Fried chicken lovers, beware: This scam is aimed at you

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Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

Why did the consumer cross the road in a car covered in chicken ads?

Or did you hear the one about the guy who wired money for Kentucky Fried Chicken graphics to be applied to his car?

It's not actually funny, and it's certainly no fault of KFC's that victims are getting taken for thousands. Kentucky Fried Chicken's good name is being dragged through the batter in a “car wrap” scam that's affecting consumers across the country, including the Midlands.

It's a fairly clever variation of the work-from-home schemes the BBB's always warning about. Crooks send you a check to cover expenses, and on the surface it looks like you've happened upon a pretty juicy deal.

Colonel Sanders was surely an honest man, but scammers exploit our trust in household names like his and in beloved institutions like KFC to get people to bite. It's unfortunate the colonel is no longer with us, but it's good he didn't have to see the name of his company abused like this.

And it's not just chicken.

Monster Energy Drinks is being used, too, as well as several other well-known brands, and it's easy to see the appeal.

You get a mass email offering extra cash by participating in their auto wrap advertising program. All you have to do is to drive your car, SUV, motorcycle or even a boat with the KFC (or some other company) logo placed on it. The position comes with attractive pay (of course) and all correspondence comes via some legitimate sounding representative who claims to be an advertising agent with the corporation.

You exchange several official sounding emails regarding your automobile, license and driving history and are eventually offered a job. After a few days you get a packet that includes a check, usually for around $3,000, and a contract complete with the KFC logo and a picture of the Colonel.

As the new “hire” you're instructed to deposit the check into your account, then you're told to keep $400 as the first week's pay and wire the remainder to the company that will supposedly apply the wrap to the car. You're happy because you'll be raking in steady pay just for driving your own car.

But the painful reality eventually settles in. The check bounces (they always do) and you get to swallow the hard truth that the money you wired away was your own.

The fake checks don't actually come from KFC Corp., but when you ask questions about that, you're assured the issuance of the checks has been outsourced to affiliate financial service agents, which sounds reasonable. If you happen to wonder why KFC pays so well for almost no actual work, you're told that the company is glad to have the exposure.

In truth, of course, people should find such an offer quite suspicious if only because it sounds too good to be true.

I hate to advocate skepticism, because if you can't trust the chicken place, then who can you trust, really. But it's NOT the chicken place, it's (as is so often the case) some bad guy in Jamaica or Nigeria or the Ukraine, and they don't just steal your money but probably sell the information you provide to them, too.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is good, but these scammers are bad, and they'd love to sink their teeth into vulnerable victims.

Guess who has to pay the bank back when your paycheck turns out to be a fake? You.

By the time your financial institution notifies you that the check bounced, you've already sent a bunch of money off to some non-existent company that obviously isn't going to wrap your car. There's no money coming in, there's no getting the money back — and any product coupons they might have included are either fake or expired so you don't even get a free lunch.

These tips will help you avoid this type of scam.

>> If an employment opportunity involves a request that you wire money, this a huge red flag. Con artists often insist that people wire money or use prepaid cards like Green Dot Money Pak because it's nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or track the recipients.

>> Never send money to someone you don't know, either in cash, prepaid cards or through a wire transfer service.

>> Don't agree to deposit a check from someone you don't know and then wire money back. No matter how convincing the story, it's a lie.

>> Don't respond to unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information, regardless of whether the message comes as an email, mail, phone call, text or an advertisement.

>> Contact the BBB for assistance in evaluating any offer that is suspicious

Jim Hegarty is president of the Better Business Bureau representing Nebraska and southwest Iowa. To contact him, email jhegarty@bbbnebraska.org or call 402-898-8520.

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