An old scam that continues to fly around the United States is landing in the mailboxes of Durango residents. Jim Shoultz was puzzled but not fooled when an overnight express envelope was delivered to his personal mailbox.
“The envelope looked like it had been used for the last year for various scams because it was so wore out and weathered just from being handled,” he said. “I was looking at it going ‘holy cow.’ An overnight express package, which is what they send, you get them in a day or two and they’re in pretty good shape. They’re like brand-new looking.”
Shoultz also thought it strange that such a large envelope contained nothing but a letter on a single piece of paper and a check – a check made out to him for $2,800. The letter purports to be from Monster Energy Drink and the payment is above and beyond the $750-a-week Shoultz is promised once a technician wraps his car in Monster Energy Drink decals. He just needs to deposit the check and then closely follow the directions in the letter.
A quick internet search, which is what Shoultz’s girlfriend did when he showed her the letter, reveals that the “car wrap scam” has been around for years in one form or another. And that there’s not much law enforcement or district attorney’s offices can do because they lack the resources to track the fraud, which in most of these scams originates abroad beyond their jurisdiction.
“The stationary the letter was on was a cheap Xerox copy,” Shoultz said. “And you would think if it was coming from somebody professional like Monster it would be on paper with a nice logo.”
There were two photocopied Monster logos at the top of the letter that bookmarked the words – “Payement Instruction Letter,” before going on to address Shoultz as “Dear Sir/Ma.”
That’s another telltale sign of these scams. The broken English in the letters, and online posts found on sites like Craigslist, usually reveal the writers to be nonnative speakers.
The letter Shoultz received is a common template. The $2,800 check is an advance payment for his first week of advertising along with extra funds he must send immediately after depositing the check to the technician who will supposedly affix the decals to his car.
The way it plays out is the check is deposited and funds are wired. Meanwhile, it takes the bank a couple of days to clear the check even though it will appear on a person’s account that the deposit is complete. A few days later, the check bounces, and the victim realizes he or she just sent money. Money that cannot be retrieved.
“Unfortunately, this is at an all-time high right now,” said a representative from Credit Union of Colorado. A message left by The Durango Herald seeking comment from the credit union’s compliance or fraud teams concerning how the scam works was not returned.
Shoultz jokes about his thoughts when he first opened the envelope and saw the check made out in his name.
“Wow, maybe something is turning around for me here,” he said and laughed. “And you know, of course like anybody, you want it to be good. And I’m looking at the name of who it’s from and I’m like this is weird.”
Shoultz’s check was issued by Suntrust Bank of Florida on behalf of FLYPGD (a county airport) in Punta Gorda, Florida. The airport is real and so is the address listed. But that’s all part of the scam. Hershey Foods, which owns Monster Energy Drink, is aware of the scam but unable to stop it. It is the same with the companies that are listed on the checks. Hershey has publicly debunked the “car wrap” scam in the past.
“Of course I told the police department and they laughed about it and everything, but they’re going let all their officers know about it and they’ll probably put it on their community bulletin or something,” said Shoultz, who added his own warning to the public. “Nothing’s free. There’s nothing free out there and just pay attention to what you read. And get advice from someone else you know. Had I went and cashed that check blindly like that it would have been a nightmare.”