Secret Shopper Job Offer Promises Easy Cash ... But Delivers a Scam

November 14, 2012

Love to shop? Need extra money? Securing a part time job as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement your income. But watch out for a detailed scam job offer that lures victims into parting with thousands of dollars.

How the Scam Works:

You receive a blast email informing you that you've been offered a job as a secret shopper. The email provides detailed, realistic instructions on how to conduct your secret evaluations. It even provides your first assignments: reporting on your neighborhood's Wal-Mart and Western Union. Sounds easy enough!

To get started, the email urges you to reply and confirm your mailing address. After doing this, you will receive in the mail an informational packet, which contains a fake check. This check supposedly covers your $300 payment and contains money to spend on your investigations.

The instructions tell you to deposit the check and subtract your fee. Then, use the rest to "evaluate" Western Union by sending three $950 money orders. Of course, a few days later, the bank will reject the check and delete the advanced funds from your account. You'll be out the more than $2,500 that you wired to the scammers.

As this scam gains more publicity, scammers will likely alter the exact stores and amounts featured. However, the central scam (depositing a fake check and wiring money before it clears) will remain the same.

I Was the Target of This Scam. What Should I Do?

Help law enforcement track the scammers by reporting it to the following agencies:

  • The Federal Trade Commission. Visit or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
  • The U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Visit or call your local post office.
  • Your state or local consumer protection agencies. Visit

For More Information

For tips on avoiding the secret shopper scam and other fake check scams, check out this information on the FTC's website. The FTC provides detailed information about who's responsible for what in a check fraud case.

To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper.