen says

    Unfortunately, I too fell for the stupid “Mystery Shopper” fake cheque scam!! What was really bad though is my bank put the cheque into the reader and actually CASHED IT FOR ME!!! I didn’t send the company any of the money though! I got scammed and have to pay the bank back but at least they didn’t get a dime from me!!

  6. Tabitha says

    This has happened to me quite a few times. This last time I took the check directly to my bank & they knew automatically that it was fake. I even handed over all emails & texts I received as well as the post mail received with the check to the bank and they reported it all to the authorities!! Lucky all 3 times that I’ve got checks I never cashed them! At least I try to be very caution and superstition with these sort of things!

    • says

      Be cautious is smart, but superstition has nothing to do with it. ;o) Whenever something looks odd, you should investigate. If you can not confirm with some certainty that it is legitimate, do not proceed. That is what you did!

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