Ohio woman loses thousands of dollars in ‘car wrap’ scam

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A local woman says she lost thousands of dollars to a sneaky scam officials say they’re seeing right now, here in Northeast Ohio.

Our partners with the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad say financial hardship, driven by the pandemic, is driving people to take the bait.

The scam begins with an offer of $500 a week to simply drive around with an ad on your car.

Tizita Guffy thought she was signing up to promote Crest toothpaste, before she realized the job offer was in deed too good to be true.

“For me, if I would have followed my gut, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” she said.

Guffy says she and her husband stumbled upon the link offering to pay people to use their car to advertise a product.

Hoping to be chosen, they entered in their information.

“A couple days later, I got a text saying, ‘Hey, this is the toothpaste place and we’re sending you the check,’” Guffy said.

She was told when it came, she’d send $3,000 to someone who would come put the ad on her car, and she could keep the rest.

She says she deposited the check when it came, and waited 24 hours for it to clear.

The next day, when she thought it had and funds became available, she told the company.

“They said, ‘OK, now you can send us the $3,000 for the people who are going to come wrap your car,’” she said.

After she transferred the funds through the Zelle app though, the bank came back to her, saying the check bounced.

She told the scammers about the negative balance she now has in her account.

“They were like. ‘Oh, it will come back it will come back,’” she said.

But, it never did.

“I was just trying to make money, but that’s when I realized it was a scam,” she said.

She’s in school and not working at the moment.

“I was just trying to make money in any way that I can, but you know people like that exist in this world, trying to take advantage of people,” she said.

She made a report with the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB is a member of the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad, working to find and eliminate scammers in our area.

Here are three things the BBB wants people to know.

  1. Most car wrap offers are scams. While there are some companies that do legitimately advertise by wrapping cars, they are going to want specific information about you and your car upfront. This includes information about how much you drive, when and where you drive, and information about your vehicle. Many legitimate companies will cover the cost of wrapping the vehicle for you.
  2. The check should be for the exact amount A paycheck should be for the expected amount. If you are asked to cash a larger check and forward much of the money on to someone else, it is likely a scam.
  3. Beware of wiring money or buying gift cards. Often scammers ask you to wire the money or purchase prepaid cards and send them pictures of the code on the back. This is a red flag that you are involved in a scam.

The BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report for 2019 indicated that employment scams and fake check scams were two of the 5 riskiest scams.

A BBB Investigative Report on counterfeit check scams says, “BBB receives many complaints from victims who are approached via email or social media to “shrink wrap” their cars with advertisements for energy drinks, beer, or other products in exchange for a monthly payment, often around $200 per month. Fraudsters tell victims that companies are happy to pay for this type of advertising. The FTC has issued a warning about car wrap scams. Victims receive a counterfeit check, which they are told to deposit, and then to send money through Western Union or MoneyGram to the company that will supposedly wrap their cars. But the check is counterfeit, and by the time victims realize it, they have lost the money they sent by wire. Energy drink company Red Bull reports it has reached out to the FBI about this problem. The company’s website posts a warning about this and other types of fraud using its name, stating “Red Bull does not do such advertising at all and never asks third parties to brand their private cars.” There are several businesses that really do pay people to place ads on their cars. Greg Star, one of the owners of carvertise.com in Delaware, pays Uber, Lyft, and other drivers to wrap their cars for hospitals, colleges or businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings. Carvertise typically pays drivers $100 per month for periods of time between two and twelve months. Star says that they never send people checks, instead sending drivers to the locations where they have their cars wrapped with an ad. Carvertise itself pays the company that wraps the cars. He also says that scammers have begun impersonating his business and that they hear from victims once or twice a week. He says this has been a growing problem that involves victims who are may be vulnerable.”

If something similar has happened to you, you are encouraged to make a report with the BBB and the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad.

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