NORFOLK, Va. - A nationwide scam is now targeting people in Norfolk.
It all starts when someone receives a text message that reads, "Drive your car/truck with our small sticker and get $600 weekly from Zipcar."
Sounds pretty good, right? Norfolk man Frank McMillon initially thought so.
"It was a quick $500, $600 a week for a few weeks. [It could help with] Christmas money, things of that nature, bill money, whatever the case may be," he said.
Then he started digging a little deeper and seeing red flags.
"Once I checked it out [and clicked the link that was provided in the text message, it brought me] to a website, which is not active anymore," he said. "I received an email that said, 'Sorry for taking so long,' and the verbiage in the email wasn't all that professional and that was my next clue."
He quickly realize it was a scam, but wanted to see just how far scammers would go for his money, so he played along.
Not long after he received a "welcome" letter in the mail along with a cashier's check for $2,980.
The letter read:
ZIPCAR WELCOMES YOU: You have received this Mail because you qualified for the Car Wrap Advert program you applied for.
Read these guidelines carefully:
Firstly: You are to send an email to Hr2hr@zipcar.org or a text message to (304) 699-0132 acknowledging you received the payment and instruction note. Your check will be authorized immediately your acknowledgment message is received.
Secondly: You are to process/deposit the payment at your bank as soon as you get this Mail, and the payment or deposit slip confirmation be emailed or sent to the phone number above.
Thirdly: The total amount of this payment is $2,980. You are to deduct your first payment of $600 and set the rest of the $2,380 aside for the delivery and the installation of the decal.
Furthermore, Once the payment confirmation has been received, The paperwork and your contract would be processed and delivered in person by the installation team before installation is done. The decal is 5"x7", easy to install and remove and can be pasted on the car or windows.
Lastly: It's important you acknowledge the receipt of this mail immediately it's delivered to you.
Thank you for participating in our ZIPCAR ADVERTISEMENT.
Jamie Howell, the marketing and communications manager for the Better Business Bureau Norfolk, said what usually happens is that people listen to the letter and "the victim deposits this check and then the check comes back as fraud. Usually, the bank will say 'This check was fraud, now you're liable to cover these damages.'"
McMillon didn't cash the check because he spotted the scam, but Howell said others locally haven't been so lucky.
"Some people that we've got reports from didn't lose any money, others have lost upwards of $3,000 to $4,000," she said.
News 3 tried to call the number listed on the welcome letter, the same number that was texting McMillon claiming to be a Zipcar employee, but we were directed to an unknown mailbox from Parkersburg, WV, instead.
Howell said, "Point blank - period, scammers are getting smarter. Just as we're getting smarter to the scams, the scammers always find a way to upgrade themselves."
Like in this case, operating under the guise of real companies and real credit unions. News 3 looked up the credit union address, Zipcar address and UPS packaging address. All proved to be legitimate locations scattered across the country, which adds to the confusion and deception on these scams.
The BBB said the best thing that you can do to protect yourself is to ignore any texts, calls or emails that seem too good to be true.
McMillon said, "I keep saying due diligence because if you don't act on it, it's not going to bite you. We all know that everything that glitters isn’t gold and every opportunity out there isn’t real."
The Better Business Bureau has a service called Scam Tracker where you can check for scams, research them and most importantly, report them free of charge.