If you own a car, you may be a target of a new take on an old scam – the fake check scam.
The scam starts with an ad on the Internet or an unsolicited email saying that drivers can make easy money. By wrapping your car in an advertisement for a popular company, you can make hundreds of dollars per week. The offer stresses that no change to your driving routine is needed. The car wrap is usually touted to be for an energy drink, popular soda brand or trendy alcoholic beverage.
The scammers send you a check upfront. The check is for more than a week’s payment. The scammers ask that you deposit the check and then wire most of it, usually thousands of dollars, to the graphic design company that will wrap your car.
The check looks legitimate and may even have a watermark. The bank releases the funds into your account in a few days, so everything seems fine. A few weeks later, the bank determines that the check is fraudulent.
You are responsible for any check you deposit, even when they bounce. If you wired the money like the scammer asked, you now owe the bank thousands of dollars. Wiring money is like sending cash. Once the money has been sent it is near impossible to trace.
The scammers put just enough detail and logic into the deal to trick their victims. The BBB urges you to avoid fake check scams by following these tips:
• Legitimate companies will never send a payment upfront and ask you to pay a third party from that payment.
• Know whom you’re dealing with, and never wire money to strangers. If someone you don’t know insists on a wire transfer, it is a scam.
• If you need to send money to someone, insist on using a payment option that provides protection.
• If you’re selling something, never accept a check for more than the selling price with the agreement to wire the balance back to the buyer.
• You can check out businesses at the BBB by visiting www.bbb.org or by calling (509) 455-4200. For fraud that originates online, you can also file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center: www.ic3.gov.
Erin Dodge, BBB editor