scams are completely different from
legitimate Secret Shopper jobs. A
legitimate Secret Shopper employer pays
qualified individuals to rate restaurants
and retail stores. In other words, you
are paid to dine out and go shopping.
A Secret Shopper is never, ever asked to
test a money wiring service.
How the scam works
Secret Shopper scams have two
goals: to persuade the victim to wire stolen money and to obtain
the victim's personal information - ID Theft.
A Secret Shopper scam always
involves receiving a check or money orders. It always
involves cashing the drafts or depositing them in your checking
account, then wiring the money by MoneyGram or occasionally
Western Union to a stranger. Many victims are told to go to Walmart to
wire the money.
The scammers don't want their
victims to be warned off by the money wiring service so they
instruct the victim to say they the money is being sent to a
The victim has now become involved
in money laundering.
Just about every Secret Shopper
victim who comes to us states that the check or money order
looked genuine, even to the bank or check cashing store.
Well that's because the check stock is genuine.
The drafts are written on stolen
stock or on paper that has been reproduced by a professional
counterfeiter on a printing press using the same methods as
check printing companies use. With the right software and
ink for the micro encoding at the bottom of the draft, drafts
can be reproduced on a home printer.
Sometimes the drafts have been
washed, meaning the original Payee and amount was chemically
One trick the scammers use is to
send out counterfeit drafts on which the routing number, account
number, and bank name do not match. This means the draft
has to go through special handling, causing a delay in the
return of the check. The delay gives the scammers time to
send the victim more checks before the scam is discovered.
How to really verify checks and
The average person does not view
and touch very many different drafts. They have their own
checks, receive a paycheck unless they are on auto-deposit,
occasionally get a rebate check or refund from a store, may send
off money orders from time to time, and at least once a year
receive a Treasury check. That is far too few to be a good
judge of whether a check is genuine or not.
DO NOT DEPOSIT A CHECK TO SEE IF IT IS
GOOD, EVEN IF YOUR BANK TELLS YOU TO!
That is not
how you verify a check and by endorsing and depositing a suspicious
check or money order you are putting your account and
your standing with your bank at risk.
Although tellers handle many, many
drafts during during the day, their ability to discern a
counterfeit draft is also limited. Some banks and credit
unions have machines to reveal the security features
incorporated into some check stock, but that only works for
drafts that have been re-printed without the security feature.
Contacting the bank to see if the
check is good only provides the information that the account is
open, that there are no flags on it (and flags are not always
noticed), and that there's money in the account.
Waiting for a deposited check to
clear is meaningless. "Cleared" only means a draft made it
through the clearing house which provides the same information
you get by calling the bank: account status.
The real question is, was that
check was made out to you?
The only way to verify a check or
money order is to contact the account holder and ask that the
draft be verified against the ledger: was it made payable to you
and written for that amount?
All draft accounts have a ledger,
even cashier's checks. If you receive a cashier's check,
you can contact the issuing bank and ask that it be verified
against the ledger.
What "available funds" really
After you have deposited drafts,
you will see a line on your statement that states "available
funds." On the other hand, you may call in to find out
what your account balance is and find that it includes the
amount of your deposit.
All that means is your bank has
obeyed the 2-day rule and credited your account with money.
The key word here is "credited." It does not mean your
bank has received funds from the account holder bank. It
means you have been given a no-signature loan against the
receipt of funds from the account holder bank.
It also means that if you withdraw
those funds and the draft comes back for any reason at all, you
owe the money to your bank. You, not your bank, are
responsible for those drafts according to the signature card you
signed when you opened your account (your contract with your
bank) and by your endorsement on the back of the draft (your
acceptance of total responsibility for the draft).
To find out what to do if you
have already received or accepted one or more suspicious checks
or money orders please go to
www.fraudaid.com/before_contact.htm immediately and scroll
down to Counterfeit checks and money orders.
If you have been arrested for
cashing or depositing a counterfeit check or money order, please
contact us immediately at