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SALT LAKE CITY — A scam making its way around the Internet bilks money from unsuspecting people looking for a way to make easy money.
Austin Parker almost became one of those people. He's attending college and about to get married. He was searching classified ads in hopes of finding a job that worked with his busy schedule.
The first thing that caught his eye was an offer to make $400 a week by putting his car in an advertising wrap. It would involve plastering a logo onto a vehicle and transforming it into a "mobile advertisement" for a business.
"I was like, easy," Parker said. "Like, I'd do that. Sign me up."
Parker sent the potential employer his name, address, email and phone number. If he got the job, hundreds of dollars would be flowing into his bank account every week for simply driving his car with a logo on the side.
Within days he received an envelope.
"They were going to send me a bunch of money," Parker said. And they did. The envelope contained a check for $2,400 and a set of instructions. Written in poor English, with bad spelling and almost no punctuation, the instructions first told Parker to cash the check.
You are going to get stung for the entire amount because the check is bogus.
–Francine Giani, Dept. of Commerce
Then, he was to keep $400 as his initial earnings, which he had done nothing yet to earn. The remaining $2,000 would be wired to an alleged business that would put the wrap on his car.
"Red flag!" said Francine Giani, director of the Utah Department of Commerce. "You are going to get stung for the entire amount because the check is bogus."
Giani said any time you are overpaid and asked to wire back the difference, you will lose money because often the bank doesn't initially realize the check is bad. When it does, it's coming out of your account.
"Once that money is gone, it is gone," Giani said. "It's usually gone either out of state or out of the country, and there is no way for us to get that money back."
- Red flag: ads written in poor English, do not read well, and don't make sense
- Try to find the employers physical address and phone number. In this case, the scammer used the address of Timpanogos High School in Orem. Last check, the school does not have a car wrapping business on the side.
- Search for the company on the Internet. If it's a scam, people often warn others about it online.
- Don't give out personal information or wire money to somebody you do not know.
However, there are some legitimate car wrapping businesses; Queen of Wraps in Salt Lake City is one of those. People pay the company to have a professional advertisement put on their cars. Company spokesman Matt Griffith said scams like the one Parker was involved in creates a lot of phone calls to their business from people requesting money to get their car wrapped.
"A lot of people call us about it and think we do that," he said. "So we definitely hear about it quite a bit. That's not a real thing. You pay us, and we wrap your vehicle."
Simply put, the job offer Parker clicked on is fake. The check he got in the mail is fake. The name of the person sending him the check is fake.
Fortunately, Parker sniffed out the scam in its early stages. While he may not have gained the job he was looking for, he also didn't hand over $2,400 to an international wrap scheme.