WISCONSIN (SPECTRUM NEWS) – Want to make some easy money driving your car around? No, we're not talking about Uber. In this case you have to cash a check first and send some of the money back. It's an old scheme that keeps popping up, and this time, thieves have a new target.
This is finals week for UW-Whitewater junior Olivia Storey, "if I'm running late to class it definitely helps to have a car to jump in." But having access to a car could make Storey a target for thieves trying to make some quick cash. They’re looking for college students who need a way to make a few extra bucks. “I definitely am struggling financially," Storey told us. She agrees an offer to make anywhere from $250 to $350 a week just to drive around sounds pretty good. “Groceries and going out with friends. That would definitely be beneficial to anybody."
All you have to do is wrap a big name company's branding around your car. It's known as the Car Wrap Scam. Over the years the Federal Trade Commission has warned consumers several times. This latest warning is putting college students on alert.
Here's how it works. You'll get an email that says something like "get paid to drive." If you bite, the scammers will send you a check which you'll find out later is fake. They want you to deposit it, and then send a good chunk of that money to a "specialist" so they can put the ad on your car. The deal never happens, and you're out the money.
Halina Zakowicz got a check for more than two thousand dollars to wrap her car back in 2013. “It's got the watermark; it's definitely a high quality fake check.” She was told to keep $300 and wire the balance to a graphic artist. But Zakowicz told us, "Before I cashed it I started looking around online."
This blogger from Lake Delton quickly found out it wasn't legit. She then turned the whole thing into homework for a blog post. “Reaching out to these scammers and just having all these checks coming to me, just to see what would happen. What were their techniques?"
Checks for thousands of dollars were mailed to her all with the same promise. Then the thieves got aggressive. “Some of them threatened to call the police on me if I didn't cash the check."
If this opportunity was legit the company wouldn't pay you. They would pay a car-wrapping vendor, like Milwaukee Signarama, directly. Chris Nelesen is the owner of this Wauwatosa-based business. He said they've never had an offer from an individual, on behalf of a company. "We're typically not dealing with a broker situation like that. We're applying the graphics to advertise 'their' business."
Jim Temmer, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, pointed out the scammers want you to think emotionally. Fake checks have been roping people in for years, promising good money to those who need it. “They'll look at social media, they look at job boards and they'll look for people looking for work," Temmer said.
Storey has not been approached to wrap her car but sees how students like her would look at this opportunity and maybe even fall for it. “An extra $350, that's more than half my rent."
If you are a victim, report it. Keeping track of these crimes helps the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau get the word out.