Beware of These Mystery Shopping Fake Check Scams

Even though it’s been a while since my car wrap scam posting of 2013, I see that fake check scammers are still going strong.

Yesterday was a “red letter” day for me; I received not one, not two, but three fake checks in my mail box.

Fake check scam #1: Mystery Shoppers Agent

The first fake check scam involves mystery shopping through the company website Mystery Shoppers Agent.

mystery shoppers agent2

At first, I wasn’t sure if this company was also a scam or just caught up in the cross hairs of the scammers’ ploys. You see, when it comes to fake checks, scammers don’t hesitate to “plug” legitimate businesses into the mix. Completely legitimate banks and retailers will appear to be sending cashier’s checks, and USPS or FedEx envelopes will feature actual return addresses.

In the case of Mystery Shoppers Agent, however, the stench of scam was almost immediately apparent. Aside from the site’s broken English, it states that it offers a “Minimum amount for each assignment is $600 USD, payable by check.” Also, on its application page, you find the following statement: “We would like to inform you that you will be handle two assignment per week and the minimum payment for the each assignment will be $600 which make it $1200 every week.”

I’ve been a mystery shopper since 2010; several of my friends have been mystery shoppers for 10+ years now. No one in my immediate group has ever heard of assignments paying $600.

Also, for high-paying assignments of $60 or more, mystery shop assignments came with pages upon pages of instructions. However, read the letter I received and posted below for an assignment that supposedly pays $300:

IMG_3689 (2)

For this “assignment,” you are requesting wire transfers to two individuals living in the Philippines. You are then generating a report about the “customer service professionalism.” No directions are provided on how to generate this report.

But it gets even better- I received not one such letter from Mystery Shoppers Agent, but two! In one day, I found the exact same letters addressed to me and sitting in two identical 2-Day Priority Mail USPS envelopes. Along with those two identical letters were these two identical $3,775 checks:


The same day, I also received the following email from His questions and my replies are posted below.

> Subject: First Task
> From:
> First task is to be delivered to your address today or Tuesday at the latest and your assignment info and instructions would come in the mail along with your salary,please kindly follow the instructions that came in the mail along with your Paycheck…Did you recieve the payment yet?please reply back…thanks

On Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 4:23 PM, Halina Zakowicz wrote:
Yes I did.

did you made the deposit yet and when would u send the funds?

On Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 4:26 PM, Halina Zakowicz wrote:
I deposited the funds this afternoon.

when would u send the funds?

On Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 4:38 PM, Halina Zakowicz wrote:
I’m going to do it later this week. Probably Friday.

why friday?the check would clear tomorrow…so you should send the funds tomorrow please…also,i have been calling you and you didnt pick your calls

What I found interesting was that never during our email interchange did “Jonathan” ask about the actual review that I was hired to complete. No, it was all about sending the money ASAP.

Two days later, Jonathan was texting me about the money. I’ve copied our conversation below and highlighted my answers in green:

Have you completed the assignment. Please reply now


Can I have the details for the assignment the ref no for each name

Hello Why did you stop replying

The first number 65189544

I got the first number. I hope you sent the funds to the new details I sent to your email please ?

I called moneygram. It says the first number is invalid

Sorry about that. Let me check

And why are you not picking up your calls? And what’s the ref no for the second one What’s goingon

Ok, I need to check with moneygram again about those numbers.

You are a liar. Why are you lieing ?

You can’t even pick your calls. You didn’t even send the second number. This is bad of you

Please check this link

Which link

Stupid woman

I’ve also filed this scam with the FTC

I should add that the phone number of this California-based operation is (657) 529-0008. If the “business” is based in California, why are the checks originating from Arkansas? And also, why are the USPS envelopes coming from New York & Company at 2655 Richmond Ave., #1070, NY, NY 10314?

mystery shoppers agent

Fake check scam #2: Walmart Money Transfer

The other fake check scam came to me courtesy of “Joshua Baumfeld” of Secret Shopper. The email that I first received from this Joshua went as follows:

Dear Secret shopper ,

This is an update on Your first secret Shopper assignment which has been mailed and will be delivered  today or latest tomorrow  via USPS.Your secret shopper assignment will be done at any nearest Walmart store close to you,which will include shopping and testing other services available at Walmart.

Instructions on how to proceed and email your first assignment report has  been included along in the packet.

Kindly notify and verify that you have received this email,and also notify via email as soon as you have received the assignment.


Joshua Baumfeld
Head of Recruitment.

About a week later, I received an official-looking 2-Day Priority Mail USPS envelope containing a letter and a $1,680 cashiers check.

Joshua wanted me to deposit this check and then make a “Walmart to Walmart Money Transfer.” I was also supposed to report on such details as “smartness of the attendant(s),” “reaction of personnel under pressure,” and “rudeness and agents inefficiency to customers.”

There are many obvious red flags in this letter, including poor English, sketchy directions and a payment of $200 before I even do my job. Another point of concern is the state (Grenada) and city (Mississippi) names being reversed. Meanwhile, the address on the envelope states that the correspondence is originating from Joshua Baumfeld, 7072 Wnchester (typo included) Rd., Memphis, TN 38125.

Finally, Walmart has stated that it doesn’t engage in any Secret Shopper services.

The entire contents of my letter and check are provided below.



What is the point of these fake check scams?

When you receive a fake check from scammers, the point is to have you deposit that money into your bank account- and then withdraw or wire most of it to the scammers (or their associates). The deposit and withdrawal must be completed within 1-2 days or ASAP.

By doing so, you and your bank won’t catch onto the fact that the check is actually fake and will bounce in roughly 3 days.

By the time your deposited check bounces, the scammers will be long gone, as will your withdrawn or wired funds.

If you don’t yet believe me, please click on the following list of complaints from duped secret shoppers.

The lesson to be (hopefully not) learned here: Don’t fall for these fake check scams.

Bonus: Halina’s fake check collage

I just wanted to show off my assembled collage of fake checks to all our I’ve Tried That readers. In total, I’ve received $21,835 now in fake check money. Woo! Also notice that some of these checks are made out to my cohort Hugh G. Rection. I’m sure my mail carrier was highly amused.



Should You Trust Preston Ely’s Real Estate Mogul?

If you haven’t heard of Preston Ely before, he is the name behind various real estate investment and other entrepreneurial products including Flip Your Way to Financial Freedom, REO Rockstar, Wake Up Wealthy and Instant Guru. He’s also authored several books including No B.S. Real Estate Investing, Instant Probate Profits, How to Steal Houses From Banks. The guy also has his fingers in fitness, Internet marketing, fantasy sports, gold investment, and personal development.

It goes without saying that this guy is everywhere. But for this review, I’m looking strictly at the real estate side of Preston Ely, and namely, his product called Real Estate Mogul.

What is Real Estate Mogul?

In a nutshell, Real Estate Mogul (REM) is a real estate “school” and member forum that offers daily lessons, spreadsheets, tools, scripts, listings, and member support for people looking to invest in real estate.

In essence, members are taught how to become real estate wholesalers, paying cash on-the-spot for foreclosed or otherwise distressed properties. The purchased properties are then renovated and either rented or sold. If sold, the properties are priced to make a significant profit for the seller.

The plans offered by REM are as follows and range from free to $197/month.


You get quite a bit of quality information even with the free REM plan. Since my signup on May 23rd, I’ve received (roughly) weekly emails like these:


REM offers a large range of helpful products and tutorials in its paid plans. Within its elite plan, members gain access to a number of experts, including those on commercial and multi-family properties, foreclosures and REOs (real estate owned), private money, short sales, and marketing. The plan also offers life coaches and rehab specialists, plus two “market insiders” who have ties to lawmakers in Washington, DC.

These experts regularly publish posts and lessons in categories including deal-getting, funding, investing strategy, market news, etc. One example of an expert-authored post is “As a wholesaler, what’s the best way to handle HUD closings?” Another example is “Private money demystified Part 1: Targeting the right people.”

There are also weekly training calls that are offered through the REM platform.

Another feature of REM is its real estate listing area. Here, you can look up properties that other members own. You may wish to buy these properties, or you can use the area to list your own properties as well.

Finally, REM offers a ton of generated forms, contracts and scripts for members to copy and use. Some of these items include attorney letters, buyer scripts, commission agreements, invoices, and REO cancellation letters. These items help newbie investors ease into the world of real estate negotiating, purchasing, renting and selling without having to hire a lawyer to create every single required document.


Within the REM area, members are awarded “Mogul points” for reading content, watching training videos, etc. These points help the members rise in the ranks of the REM social platform. When sufficient Mogul points have been earned, these new experts can now also create and post lessons and other content.

One such expert is Chris Bruce, who has posted numerous videos on both REM and YouTube about his experiences in real estate buying, selling, assessment, negotiation, etc.

Real Estate Mogul negatives

As with any product, there are some drawbacks with REM. To begin with, there are several concerns about the recommended tactics for buying/selling real estate at wholesale.

One example is REM’s recommendation to use bandit signs to advertise real estate buying intent. You’ve probably seen bandit signs at some point- they are the signs on poles that say “We Buy Houses!” or something to that effect.

The problem with using bandit signs is that they are illegal in many states and communities.

Another criticism of REM is that members receive extensive instruction on how to buy distressed properties but not enough information on how to rehab these properties after the sale. This is an issue because home renovations can quickly lead to mushrooming costs for the buyer. Furthermore, it’s not difficult to obtain a loan to purchase property- but it’s a huge hassle to convince a bank or other lender to finance the renovation of property that the buyer has no intention of living in.

Preston Ely, the figure behind REM, has actually bought only a handful of properties, according to other criticisms. One critique even points out that Preston Ely doesn’t like real estate investment!

Finally, REM does’t offer enough information on actual marketing. For example, what are the best tactics for purchasing a FSBO (for sale by owner) property- flyers, phone calls, business cards? While the REM platform provides many forms, it doesn’t clearly state which forms work best with a particular property sale and when they should be sent.

Should you invest in Real Estate Mogul?

REM is not the cheapest product around; the elite membership will cost you almost $200/month. However, you do get a lot of advice and support from a number of experts. You also get templates to use during your own negotiations with house sellers and buyers.

As a result, REM is a worthwhile product to purchase if you’ve been exploring real estate investment and require sage advice and information. While there are some kinks with the product, it appears that, overall, REM is a sound investment.