If you receive a check and are asked to make purchases before the check clears, you will most likely have to refund the financial institution that deposited the check.

Better Business Bureau of South Central La., Inc. is warning the public that local consumers are being targeted by a Secret Shopper Scam.

The BBB has received calls from consumers stating they received a check in amounts of $1,200 to $3,500 or more. Along with the check, which is delivered by "priority mail," there are instructions for the "Customer Service Evaluation Assignment."

BBB is warning consumers to be cautious when contacted by an unknown individual or company offering a way to make easy money. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! While you may need additional funds, this scam will cost you money you don't have!

Here's how the Secret shopper scam works:

Victims may receive a message through LinkedIn, Facebook or by text suggesting they applied for a secret shopping job. Once "hired," they are sent a check to deposit in their banking account and told to deduct their commission. They are then instructed to purchase Walmart gift cards of varying amounts, so they may "evaluate" the store's customer service. To prove they performed the task they must provide the code on the back of the gift cards to the company. This allows the scammers to drain the accounts on the gift cards. Soon, the victim discovers the check deposited in their account for payment is bogus and has bounced, leaving the victim to cover any monies spent from the check.

To avoid falling for this type of scam, BBB recommends the following:

Don't Cash the Check. Look for discrepancies, such as misspelled words, different addresses, etc. If you receive a check and are asked to make purchases before the check clears, you will most likely have to refund the financial institution that deposited the check.

Be skeptical if you are recruited. Is secret shopping legit? There are companies that hire secret shoppers. However, they will never reach out to you and send a check. Scammers will often disguise themselves as recruiters or create fake profiles pretending to be someone you know.

Don't pay for a job. Legitimate companies don't charge people to work for them - they pay people to work for them.

When in doubt, check it out! If you receive an unsolicited check or money order, contact your BBB to investigate before getting involved.

If you feel you have been a victim of a scam, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov and BBB Scam tracker at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

Contributed by the BBB