Old scam comes in new ‘wrapper’: Crooks ‘pay’ you to put advertising wrap on your car–with a counterfeit check!

scam-alert-pic-150x150Your BBB just got a call yesterday from a man from Midland, Texas who nearly got scammed by a new twist on the old “pay you to work at home with a counterfeit check and get you to wire money and get in trouble with the bank” trick.

He received an email from someone claiming he could make money by putting a magnetic advertising wrap on his car to promote a popular energy drink. (There is a similar scam going around that claims to be from a popular chain restaurant.)

It sounded similar to a legitimate deal he’d heard of before and decided to go for it. Then came the fly in the ointment. The company mailed him a check for $2,999 and wanted him to use Western Union to wire $2,599 to a graphic artist in Maryland.

“I got an email asking if I was interested in putting a wrap on my truck,” said Ryan Chavez. “They were going to pay $300 a week. I had heard of similar things so I told them I was interested. They sent another email saying I had to do it for a minimum of one month. They would pay for the wrap. Two weeks later I got a check in the mail for $2,999 that was supposed to cover $300 for the first week and pay for the wrap. They wanted me to deposit the bank in my account and wire $2,599 to the graphic artist in Maryland.”

At that point Chavez became suspicious. “Businesses don’t usually use Western Union to transfer money that way. Also, they wanted me to send the check TODAY. And they just sent a cashier’s check. There was no paperwork.”

He showed the check to his bank, which didn’t think it was good. Then he contacted the bank the check was written on and gave them the check number and date–and was told the check was fraudulent.

His skepticism served him well. If he had deposited the check and wired money, he would have owed his bank a bunch of money and the portion he wired would be gone forever.

To protect yourself from check scams, BBB offers the following advice:

  • Never wire money. Any job listings or offers that require you to wire money, especially to recipients outside the country, is suspicious. Walk away.
  • Never agree to deposit a check and send a portion to someone else. No matter how legitimate the check may appear to be, no matter what story or reasonable-sounding explanation you are given (“Mystery shopper” is a common scheme), you will get burned. A bank teller might accept the check, but when it turns out to be fake, you will have to reimburse the bank for whatever amount you wired to the scammer.
  • Beware of unexpected offers. If you receive a job offer without filling out an application, meeting with the business or being interviewed, it is probably a scam.
  • Protect your personal information. Don’t give out your bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers to any unsolicited callers, even if they claim that the information is needed to direct deposit your “paychecks” or “winnings.” Before providing any information to a potential employer, do your research and verify the job is legitimate.
  • Don’t trust P.O. boxes. Be suspicious of any employer or company that doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar street address (not a P.O. Box or website only) and telephone number. Call the telephone number listed and ask to speak to someone in the human resources office. While there are hundreds of legitimate online (or “dotcom”) businesses, most job scams work exclusively through email and websites.
  • Never pay upfront. There is no need to pay for “job leads” or “employment listings.” Legitimate employers will advertise their open positions in easily accessible, free ways.
  • Start with trust. Visit www.bbb.org to check out any potential employer, and contact those companies using information you verified on your own. Never rely only on contact information provided through unsolicited emails or phone calls.
  • Know where to turn. Report suspicious job offers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the attorney general’s office.