- This is how jobs work: the employer pays the employee, not the other way around. As soon as a job offer involves you paying for “materials,” or even being sent a check to cover said materials, making a purchase, then sending the difference back, that job does not exist.
- On a related note, “cash this check then wire (or bank transfer, or Venmo, etc.) some or all of it back to me,” for any reason whatsoever, is a scam 100% of the time.
- An online seller giving you their life story is a red flag, especially when it involves convoluted reasons they can’t meet in person (they work on an oil rig or are in the military) or can’t talk on the phone (recent throat surgery).
- Never, ever text a verification code to a stranger; the person asking for this has your username and password for something, and is trying to gain access to an account by tricking you into handing over the code that is sent when a website doesn’t recognize the device being used to login.
- Tech Support is never going to call you to tell you your computer has a virus. It does not matter which company they claim to be, but it’s almost always Microsoft (or “Windows Company” when they’re getting it really wrong).
- You did not win the lottery if you did not purchase a lottery ticket.
- Famous billionaires do not pick random people to give huge amounts of cash to.
- A lot of romantic relationships start online now. However, as soon as they start asking you to wire money, or to receive money and transfer the funds to others, cut off all contact because you are being scammed. Tip #3 applies here as well – constant excuses as to why they can’t meet in person or talk on the phone are major red flags.
- Never pay for a pet that you are not allowed to meet in person first. Zero exceptions. The “breeder” having a website with photos of purebred cats or dogs proves absolutely nothing.
- If you ever do fall victim to a scam, beware of recovery scams afterwards. This includes the same scammer calling back to offer a refund (that will still somehow involve you paying them). When you lose money in this way, it’s gone. Anybody offering help recovering your losses is just trying to double-dip.
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.
Looking back over the different types of fraud and scams I’ve been covering these past few months (and the ones I’m going to cover soon), I can’t help but notice that an inordinate amount of them involve wiring money.
Mystery Shopper Scams: the victim wires money to the thief.
Grandparent Telephone Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.
Craigslist Overpayment Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.
Job Interview Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.
Lottery Scam: the victim wires money to the thief.
So this has me thinking…what is the deal with wiring money? There just seems to be an aroma of seediness around the whole industry.
I’m not trying to throw Western Union under the bus here. I know the vast majority of people are using it and similar services for legitimate reasons, but still. Why is it so easy to commit crimes using money-wiring services, and could providers do anything to make it less so?
In all honesty, probably not. The crook is the one committing a crime. The victim is just wiring money, which you can pretty much do at will. It’s not a crime to fall for a scam. Limiting users’ ability to wire funds would just create extra hassle for customers and drive down business.
So that means it’s on you to not become a victim in the first place. Be knowledgeable about different types of scams. Most of all, just think before you act.
For example, I can’t think of a single legitimate case in which someone would mail you a cashier’s check and ask you to cash it, then wire money back to them. If someone is telling you to do this, it is a scam. 100% of the time. Just take that as a general rule, and you’ll reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
There’s a great article on CNN today about spotting job scams (follow this link).
I really don’t have any commentary to add—they’ve got the topic pretty well covered. Take a look!