Watch out for the new ‘car wrap’ scam

Photo (c) Aksana Kavaleuskaya - Getty Images

The Better Business Bureau warns that it’s the latest version of the fake check scam

In this tough economy, there may be ways to make extra money with your car. Consider Uber and Lyft, for example. But scammers have devised another way that sounds even easier and more lucrative. But be warned -- it’s not real.

It works like this: You get a text or email promising that you can earn hundreds of dollars each week just by wrapping your vehicle with advertisers’ logos and slogans. As you drive around town each day, your car serves as a rolling billboard, for which advertisers are ready to pay.

At least, that’s the pitch. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that it’s actually a new scam, and the organization has heard from people all over the country who have been victimized.

Look out for red flags

Victims report they were instructed to fill out an online form. Almost immediately, someone contacted them to tell them they “got the job.” That’s red flag number one; normally, you have to be interviewed. At the very least, a legitimate business would want to talk with you before extending an offer.

Victims are told they will soon receive a cashier’s check and they should deposit it in their bank account. That’s to be used to pay to have the advertising wrap applied to the car. That should be another red flag. 

Fake cashier’s checks are often used in scams, and this one is no different. When deposited in the victim’s account, the check quickly shows up in the account balance. Only later -- sometimes weeks later -- the bank discovers that the check is fake and takes the money back out of the account. But by then it is too late for the victim, who has been instructed to pay $3,500 or more to a vendor to apply the wrap. By then, they have followed instructions to pay using Venmo or Cash App.

That’s red flag number three. Those apps are meant to pass money back and forth between people who know each other. They aren’t meant to pay a business with which you have had no contact. The “vendor” of course is really the scammer, who collects the money and disappears. No work is ever done to the car.

Fake check scams

This is just the latest version of the fake check scam, which tries to persuade people to deposit fake money into their bank account and send the scammer real money. It is often carried out under the guise of offering the victim some kind of job.

Keep in mind that banks will make the funds from a deposited check available before the money is actually transferred into the account. If you spend the money and the check is fake, the bank has the right to recover the funds from you.

To avoid this and other common scams, it pays to know the red flags: Payment is offered in the form of a cashier’s check; the victim is instructed to pay using apps, gift cards, or some other payment that is not recoverable; and the promised payoff comes too easily.

In other words, it’s too good to be true.

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