Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hass and Associates Article code 85258083266-HA: Internet scam stings job-seeking Stockton

STOCKTON – Twenty-four-year-old Stocktonian Bryan Rose is desperate for any type of work these days. Recently, he turned to’s job board and found an ad offering $300 a week. All he had to do was have his vehicle wrapped with a company’s advertising, at no cost to him, and drive it around. Simple. Easy money.

Turns out it was a sophisticated scam, and Rose and his wife are now out $2,175, most of which they owe to their bank. Rose gets paid for 60 hours a month working as a home-health aide, leaving very little to support himself, his wife and the family dog, let alone repay their bank. In mid-April, Rose applied through the ad and was contacted May 3 by a person using the name James Browne from J-Controls. Within a week, he received a packet.

Two addresses were associated with Browne and J-Controls, one leading to a large home in the upscale northeast Atlanta suburb of Suwanee, Ga., and the other leading to a modest home in a working-class neighborhood of Akron, Ohio. On the other end of a phone number with a Maryland area code provided to Rose is an erratic message leading directly to voice mail. In hindsight, Rose discovered that none of the information he was provided could be verified as legitimate. “They sent me a $1,900 check. We were supposed to keep $300 for ourselves for the first week of advertising. A couple of days later, they contacted us, saying sorry for the inconvenience but our designers are unavailable for work at this time, so send $250 to our experts to fix the wraps on your car,” Rose said.

For unexplained reasons, Rose’s bank cashed the out-of-state business check for him instead of holding it for clearance. Rose immediately used that cash to wire money to the so-called “designer” through Western Union. A week later, Rose’s bank informed him the check they cashed for him bounced, and he was responsible. “I have 110 days to pay it off, and now my bank account is negative $1,900. We are stuck with no options or knowing what to do right now,” Rose said.

Rose knew something was amiss when he no longer heard from or could not contact anyone associated with the operation. He turned to the Better Business Bureau for help. “No matter what job offer you encounter, do not wire money for a job. Red flags should always rise when asked to pay money or wire money for a job,” said Gary Almond, president of the BBB for Northeast California, based in West Sacramento.

In some cases, checks sent by the scammers may be legitimate. In these cases, according to Almond, the consumer may become involved in a money mule operation in which they are used to transfer illegal funds. Even if someone unknowingly participates, legal ramifications can exist. Rose and his wife are not sole victims of the car-wrapping scam. There are numerous reports of similar fraudulent activity in recent months throughout the nation, although in most of those cases, the victims were not able to cash the check sent to them so they were not out as much money as Rose.

The BBB offers tips for consumers interested in vehicle wrapping and other job opportunities:

» Be wary of wiring money. Remember, once money has been wired or transferred using a reloadable money card, it is difficult to retrieve.

» Research the company. Before cashing a check from a company or disclosing personal information, get basic information from the company. Where are its headquarters? Who owns the business? Are there any complaints online?

» Check out the company. Look for the company at and do a quick online search to verify company information.

» If it is too good to be true, it probably is. If something sounds suspicious, take the time to investigate.

“Financially, we took a really big cut. We have our truck registration due, our water bill is back due - they have been working with us, thank God for that,” Rose said. And at least he didn’t provide the scammers with anything more than his name, address, phone number and email address. They never asked for a Social Security or credit card number. Rose said he has learned a big lesson and came forward because he doesn’t want other people to be scammed. “I was somewhat aware of Internet scams, but not of job-placing scams,” he said.

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