How to spot a car wrap scam

(WHSV)
Published: Aug. 8, 2016 at 4:02 PM EDT
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A scam that's been around for years is surging in popularity again.

Have you seen ads promising easy money if you shrink-wrap your car with ads for brands like Monster Energy, Red Bull, or Pepsi? You may have gotten them in your email or seen ads online for a 'work-at-home' job doing it. The “company” behind the ads says all you have to do is deposit a check, use part of it to pay a specified shrink-wrap vendor, and drive around like you normally would, except with branded advertising on your car.

But don’t jump onto the bandwagon. It’s only easy money for the scammer who placed the ads.

HOW YOU SPOT THE OFFER

These ads often appear on job boards or as sponsored content on social media. You might also receive a message with the ad - either from someone you do not know or even from someone posing as a friend of yours - possibly because they saw your profile or resume on a job site.

HOW THE SCAM WORKS

The ad states that you'll receive a few hundred dollars. For instance, one consumer reported to BBB that he received a scam email claiming to pay him $700 a week to wrap his car with a 7UP logo.

But when the "company" sends you a check, it's for much more than that - usually a couple thousand dollars. Then, they'll tell you to deposit the check, keep part as your share, and wire the rest to a company that will handle wrapping your car.

Even though credit for a deposit may show on an account immediately, it actually takes seven to 10 business days for a check to clear the bank. You'll be asked to wire the money immediately before the bank determines the check is not real.

Then, weeks after the money is wired, the check bounces and your bank tells you it was fake. The money you got to keep as "your share" disappears from your account, but the money you wired is long gone and untraceable.

On top of that, you'll be held responsible for paying your bank back for the fake check. And no one will ever show up to wrap your car.

HOW YOU CAN TELL IT'S A SCAM

The Federal Trade Commission has this to say: "If you get a message urging you to deposit a check and wire money back, it’s a scam. Every time. No matter the story. And if this were a legitimate car wrap opportunity, wouldn’t the company directly pay the car-wrapping vendor, instead of asking you to do it?"

If this has happened to you, you can file a complaint at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1

OTHER TIPS TO AVOID THIS AND SIMILAR SCAMS

- Beware of deals that sound too good to be true and check with your bank. Always trust your instincts.

- Don't fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask him/her wire the money elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers.

- Spelling and grammar count. Many scams originate overseas and emails contain glaring spelling and grammatical errors that are a tell-tale sign of a scam.

- If a job looks suspicious, search for it online. Check the real beverage company's job page to make sure the position is posted there. If it is, apply for the position directly with the company.