I still haven’t encountered anything that contradicts this fraud prevention axiom:
“Cash this check then wire the money back to me” is a sure sign of a scam.
It’s a fairly easy pattern to spot when it comes to things like lottery scams, because the scammers almost literally use that exact wording. But there are other times where the “wire the money back to me” stage is a little more obscure.
One such case is the Car Wrap Advertising Scam. Below is a scan of an actual letter used to initiate this scheme after the would-be victim responded to a random email or text message offer. This letter came with a cashier’s check for $2,390.00 (click to enlarge):
In this case, they’re not directly saying “wire the money back to me,” but they are telling you to give it to someone else, in the form of setting up a payment to a “Decal Specialist.”
What happens when you contact this person? You’re instructed to wire the money from the check, which will eventually be returned as fraudulent, putting you on the hook for the cash you gave away. It’s the same pattern as a lottery scam, only with an additional step in between.
One reason this scam continues to work is that there are actual wrapped cars out there. We’ve all seen them. However, even in cases where these aren’t company-owned vehicles, legitimate car wrap advertisers share certain features:
- They don’t randomly contact you out of the blue via text message or email
- They don’t take everyone who applies; they’ll want to know how far you drive each day, where you drive, what kind of car you have, and your driving record
- They’re not going to pay you $500 per week. About $1,000 per month seems to be the ceiling, and that’s for absolute ideal (for the advertiser) circumstances (i.e. you drive hundreds of miles per day in an area extremely densely-populated with people within the ad’s target demographic; I’m guessing your car has to meet certain visibility criteria as well, because I’ve mostly seen these ad wraps on lifted, customized 4×4 pickups)
- You don’t pay them at any point, and you’re not responsible for passing along money to whomever applies the decals (“Hey stranger we’ve never met in person, here’s a few thousand dollars to give to someone else for us. We’ll just trust you to not keep it.”)
If you’re truly interested in turning your vehicle into a billboard, there are a few links to apparently legitimate agencies in this Penny Hoarder article. But before you act on anything online, be sure to do a lot of research first, and always get in writing what you are agreeing to do and how you will be compensated. If it’s too easy to get the gig, it’s probably a fraudulent offer.