Mystery shoppers get paid with counterfeit checks

The good fortune of being a mystery shopper can become a misfortune for scam victims.

Consumers must be extremely cautious when considering employment as a mystery shopper. In some cases, counterfeit cashier’s checks are being used to pay employees. The checks look authentic and are imprinted with a legitimate routing number (114904953). However, the word ‘AAVILA’ is printed to the left of the date and the purchaser names used are Christopher Drake or Veronica Branton.

Scammers are recruiting prospective employees by email with the offer of a job where you are paid to shop. The trouble starts when the victim accepts this offer of employment. They provide their contact information and, soon, a package arrives. The package contains a cashier’s check and a letter containing the instructions that the victim must complete to satisfy their employee duties.

The victims are instructed to:

  • Complete the job assignment within 48 hours
  • Deposit the cashier’s check into their own bank account (The amounts of the check are usually $1545 or $2865)
  • Keep $200 as their commission
  • Purchase and scan a $10 cashier’s check
  • Send the scanned copy of the check to the scammer. Scammer provides address of where to send the actual check
  • Purchase $10 worth of merchandise at the pre-assigned store named in the letter
  • Complete a survey about your shopping experience
  • Go to Western Union. Send the remaining balance of the counterfeit check to another mystery shopper whose contact information is included in the letter.

Needless to say, the victim’s bank discovers the check is counterfeit and the victim is left with the responsibility of making amends to the bank. advises any consumers who suspect they have been a victim of this scam to contact:

Special Supervision Division: Phone at (202) 649-6450

Michigan State University Extension urges consumers to be skeptical of opportunities that seem too good to be true. For more information about work from home scams, please read Work from home scams: Part 1 and Part 2.

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