Commentary

November 22, 2013

The Rap on Car Wrap Scams

AnhTuan Dang,
Paralegal Specialist 951 RSPTS legal office

As the holiday season approaches, no doubt you may be looking for ways to secure some extra spending money to buy that special someone the perfect gift. As luck would have it, you just received an innocuous looking e-mail asking if you want to make an extra buck just by driving around with some company logo on your car. While this might sound like a quick and easy way to make a buck, be careful!

“What you don’t know is that this is just the latest variation of a tried and true method of taking your hard earned money – the fake check scam,” said Maj. Deric Prescott, 951st Reserve Support Squadron Staff Judge Advocate. “The most common and widely disseminated version is the now infamous ‘You’ve won the Nigerian Lottery scheme,” said Prescott.

It works like this: scammers place ads on the internet or send mass e-mails to attract people looking for extra money. In this new version, they claim they will pay you if they can shrink-wrap your car with an advertisement of a popular company. All you have to do is drive your car as you normally would.

Sounds like an easy way to increase your income, right? It’s only easy if you’re a scammer. For the recipient, it’s a losing proposition.

Imagine that you are looking for ways to make extra money and you receive an e-mail from a company offering the opportunity to make $300 a week if you have your car wrapped in a well-known brand’s logo. One e-mail states: “Our world-class partners such as Coca-Cola, Monster Energy, XS Energy, Johnny Walker, and Budweiser will generously pay prospective clients like you.” While many advertisers do legitimately use this as a marketing tool, you’ve got to be careful!

The scammers promise to pay you a certain amount to “rent” the space on your car, but they send you a check for more than that amount. They tell you to deposit the check, take your share of the money, and wire the rest of it to the company that will wrap your car. Weeks after you wire the money, which could be thousands of dollars, you find out the deposited check was a fake. It takes only a few days for your bank to make the money available to you, but it can take weeks for your bank to determine that a check is a fake. You are responsible for any check you deposit. When a check turns out to be a fake, you have to reimburse the bank.

“I recall hearing about a young Airman who was almost a victim,” said Maj Prescott.

This Airman’s family had fallen on some hard times and the husband was looking for extra work. They got this e-mail and decided to sign up. Next thing they know, they received a check that was sent certified mail for $2,650. They were instructed to keep $500 and wire $2,650 to a company in Tennessee the same day they got the check. Later, when they checked their bank account, the money had been removed, and the account annotated that the check was fraudulent and had been returned to the bank. Luckily for the Airman’s family, they were not actually out any money except for the $25 returned check fee, Prescott said.

Another Team March member, who wishes to remain anonymous, just received a check in the mail after going online searching for something to make extra money. She thought it sounded so easy and too good to be true and that maybe her luck was changing. When she checked her mail, she found a check for $2,430 and nothing else. She and her boyfriend tried to figure out where it came from. That’s when she remembered the car wrap offer and remembered they said they would send the check in advance. She checked her e-mail to find a letter telling her to keep $300 and to wire the balance to an account. By then, she was very skeptical, so she searched the Internet for car wrap scams and discovered the truth before it was too late – she was being scammed.

Members need to be aware that no major brand would hire just anybody to wrap their cars with advertising. Corporations are very careful about their image and typically have huge marketing departments within. The scammers steal images from websites belonging to reputable companies that do professional car wrapping and make you believe it’s their business. Remember the old adage – if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!

What should you do? Delete the e-mail and remember that not every online job opportunity that comes your way is legitimate.

The following Better Business Bureau tips will help you avoid the hassle altogether:

Be wary of wiring money. Remember that once money has been wired or transferred using a reloadable money card, it is difficult to retrieve. Never wire money to get a job.  If someone urges you to wire money, it’s probably a scam. Con artists often insist that people wire money because it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction and follow the money.

Don’t send money to someone you don’t know, either in cash or through a wire transfer service. Consider using a payment option that provides protection.

Don’t agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know and then wire money back. No matter how convincing the story, it’s a lie.

Don’t respond to any messages that ask for your personal or financial information, regardless of whether the message comes as an e-mail, a phone call, a text or an ad.

Research the company. Before cashing a check from a company or disclosing personal information, get basic information from the company. Where is it headquartered? Who owns the business? Are there any complaints online?

Check out the company. Look for the company at www.BBB.org and do a quick online search to verify company information.

If it is too good to be true, it probably is. If something sounds suspicious, take the time to investigate.

Should you get an offer that requires you to deposit a check and wire money back:

Throw it out. Legitimate companies don’t pay you by asking you to wire money to them. If you’re tempted to investigate the offer, ask for a check drawn from a local bank or local branch. Then, visit the bank in person, give them the check but don’t withdraw any funds until your bank tells you the check is valid.

Do the research. Investigate everything to ensure online money-making offers are lawful. Protect yourself. For more information on scams or to report a scam, visit www.bbb.org. For more information on money transfer services, visit www.ftc.gov. The legal office, located in Building 115, maintains several handouts to help you avoid becoming a victim. You can also reach us at 951-655-4454. We’re here to help!




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