CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — West Virginia’s Attorney General is warning consumers about secret or mystery shopper scams.

In a release. Patrick Morrisey’s office said that while mystery shopping is actually a legitimate way to earn money, scammers have been taking advantage of people wanting to make money as secret or mystery shoppers.

The scammers will set up fake websites, post newspaper ads and send emails claiming that secret shopping is an easy and free way to earn money.

Morrisey’s office says that fake mystery shopping companies will typically send a check for victims to deposit and then ask them to “shop” for gift cards. They will then ask victims to send them the cards or PIN codes or ask the victim to test a wire transfer service by asking them to send the money to someone else. The check will then be identified as fake, leaving the victim responsible for the money spent.

Other fake mystery shopping companies will ask consumers to pay program fees in order to participate. Legitimate companies will not ask for payment or pay upfront for shopping.

“Mystery shopping can be a valid way to make some extra money,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “But consumers need to have their wits about them or they can get ripped off.”

Morrisey’s office says that real secret shopper opportunities can be found through the mystery shopping trade group the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

If you believe that you have been the victim of a secret shopper scam, you should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.