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CT BBB Alert: Mobile Advertising Scam

CROMWELL, CT — “Would you like to earn hundreds of dollars a week just for driving your car around?” That’s the bait that caught more than two dozen consumers this summer. Similar “car wrap” schemes have led to 70 complaints to BBB’s Scam Tracker this year. Con artists posing as real companies, some right here in Connecticut, advertised a gig paying people to promote a brand by driving around with their car wrapped in logos.  This con not only damaged the reputations of real businesses, but also left consumers looking for work on the hook for thousands of dollars. 
 
 
How the scam works
 
The victims reported to BBB that they'd responded to a social media ad, an email, phone call, or text offering payment upfront to individuals willing to wrap their vehicle in advertising for a specific company. Among the companies misrepresented by these imposters were Athletic Brewing, headquartered in Stratford, and Poland Springs, a subsidiary of BlueTriton Brands, located in Stamford.
 
Those who agreed to the offer were mailed a check for several thousand dollars and told to cash it. They were instructed to keep between $300-$600 for their first week’s pay and send the rest to the person who would install the company’s logo on their car. After cashing the check and sending the money, the bank informed these consumers that the check was fake. The money they sent to the scammer had to be paid back to the bank. 
 
 
One victim reported losing more than $2,300 after receiving a $2,980 check from what she believed was Connecticut-based Athletic Brewing Company. The victim told BBB that she responded to the text message offer as a joke, but then saw it as an easy way to make extra money during retirement.
 
“I thought it seemed pretty easy to do if it’s the real deal,” she told BBB Serving CT. “I made the mistake of not waiting to see if the check cleared.”
 
Even those consumers who did not end up cashing the check, gave out personal information to the scammers, including their name, address, and vehicle descriptions, potentially setting them up for a phishing expedition.
 
Many of the victims were conned into thinking that the actual companies used in the advertisements were active participants in the scam.
 
“I saw an advertisement via social media regarding the Athletic Brewing Company. I read their mission and vision statement. It sounded like something I would be interested in as we share the same values: helping the community etc...,” reported one consumer.
 
“I looked this place up and they are an actual company so I don't get it,” added another in her Scam Tracker report.
 
“Unfortunately, like many high growth and well reputed companies across the country, Athletic Brewing has been targeted by repeated attempts by scammers and impersonators to trade off our strong relationship with our community and take advantage of our customers. Athletic is doing the best we can to communicate and stay ahead of these attempts (ranging from fake car decal offers, fake employment offers, impersonating HR, fake websites, and even trying to take over our google business account),” said Bill Shufelt, Co-founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing. “With how persistent these scammers and impersonators are, we just wish they would put it towards legitimate business purposes rather than nefarious.”
 
Fake check fraud is a huge problem, with complaints to government agencies and consumer advocacy groups doubling in recent years. Millions of fake checks worth billions of dollars circulate every year.
 
How to avoid this scam
  • Never respond to unsolicited text messages and emails. Scammers will try to get you to click a link or call a number in a text message. Ask yourself, “Did I give this company permission to text me? Is it normal for this business to send me messages?” If an out of the blue offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  
  • Verify contact information. Call the company to see if they are really participating in a mobile advertising campaign. 
  • Be leery of Gmail and Yahoo business accounts. Look for the company’s domain in the email address.
  • Be suspicious if a company tries to pay you ahead of time for work you haven’t completed or even started. Even when a check is credited to your account, it does not mean the check is good. A week or so later, if the check bounces, the bank will want the money back. And you, not the fraudsters, will be on the hook for the funds. It’s best to wait 30 days before spending the money from a check if you have any concerns about it. 
  • Know the red flags of job scams. Watch out for on-the-spot job offers. You may be an excellent candidate for the job but beware of offers made without an interview. A real company will want to talk to a candidate before hiring. Be careful if a company promises you great opportunities or a big income under the condition that you pay upfront costs. 
For more information
  • If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. 
To speak with the businesses or consumers affected by this scam please contact Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut.

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