Fake check offer uses real company's name


POSTED: Friday, June 05, 2009

Question: Can you warn the public about another scam? I received a letter from a company supposedly called Research Now Plc in San Francisco, plus a check for $3,785. They came in a plain white envelope, with no return address and a Canadian stamp. The letter invited me to be a “;mystery shopper.”; I was to keep $400 as my first week's pay; send $3,150 to one of five training agents in different mainland cities as a way of evaluating a MoneyGram or Western Union money transfer agent; pay $190 in sender's fees; and spend $45 on shopping for any kind of “;merchandise”; (mine to keep) as my second assignment. I'm told to deposit the check, then withdraw the amount, excluding my $400 pay.

Answer: A “;fraudulent company”; is sending out the checks using the Research Now Plc name, Ramona Desantis, U.S. financial controller for the company, said in a telephone interview from San Francisco.

“;They've taken our name, stuck it on a fake check and a fake bank account,”; she said. “;We're asking anybody who received the letters to send it to us.”;

The company has contacted authorities, “;but because (the scammers are) not using our actual (bank) account, there's not very much we can do,”; Desantis said.

The scam has hit “;the industry in general,”; she said. “;We've heard a couple of other companies have gone through the same thing.”;

According to the Web site FakeChecks.org, a clear warning sign is when you're asked to deposit a check, then send on money minus your “;pay.”;

“;Real companies don't do business in this manner,”; it says.

Basically, after you do this, the check bounces, and you're stuck with paying back the money.

The Better Business Bureau of Hawaii has received only a couple of queries about Research Now Plc, but 500 inquiries and 10 complaints related to “;mystery shopper”; opportunities over the past three years.

Consumers reported various names of the companies used, some giving an invalid Hawaii address.

The BBB has these tips for spotting fake check offers:

» Check www.bbb.org or call (808) 536-6956 to check on any reports on the company.

» Independently verify that the check is drawn from an actual account at a legitimate financial institution.

» Don't rely on the telephone number listed on the check. Use directory assistance to get the telephone number of the financial institution and call them to verify the check.

» Don't rely on the money until the funds have been collected by your financial institution. Funds “;availability”; is not enough.

The BBB advises victims of phony checks drawn on a federally insured financial institution to phone the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. at (877) 275-3342.

If the check is drawn on a foreign bank, contact the U.S. Secret Service at (202) 406-5572 or go to www.secretservice.gov.


To an honest young girl. After shopping at Kahala Mall on Monday, I arrived home with my grocery bags and realized I did not have my purse, which contained my credit cards, check book, driver's license and cash. To my relief and delight, a young girl had turned everything in to the Security Office, but did not leave her name. I am disappointed that I personally cannot express my gratitude.—Blanche Chong

Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).