There is right now a scam going on with a major energy drink company whereby a ring of alleged criminals who are attempting to bilk unaware persons looking to make extra money on the side with their vehicle amid this pandemic. The offer is in essence to pay you for having a major energy drink decal installed on your car or truck, and pay you per week doing so.

Here’s how the scam goes down: The individuals use the energy drink’s registered logos and insignia on the texts, emails and mailing involved with the whole operation.  A text offer from in this case was a 515 area code number to make $500 per week. The internet destination in the text took me to a Jot Form application in which I expressed interest in participating in the made-up advertising promotion. In this case, the same day I received an email from a person’s email account located on G mail. The persons could be keen and change up to a different email location, so be on the lookout if any of the other listed criterion match up. The initial email will include a hard copy of the results of your Jot Form input, and goes on to ask the following:

  • Ad length (1 or 3 months)
  • how you use your automobile
  • whether you crashed in the past year
  • to send photo of your vehicle

In this case, I did provide the photos that they requested. They returned an email requesting the status of my drivers license. After five more days, I was contacted with congratulations on my new job riding around with logos and was informed that a $4,600.00 check is being shipped for delivery later that day. I was informed that adequate arrangements had been made for the decal to be installed on your car at my residence, and that installation would take place after I deducted my first week payment of $500 plus an extra $100 to cover the cost of my gas/transportation with the request to have the rest of the money sent to the specialist. I was provided the USPS tracking number which was the correct number and was able to be successfully tracked. So then four more days went by and the Priority Mail latter was delivered and received, with a letter and a cashier’s check in the amount of $4,600.00. The letter’s request and terms of operation did not differ substantially from that of the email, but I thought that it was gaudy to have the letter show up with a series of  different fonts, boldface, all caps. The letter starts out to try to coerce you to send a text immediately to a “personal /batch supervisor” to let them know that the letter was received. It states that the cashier’s check enclosed must be deposited into your bank account and that the action would be traced to make sure that it is into your account. The letter warned that the cashier’s check could not be cashed at a check cashing exchange, and instructs to text when this is done so that the supervisor can record the activity. The second part stated that the funds would be available within hours and suggested to withdraw as stated the amount less the $600 as described. The third point suggest penalties on the “exercise” and jeopardy to mistakes, and flaunts another $500 bonus posted to the second week’s payment for doing all of the above in a 48 hour period. The letter goes on to state that to set the operation in motion that I need to text the supervisor or email only one time to a specific email. It also states that you may receive communication from others, but that you are only reply to my personal /batch supervisor’s text number. Finally before repeating all the above, the only and most detrimental section of the letter is where I was warned that if I didn’t respond to the letter, that a task force team was going to be dispatched to my address on-file to retrieve the envelope. How dangerous…Therefore, I thought about continuing to contact the ring of persons to see where it would continue to go, but due to discretion, I viewed it as too dangerous to me and my family to continue. I also did not share names and discontinued further contact with the alleged criminals because above and beyond reporting this the the Postal Inspector, I leave the investigation up to the authorities. I finally did not share the information of which energy drink and which college was used purposely so that these entities were not harmed in any way, because the problem was not at all caused by the companies and would not make a difference, because upon checking online, apparently the ring or rings have used other competitors in the same scheme.

The action I did after this certified check made out for $4,600.00 was received was to get immediate verification by drawn-on bank after observing the very high quality of the watermark on the paper. The bank personnel were very professional, yet empathetic and sympathetic that I had not deposited the check…and informed me that the checks were indeed stolen, and to shred/destroy the check. They had already filed an FBI report regarding the missing checks. It was because the checks were originally legitimate that the check was so easy for a lot of people to mistake for legit–they were actually stolen! I made the decision of how to report this incident after reading a news article as published last year from the FDIC: I felt that in my case since I was not at any monetary loss, the local police were not the best option. Also, since the FBI was already involved with the stolen checks, and that the Postal Service were now involved and with the mode of delivery involving a university in another state as the return address, that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was the proper authority to report my incident to. Then, I also reported the incident to the energy drink company and also the university listed as the return address, as they both need to know what is going on with the criminal activity affecting their businesses.

How To Identify a Possible Scam:

Always make sure that any check or money order clears, not that the funds are available. Checks have been known to bounce even on the 11th day in my history of check  depositing, so wait the whole 14 business day clearance period before giving a refund of any type to someone.

Be leery

  • …of anyone implying that they are an agency of another company and to not contact the company whereby advertising is being cast for.
  • …of someone contacting you and then the representative and/or name changes during a business operation. In all my years of business, companies, no matter how large delegate tasks to individuals and very rarely does the contact name and number change in the middle of an operation.
  • …when the return address in correspondence does not match that of the original destination and that it appears that an operation is running out of multiple states. Even the largest of corporations usually delegate an individual task to a department that works together–not far apart.

Also remember that…

…certified checks and money orders are NOT cash! If one is altered or counterfeit, the check is not negotiable and will be returned–and the funds are forfeited, or worse, if you have cashed the check, all funds must be returned to the bank that you deposited and received cash from in the terms as printed in the original terms and services as printed when the account was opened. Failure to do so, and especially if you do not respond the requests to do so could and probably will result in criminal  and/or negligence charges on your part.

…advanced graphics/printing technologies and good paper stock quality allow scammers to create a counterfeit check in minimal times. Worse yet, as in my case, checks are stolen by sometimes less than honest people and personnel so that either fake  or stolen checks can look negotiable so that it’s hard for consumers, or bank employees to detect.

Warning Signs That a Transaction is NOT Legitimate:
  • Requests to cash a check, and assurance that funds availability is all that matters for you to process a refund.
  • Sending all or part of the proceeds back to them or to another party/accomplice.
  • Trying to reset your own rules of how long a deposited check needs to clear, usually 14 business days…and asking to return the funds in a number of ways:
    • Cash
    • Personal check
    • Loading any gift card, be a Visa/MasterCard, etc.; or a store gift card
    • Other electronic means:
      • Wire-transfer including Money-Gram or Western Union
      • Automated clearing house (ACH) payment
      • Person to person (P2P) transaction
      • on-recoverable electronic transfers like:
        • Zelle
        • Venmo
        • PayPal
        • Cash App/Square
        • Apple Pay

Other than my recent encounter, these are a great list of other ways and means of which to be at lease skeptical before criminals lease you with your wallet hanging empty, and worse yet–leave your life savings and even your whole retirement in jeopardy:

  • Secret or Mystery Shopper Scams
  • Lotteries and Sudden Riches Scams
  • Win a sweepstakes or giveaway that you did NOT enter
  • Online Auctions
  • Classified Listing Sites
  • Over-payment Scams
  • Employment opportunities whereby you are going to make over $600 per year, and do not have to fill out a IRS form W-9
Warning Signs of Holding a Non-negotiable Instrument:
  • Make sure the check is issued by a legitimate bank. Use the FDIC BankFind Tool to allow you to locate any FDIC-insured bank/institutions in the United States.
  • Call to check with the bank that supposedly issued a check personally to make sure it is real. Do not call a telephone number imprinted on the check! Instead, look up the phone number on the bank’s website. Once in touch with the proper department, ask them to verify the check. They will let you know the exact information needed like the check number, issuance date, and the amount.
  • If you receive an unwarranted check, be skeptical and proceed cautiously. Scammers often communicate with victims using an email or text message. Their communications may use of a series and several sets of fonts and faces plus grammar and spelling may be low quality.
  • If  the check was mailed from a different city and state of the issuing bank is, it is a warning sign of a fake, altered or stolen check. Be very cautious if it’s from an international destination, as it is very hard to track an international ring.
  • If you receive a check that is ever of a different amount, specially a larger one, and any type of refunds are requested. This tactic is used to try to coerce the the recipient to issuing a type of refund back to the scammer such as those as explained above for the amount of over-payment.
  • Certified, cashier’s and other official checks usually contain watermarks, security threads, color-changing ink, holograms and other security features. These security features when copied often expose the quality as being lower than normal and are generally poorly executed.
What To Do If You Think You Have Been Scammed:

Report the incident immediately to any of the following agencies:

  • Your local police station if you are at any monetary loss, especially if you have any recourse to issue a fraud claim, because they will need a police report number in order to initiate a claim.
  • The Federal Trade Commission at FTC Complaint Assistant
  • The U.S. Postal Inspection Service if you received the check by mail
  • Your state or local consumer protection agencies. Visit NAAG for a list of state Attorneys General.
  • For online crimes involving cash, counterfeit checks and money orders, file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center which is a joint project of both the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center
  • Notifying the bank whose name is on the check
  • Notify the website or online service where you encountered the scammer (Online auction website or a job posting website), so they can be blocked from utilizing their services to further the scamming in the future
  • Contact or call the FDIC at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342)

Hopefully you never get scammed, but please keep in mind that there are unfortunately plenty of individuals who practice illegal ways and means to reach into your pocketbook and a lot of others. Don’t you be the next victim. Be on the cutting edge and be informed.

If you have had any offer similar to what you read, you are welcome to fill in the REQUEST FORM on my “About” page. I will respond! If you have any information to share that is critical to make sure that we do not violate an alleged criminal’s rights, please use the request form and not the comments. I am interested in trying to make sure that if persons such as these are able to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.The story was altered to protect the indemnified, and decided to protect the companies involved due to not being in direct control.

Say NO to The Scammer!!!

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