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Powerade Vehicle Wrap Scam Making The X-mas Rounds

Trust me...I'm a cat
Trust me...I'm a cat
There’s A Mark Born Every Minute.

There have been cons as long as there have been men. "There's a sucker born every minute!" Most of us have heard the phrase, perhaps even used it; and most of us have been informed that the aphorism is credited to one of America’s greatest Showman, P. T. Barnum. In fact, the opening song’s title of the Broadway musical, “Barnum,” is that maxim.

Apparently, even that “fact” is a bit of a sham. The origin of the phrase credited to Mr. Barnum has a muddy past. A. H. Saxon, in his work, “P. T. Barnum: the Legend and the Man” claims the quote is from a famous Con-man of the time, Joseph "Paper Collar Joe" Bessimer.

One wonders exactly how Joe came up with that nickname?

Other sources believe the adage is actually uttered by David Hannum. He is boldly criticizing not only Mr. Barnum but also his many naive customers. Mr. Hannun is peeved. Termed the Cardiff Giant hoax, as the story goes, Mr. Hannum is exhibiting the "original" Giant. Mr. Barnum jumps on the bandwagon. He exhibits a copy of the Giant claiming it is the original. Mr. Hannum sues-- unsuccessfully. The gullible Barnum crowds continue to pay to see the fake Giant-- even after it and Hannum's original both prove to be frauds. Hannum’s only recourse is spewing vitriol.

Another theory is that Barnum's arch-rival, also a circus owner, Adam Forepaugh, credits the quote to Barnum. Forepaugh attributes the phrase to Barnum in a newspaper interview he gives in an attempt to discredit him. Barnum never denies creating the quote. In fact, he seems to enjoy the free publicity garnered.

Or, so it is said. And, I believe another quote is born: "No publicity is bad publicity," or something to that effect.

Another source credits a seedy Chicagoan, Michael McDonald, as the quote’s author. In his book, “Gem of the Prairie: Chicago Underworld,” Herbert Asbury details an encounter between McDonald and his partner in crime, H. Lawrence. The Store, a centrally located gambling house, is being outfitted with numerous faro tables, roulette wheels and other varied games of public interest. Lawrence expresses some degree of unease over filling up the joint with enough willing players of chance. To which, McDonald responds, “Don’t worry about that, there’s a sucker born every minute.”

According to research done by Ricky Jay in his February 2011 “Wired” article, “Grifters, Bunco Artists and Flimflam Men,” the phrase is found in confidence man Hungry Joe’s 1885 biography, “The Life of Hungry Joe, King of the Bunco Men,” written by Frank Tousey.

An earlier version of the phrase, “That there vash von fool born every minute,” originates in an 1806 story in “The European Magazine and London Review” entitled “Essay on False Genius.”

I guess the most significant point is best summed up by David W. Maurer in “The Big Con” when he informs the reader that Con-men have a very similar saying: "There's a mark born every minute, and one to trim 'em and one to knock 'em."

In effect, what Mr. Maurer is stating is that there appears to certainly be no shortage of new victims, nor a lack of Con-men to fleece those victims.

Fortunately, there are also individuals who are honest and want to prevent that victimization.

As I stated prior, scams have been around as long as man. The latest one I’ve come across is the Powerade Zero Vehicle Wrap Scam. On its face, it's a simple con.

Basically, I receive an e-mail which offers to pay me a considerable sum of money every week to have my vehicle wrapped in a well-known corporation’s advertisement.

Here’s some of what it states. I left the e-mail intact so as to illustrate the obvious mistakes located throughout the text.

“We are currently seeking to employ individuals world wide. How would you like to make money by simply driving your car or banner wrapped for POWERADE ZERO™.”

It seems too good to be true—and so easy. And who couldn't use some extra money around the holidays.

The e-mail advises me more specifically of the offer.

"Here is the basic premise of the "paid to drive" concept: POWERADE ZERO™ seeks people regular citizens, professional drivers to go about their normal routine as they usually do, only with an advert for "POWERADE ZERO™ Drink®" plastered on your car. The ads are typically vinyl decals, also known as "auto wraps," that almost seem to be painted on the vehicle, and which will cover any portion of your car's exterior surface.”

One immediately wonders how much that's worth? Of course, the answer is forthwith.

“You will be compensated with 300 dollars per week which is essentially a "rental"payment for letting our company use the space no fee is required from you. POWERADE ZERO™ Drink® will provide experts that would handle the advert placing on your car. You will receive an up front payment of 300 dollars inform of check via courier service for accepting to carry this advert on your car. To this effect you are advise to check your email regularly to get update as to know when your upfront payment will arrive along with Graphic Artist address.”

Imagine making $300 dollars a week and all an individual has to do is what most of us already do if we live in car-congested urban LA and don't bike, walk, ride the Metro or Cab it-- just drive around town.

The e-mail I receive from a person identifying himself as Mr. Philip Larson offering me $300 dollars a week sweetens the pot.

“(ii)A meter will be installed to calculate distance covered at the end of the week. The more distance covered the more money you will make. Thus, apart from the 300 dollars rental fees you can make extra income if you cover a very extensive route.”

Imagine that! A mileage meter will be attached to my car, and once I exceed the “average” amount of travel per week, I will earn even more money.

Wow…what a great deal!

Unfortunately, it's all just too good to be true. In fact, it’s a total scam aimed at separating gullible and unsuspecting individuals from their money.

Critics might suggest that anyone dumb enough to fall for this scam deserves to be fleeced. Yet, many otherwise intelligent people do fall for a myriad of cons, both simple and complex. It just seems to be part of human nature to want to make a quick, easy buck. If it wasn't, there wouldn't be so many Con-artists working their magic.

In this particular case, the Powerade Vehicle Wrap scam is a classic con directed at a specific audience, or what in the biz is known as a "Mark." The difference is that it's sent by e-mail rather than having an actual Con-man physically present conducting the sham.

As detailed in the e-mail, here is how it works.

“1) You will receive a Cashier Check. As soon as you receive the check, you will cash the check for the decal wrapping on your car, deduct 300 dollars as your up-front payment. The rest of the funds should be transferred to the Graphic artist that will wrap the decal on your car. All you need is to confirm the acceptance and understanding of this email.”

“2) You will make a transfer of funds to the Graphic artist at the nearest western union/moneygram outlet in your area, the Info which you will make the transfer to will be emailed to you soon.”

It sure sounds simple enough. Except, the check you deposit will most assuredly either be a fake-- or worse-- a stolen check from a real business that has been subsequently altered or forged. The only way to actually immediately determine this is to take it to the bank it's drawn on to confirm the legitimacy. Another option is to take it to your bank and consult with your banking representative.

Their advice will likely be to not deposit it.

They will certainly advise you against sending “front” money to cover graphics work by any method, especially to a stranger.

The simplest solution—just delete the e-mail. In fact, I delete all e-mails that I don't recognize as being from individuals or business associates I know.

Basically, if you ignore the Con-man, he can’t con you.

The con process is simple and time-tested. The Con-man develops an avenue of trust with you by using the very information you provide him. In essence, the Mark's behavior facilitates the scam.

In my case, it starts by sending the e-mail. Normally, I would delete it. However, I actually answer the Con-man's initial Ad and willingly solicit further contact.

He places the Ad in a local paper. I immediately wonder about its legitimacy. So, in a flash of Investigative Reporting, I respond to it. Why? Because I have a negative affinity toward scammers conning people. And, I like to turn predator into the prey. Call it a character flaw.

Once I provide an e-mail contact, it takes about a week for the Con-man to pounce. I check my e-mail one morning and there's the follow-up communication to his initial advertisement. Incidentally, the con is also being bandied about on Craig's List.

The first request is for basic vehicle info.

“We will like to have some Information about your car.”

It's basic stuff. The Con-man can actually care less about this vehicle info. He's just developing a sense of authenticity.

The graphics company is supposedly located in Sweden. It doesn't really matter because the graphics company that is supposedly going to wrap my vehicle doesn’t even exist.

There is no name provided for the graphic’s company. How can a person check them out? That info is promised to be provided in the next communication. It will no doubt prove to be a “money drop.”

How that works is simply that the Con-man, or an associate, will collect the money sent to them at that address. Once the money is wired, the stipulated contractual agreement will never be fulfilled.

The Con-man's provided funds (the forged/fraudulent check) is deposited. In a few days, the check “bounces.” The bank will not honor it. Unfortunately, since you have already wired your money for the “design fee” to the graphics company, you will be out several thousand dollars.

The Con-man conveniently leaves this part of the deal out. He also disappears.

What the Con-man does not omit is his desire to get as much info from you as possible to further develop the con. It’s a necessary part of the process. The Con-man must develop your belief in his overall legitimacy. The most troubling part is that to develop that sense of sincerity, the Con-man wants some very personal information, including:

“Applicant information: Full Name; Full Contact Address; City, State, Zip code; Home Phone Number; Cell Phone Number.”

Now the scam takes on a new form of communication-- verbal. The Con-man has your phone number. He will contact you. This way he can develop intimacy. He will also begin to exert pressure on you. He'll specifically want to know when you'll wire the money to the Graphics Company? He'll also attempt to develop your sense of insecurity based upon the fact that you will lose out on the “deal of a lifetime” if you should hesitate in the least.

It’s a classic con technique.

Prior to implementing this psychological influence, the Con-man requests:

“Note: Please, confirm that you did receive this message so that we can process funds that would be sent to you for the car advert. It is very easy and simple, no application fees required. Get back with the following details if you are interested in these offer.”

See, he’s your friend. He has your best interest in mind. He doesn’t want to hold up your money.

The Con-man adds a caveat-- “All other instructions will be sent out to you ASAP.”

And trust me-- they will be sent.

From what I have researched, more than a few people have been reeled into this scam. There are so many in fact that according to an Arizona TV station, KPLC 7, the FBI is now investigating. Many companies, including Coca Cola, the parent company of Powerade, have a fraud alert link on their website. However, Coca Cola does not seem to directly address this particular Powerade Vehicle Wrap Scam.

When I attempt to contact them, they want more personal info then I care to give to even a legitimate corporation. I get enough junk mail. I sure don't need Coca Cola asking the same questions the Con-man is. Besides, why does a multi-national corporation need my date of birth and other very personal info just for me to send an e-mail to them?

As I investigate further, I find that a simple Advanced Goggle search of “Powerade Car Wrap Scam” comes up with a number of references to this particular con. Once one begins to access and to read the links, it becomes obvious that this e-mail con is just one variation of the vehicle wrap scam circulating around the country; and, it has gained some powerful legs over time.

As an aside, some of the comments on the threads are an interesting read.

The fact is that there are legitimate vehicle wrap companies engaged in reputable and lawful operations. However, it is usually the person wanting the vehicle wrap who pays—not the other way around. Mostly businesses use vehicle wraps as a form of moving advertisement for their products and services. These genuine and respectable businesses are easy to access and to check out with Yelp, with other online sources, and with the Better Business Bureau, as well as by word-of-mouth. One more indicator they are legitimate is that they also have a physical brick and mortar location.

The scammer e-mail offers are fairly easy to detect. They usually contain many mistakes with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The context of the text may be linguistically skewed. There will be no “hard address” that can be verified. Most importantly, they will want you to provide ALL your information, while they provide the most rudimentary info.

And—they will promise you money or free products and services.

So beware, and remember the phrase-- “There's a sucker born every minute”-- as it cautions that it's a fairly simple process to con people out of their money. Don’t fall for it…and pass the word on.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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