Money is tight for many people, so if you receive a package in the mail complete with a check, odds are your first reaction is a mix of relief and excitement. While we hate to burst your bubble, we do want to make sure you stay safe and don’t become the next victim of the latest scam. Here’s the scoop on the scam, which involves depositing a check for putting decals on your car, and what you can do to avoid getting taken advantage of by fraudsters using this car decal check scam.

The scam

Love getting packages and letters in the mail? We do, too, unless it’s not something we ordered (with the exception of unexpected care packages from loved ones. Thanks, grandma!).

This scam (which we had reports of in April 2020 at our La Crosse and Neenah branches) involves receiving a package delivered by the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx. The package includes a sizable check with instructions to deposit the check, keep a portion and wire the rest of the funds to a company who will apply the decals or wrap to your car. For example, you may receive a check for $1,000 and be told to wire $500 of it back to the “company.” The instructions also promise weekly or monthly payments for using your vehicle as a mobile advertisement. In some cases, people receive instructions to notify the company as soon as the funds are deposited, which helps the scammers get their money before you figure out it’s not a real deal.

Here’s why it’s too good to be true: the “company” is really a scammer who doesn’t have the $1,000 they sent you in the first place. But by law, financial institutions must make funds from deposited checks available quickly. That means by the time you or your bank or credit union have realized it’s a scam, you have deposited $1,000 of fake money into your account and wired $500 of your money to the scammers, and now are left paying back the wired funds with your own savings (in this example, you’d be out the $500 of your money you sent to the scammers, or $1,000 if you spent the other $500 before realizing it was a scam).

What you can do

As you look for ways to supplement your income during economic downturns, be sure to pay extra attention to out-of-the-blue “easy money” opportunities like this car decal check scam. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself from unnecessary risk:

  • Call the company. Any quick money opportunity looks great at first glance, but don’t take the letter’s word for it! The letter will likely include details on the brand you’ll be representing on your vehicle, so take some time to call the company and make sure the offer is a real deal. Note: don’t call the number listed in the letter, as this could be fake as well. Look up the company’s contact information online to make sure you get directly to a real company representative. If it is not a well-known brand or company, enter the company name + scam in Google to see what others are saying, or check them out on the Better Business Bureau®
  • Ask your bank or credit union. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t a legitimate offer! Call your financial institution to explain the details and they can help you verify what’s true and what’s a scam.

How Verve can help

If you think your Verve account is at risk because of a car decal, car wrapping or any other type of scam, call Verve at 800.448.9228. One of our team members can help make sure the check you are trying to deposit is coming from a legitimate source, as well as guide you on how to safeguard your account against fraud.

It’s Verve’s goal—in line with our guiding seven Cooperative Principles—to provide education, training and information to help our members stay financially fit. Verve is committed to keeping our members educated when it comes to their finances by providing details on financial risks and ways to stay safe. Help your friends and family stay safe against car decal check scams by sharing this blog post.