If 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 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 https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/contactus/filecomplaint.aspx.
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.”
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.
Cathy Stucker 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.
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.
Cathy Stucker 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.
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?
Cathy Stucker 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.
Morgan Smith says
Hello! My name must be “Joe Willie NeckBone” and I’ll fall for anything! lol… smh… I usually just ignore these types of scams, however yesterday I got an actual $2370.00 check in the mail! I know it was a scam but at 1st I couldn’t figure out how they were trying to scam me! Then I figured it out… Lets see if you can as well?
The Scam Email…
Your first assignment check of $2,370.00 was posted via USPS Priority Mail. The envelope will be delivered Tomorrow Thursday 21st July. The previous delay was due to some issues from USPS. Kindly accept out apologizes.
See below and also attached file for your assignment guideline and commission instruction. Kindly confirm receiving email with instruction by replying.
1: Proceed to your bank or credit union to have the check deposited. Funds will be available immediately or in 24 hours.
2: Deduct USD $350 as your commission and logistics fee.
3: Proceed to nearest Store with iTunes Gift Cards [ Apple iTunes Non-Denominational Gift Card ($15 – $500) ]
(The cards are available at Walgreens, Office Depot, Best buy and many other stores)
4: Purchase 4 iTunes Gift Cards at store. (See below “Samples”).
Note: If the Non-Denominational Gift Card are not available, then you may purchase other denominations.
5: Go to the register and add cash of $500 to each card. $500 X 4 = $2000
6: Evaluate the quality of customer service delivery, condition and arrangement of cards at the store and fill out your observation in the Feedback Section below (Page 2).
Note: Under no circumstance should you acknowledge that you are evaluating their services as that will deter the purpose of the program. If asked if you are a mystery shopper, kindly answer NO.
AFTER PURCHASE OF CARDS
7: Open the pack, scratch off label to reveal code at the back of the cards and capture clear image of front and back of each card and email to us along with Page 2 of this document. (Phone camera accepted)
The cards are required for the next assignment. You will also use the funds to carry out future assignments. This eliminates the need of posting you checks for other upcoming assignments.
Note, do not use the cards until we instruct you to do so.
Once you deposit that check, and (re-read #7): Open the pack, scratch off label to reveal code at the back of the cards and capture clear image of front and back of each card and email to us along with Page 2 of this document. (Phone camera accepted)”
They get paid! You get played…
The Scam Email came from: Research Masters Group
RESEARCH MASTER’S GROUP
3524 Yadkinville Road #358
Winston Salem, NC 27106
All the info is official looking but (I’m assuming) is not affiliated with the scam… The address on the check is “The Country Boy RV Madison, 3014 Pecan Wood Drive, Missouri, TX 77459
The Bank Info is: Bank of Madison GA, 30650
The return address on the priority mail is: Walter Jameson, 1000 Highland Colony PKWY, Ridgeland MS 39157
Be careful out there everyone. I hope the info was helpful. God Bless
I just recieved one very similar. What would happen if I took the check to their bank and cashed it? It is Capital One. If I brought the document and check would they be able to look at the routing & account# to see if it’s legit? I did Google the routing number and it matches the bank but obviously anyone can do that. Thoughts?
Cathy Stucker says
Tiffany, best case? They would spot it as a fraud and you would not be able to cash it. Worst case? You get arrested for check fraud. Knowingly trying to cash a fraudulent check is a crime. And you know this is a fraudulent check. Just shred it and move on.
Cathy Stucker says
Alison, go back to wherever you cashed the check and let them know that you were scammed. Pay back whatever money you haven’t already given to the scammer, and make arrangements to pay back the rest. Do not have any further contact with the scammer, and do not do anything they ask you to do. Just ignore them.
Doris Loyd says
Well I am disable and was looking for a way to make a little extra money. About a week ago I received an email about a secret Shopper job that you can make money. The email was from a John Miller, requested my name, address, phone number, email and occupation. I provided the information. I received a email on Monday this week saying that I have been accepted for job as secret personal shopper. I immediately rep,y to the email telling them that I was no longer interested and if they would cancel my request. Today is Wednesday I received a email saying that a check was being sent to me today by UPS from this John Miller. I also called the number listed in the email, only got a voicemail, so I left message that will not be doing the job. I emailed back and told them that the check will be returned to them because I an no longer interested in doing this job. The check came by UPS at Mt apartment office but have not picked it up, because I have had a bad feeling about the whole thing since I replied the first time. What should I do ? I wam thinking not to pick up the UPS package?
Cathy Stucker says
Doris, you can do whatever you want with the package. Throw it away, turn it over to law enforcement, don’t pick it up…it’s your decision. Just do not have any further contact with the scammers. Don’t email them, don’t call them, don’t respond if they try to contact you. And do not respond to any more spam emails. They are always trouble. I’m glad you trusted your instincts and didn’t get scammed.
Gen Manfredi says
I received by mail an application to become a secret shopper. I also received a check for $3990.00. I was to go to one of the big box retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, etc. and spend $100.00 then I was to fax the receipt, keep $450.00 for myself and remit the rest to Western Union at an address to be given by the coordinator of this mail. It immediately raised a red flag when I saw Western Union. What really bothers me is the company on the check is a legitimate company and so is the bank which I referenced both on line. These scammers go to great lengths to create these scams. They look so real. The application for the mystery shopper had a name and phone number on who to call. I will be calling the company listed on the check as well as the bank to let them know.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ARTICLE. I’VE JUST REGISTERED FOR A SECRET SHOPPER. I WAS TOLD MY FIRST CHEQUE IS ON THE WAY WITH FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS. MEANWHILE I THOUGHT I WILL DO A BIT OF INVESTIGATION AND DISCOVERED THAT ALTHOUGH THERE ARE LEGAL SECRET SHOPPERS THIS ONE IS A SCAM.
WHEN YOU THINK SOMETHING SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IS USUALLY IS.
WILL NOW WAIT FOR THE CHEQUE TO ARRIVE AND WILL THEN GO AND VISIT THE AUTHORITIES.
Thomas A. Phillips says
Almost took the bait, my check was for $1500.00 my assignment was :MONEY IN MINUTES : All I can say is Thank Goodness for the Internet.
I am so glad to find out this page. I signed up for the secret shopper on line, and received the text to see if my phone number is legit. In the text said I am receiving the first assignment next week. I thought if it was scam I will not receive anything. But today I received the priority mail, in it there is the sheet of paper which explains the assignment and $2550 cashers check.
He (Ronald T Webster) wanted me text him back when I received the package, which I did.
I thought my assignment would be just shopping , but there were shopping assignment either Walmart or Kroger using less than $100 from the fund that he provided, and also money transferring assignment, $1050 to two different addresses.
I was still believing that this is legit work, I went to the bank to put money in my account so I can fulfill the task.
When I got home, I thought something was off, so I reserached his name, company’s name, “Kroger secret shopping”, and found out this page. Oh my goodness, this is fraud. I immediately drove back to the bank. It was just 30 min ago, so I was able to get the cashers check back.
I made a copy of sheet and check. Shall I send all back to him? Or shall I ask advice from the local police?
Cathy Stucker says
Ginger, do not mail it back to the scammer or have any further contact with the scammer. Notify the police or throw it in the shredder.
I’m glad you listened to your intuition and avoided the scam.