FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
March 12, 2019

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Car Advertisement Scams

We all want to make a little extra cash, right? When it looks both easy and legal—all the better. Unfortunately, scammers are more than willing to take advantage of you in your time of need.

Maybe you are looking for a job and have your resume up on an online employment site… which leads to a scammer sending you a direct message or email. Or, you are just poking around on social media and see an ad. Either way, you are offered the opportunity to make a lot of money just by putting a car wrap on your vehicle. $500 a week sounds great, doesn’t it?!

You may get a few questions about where you drive and how often, but don’t worry about your answers—you will quickly get accepted into this program. Oftentimes you are told your car will be shrink-wrapped with an ad for a well-known energy drink, soda, or adult beverage company.

The first step is for your new employer to send you a check—sometimes overnight—for a couple thousand dollars. You take out your first week’s pay and wire the rest of it to the company that will make and install the decal or wrap on your car. Everything sounds good up to this point.

You wait a couple weeks, but hear nothing. Turns out there is no wrap and there are no more paychecks. In fact, the bogus check that you just ran through your bank account bounces… and you are now responsible for the thousands of dollars that you unwittingly wired back to the fraudster. Your bank likely charges you extra fees and may lock down or close your account all together.

Before jumping on what sounds like an easy option to make quick cash—stop and think: Why doesn’t the employer just pay the ad-maker directly? If it is up to me to pay the company producing the ad, why wouldn’t I just pay when the vendor installs the ad?

Beyond that, the biggest warning sign is always when someone sends you a check and asks that you immediately wire or electronically move some or all of that money to an unknown third party. A legitimate business is not going to operate this way.

If you have been victimized by an online scam, report your suspicious contacts to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.