A Maryland woman recently lost over $1,000 in a car wrapping scam after she deposited a fraudulent check she received from a con artist posing as a legitimate representative of an energy drink company.
Energy Drink Car Wrapping Scam
Gail Young of Glen Burnie, MD received an offer from an energy drink company in which she would be compensated for using her car as an advertising billboard. Since she was familiar with car branding and energy drink companies, she jumped at the opportunity to make some easy cash during her retirement.
A few days later, she received a $1,340 check in the mail from Kronik Energy Drink with instructions on how to proceed. She was told to deposit the entire check, keep $400 for her services and use the remainder in the form of a money order to pay a graphic artist to wrap her car.
Three to four days after she sent the money order, she discovered that her account was minus exactly $1,340. She contacted her bank to inquire about the insufficient funds. The bank informed her that the check she deposited was a forgery and that there was nothing they could do.
Kronik Energy Drink stopped responding to her phone calls and text messages. Young had lost over $1,000 in a car wrapping scam.
Victims Are Liable for Lost Money
According to Angie Barnett, CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland, the victim is liable for any amount of the check that was spent. “If your bank accepts [the check] and you deposit it, any money that you actually spend out of that deposit, you are accountable and responsible for.”
The law requires banks to make deposited funds available as soon as possible. Although a check may clear, it doesn’t mean it’s actually valid. By the time the bank receives word that a check is fake, the con artist has taken off with the money.
“Silly me, I thought cashier’s check meant the money is real, all you have to do is cash them. Sign them, cash them,” said Young.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
It’s extremely unusual for any company to pay for services before they’ve actually been performed. If an individual or company offers to send you a check before you’ve been officially hired, don’t take the bait.
If you do receive a check in the mail, look at the written amount. If it’s more than the rate agreed upon, and they’re asking you to wire the extra amount back, it’s a scam.
“If you get a message urging you to deposit a check and wire money back, it’s a scam,” FTC says. “Every time. No matter the story.”
The FTC website also has a very useful flow chart that can help determine whether or not you’re being scammed.