By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
When you’re 18 years old, having a car is more important than what it looks like. So, when Tanner Watts, of Kuna, got the email that offered him $200 a week for driving his car around, he says he was good with it.
“I thought it was a great deal,” the Kuna High School senior says. “I gave them my name, phone number and address, and waited for information on how it works.”
It didn’t take long before the check arrived, ($1,965) with instructions to deposit the check, withdraw $600, and $50 for gas, and send the remaining part to a second person in California.
“I’m glad that my dad said something before I deposited it,” Watts says. “He said he thought it may be a scam.”
Consumers across the United States are filing queries about this offer. While legitimate opportunities out there, companies scrutinize who they select to promote their products, where they live, and how the decals (Wraps) are placed, and on what type of vehicle. (That 1989 Dodge Duster probably is not what they are looking for.) Car wraps are a way for businesses to use a vehicle to advertise on their products. While there are companies that do this type of advertising, there are also people willing to take advantage of these offers.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and a few calls we’ve had here, the first contact for the offer has been through a Craigslist ad or unsolicited email. They typically use the names of popular energy drinks (Monster, Rockstar or Red Bull) as the company looking to advertise on your car; however, there are reports of people using Coca-Cola, Heineken Co and Carlsberg beer brands as well. They offer to pay you between $300 and $600 a week in exchange for driving around with the advertising wrapped around your vehicle. Once you accept their offer, they send you a check for a few thousand dollars, ask you to cash the check, keep your pay, and wire the rest to the person who is going to wrap your car.
However, in the cases being reported, the offer is not valid, the check bounces, you end up owing the bank, and the person who made the offer gets away with the wired money. We’ve spoken to two other consumers in the Snake River Region contacted by this scheme in the past week. One had received the offer and was checking on it with us, the other person was not so lucky and now owes the bank $1700.
If you receive an offer similar to this, do your homework and ask questions. Remember that wiring money is like sending cash, once it is sent, it is difficult to retrieve. As always, keep in mind, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you have fallen victim to this scheme, you may file a complaint with IC3 and your attorney general.