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Consumer Confidential: The bogus-check scam is back, in the form of a car-wrap offer

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES -- Scammers aren't dumb -- they stick with what works. It's always interesting, though, when a classic ruse gets dressed up in new clothes.

In this case, we're looking at a variation on a well-traveled bogus-check scam, rejiggered to attract people open to pimping their rides for advertising purposes.

Pay attention to how this works because it's a con you'll almost certainly see again.

Los Angeles resident Jesse Marquez, 67, recently received a text message asking if he was interested in a so-called car wrap -- that is, turning his 2010 Dodge Caliber hatchback into a rolling marketing campaign for Monster Energy, the energy drink characterized by a stylized M logo that looks like a claw mark.

The text said Marquez could earn $500 a week for 12 weeks, or $6,000, if he was selected to participate in the program. It linked to an online application, which Marquez filled out.

"The thing is," he told me, "my brother has Stage 4 cancer and his insurance doesn't cover everything. I could use the extra money to help him."

 

This is common among scam victims, I've found. It's not that they're particularly reckless or naive, although those can be factors too. Rather, there frequently are extenuating circumstances that make a person vulnerable to being hoodwinked.

As with all successful scams, the trickery lies in the details.

After Marquez submitted his application, he started receiving text messages ostensibly from the company handling Monster's marketing program. They began with innocent-seeming follow-up questions, such as "How many miles do you cover on a daily basis?" and "How long have you been driving?"

Marquez was asked to take a photo of his car and show where the decals would be placed. This part of the racket played out over several days.

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