Securing Our Communities: Car Wrapping Scams

Each week, the NTIC Cyber Center highlights a different social engineering scam impacting individuals and communities within the National Capital Region. We encourage everyone to share this information with friends, colleagues, and loved ones to help reduce their risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud and identity theft.

A car wrapping scam is a type of bogus check scheme in which perpetrators target people seeking to place advertisements or company logos on their personal vehicles to earn money. These scammers often use fraudulent online job postings or spam email to promote their illicit money-making schemes, which offer to pay drivers to cover their vehicles with graphics printed on sheets of vinyl, a process known as car wrapping. If interested parties respond to the job ad or email, a scammer claiming to be a representative from a marketing firm will reply and attempt to gather information such as job seekers’ names, addresses, car makes and models, and phone numbers. After victims supply this information, the scammer informs them that they are eligible to have their vehicles professionally wrapped and sends them a packet containing instructions and a bogus check worth far more than what the initial job offer promised as payment. The instructions tell victims to deposit the check, keep a portion of the money, and immediately wire the rest to the supposed company that will apply the car wraps to the victims’ vehicles. Unfortunately, those who comply eventually discover that the check is fraudulent, the bank has rejected the deposit, and they’ve been duped into sending money to a company that doesn’t exist. Without ever wrapping a car, scammers disappear with the wire transferred funds, while victims are left responsible for repaying the bank for the check’s amount plus any additional bounced check fees or overdraft charges.

It is important to note that, although legitimate car wrapping companies do exist, they will never ask you to wire money and almost always require in-person meetings prior to arranging payments. Additionally, companies that use car wraps to promote their products and services typically only use official company vehicles driven by legitimate employees. This limits their liability and possible damage to their brands should vehicles sporting their logos be involved in an accident or other incident.

The NTIC Cyber Center recommends reviewing the following guidelines to help you identify and avoid becoming a victim of a car wrapping scam:

  • Avoid responding to job ads or emails that offer opportunities to earn money by placing a promotional car wrap on your vehicle.

  • Never respond to unsolicited phone calls, emails, or text messages that ask for your personal information.

  • Never transfer money to – or deposit checks from – people or organizations you do not know. No legitimate organization will ever ask you to deposit a check, keep a portion of it, and wire the rest to another account.

  • If you are unsure whether or not a check is legitimate, talk to your banker about the source of the check and the reasons why it was sent to you.

Report all car wrapping scam attempts to your local police department and consider filing a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The NTIC is governed by a privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties protection policy to promote conduct that complies with applicable federal, state, and local laws. The NTIC does not seek or retain any information about individuals or organizations solely on the basis of their religious, political or social views or activities; their participation in a particular noncriminal organization or lawful event; or their race, ethnicities, citizenships, places of origin, ages, disabilities, genders, or sexual orientations. No information is gathered or collected by the NTIC in violation of federal or state laws or regulations.