A friend of mine reported receiving one of these checks last week. It came from the “Torrey Pines Bank” and the “Hanson vs Google Settlement Fund” out of Petaluma, California. It claims to be part of a settlement of a class action lawsuit entitled “CLRB Hanson LLC vs Google Adwords.” The court is listed as United States District Court, District of Northern California, San Jose Division, Case No. 05-03649. It urges you to cash the check before December, at which point it will no longer be valid.
Well…a check for seven cents. Frankly, I would just throw it away. I mean, I can find seven cents on the street. (But doesn’t this mean it’s legit? If a scammer were trying to access your account information, surely they’d be smart enough to lure you in with a check that would at least cover a cup of coffee!)
I have a suspicious mind. I looked online. Blogger Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land says he got a $25 check from this settlement, with the exact parameters above, but that most of the checks being sent out seem to be for less money than the postage used to mail them. Barry says hundreds of Google advertisers who joined a class action lawsuit will receive checks this week from a 2009 settlement for $20 million. The case involved Google allegedly charging advertisers 120% of their maximum daily budget within the AdWords (clicks) system.
The E-Commerce Times in 2005 and the San Jose Business Journal in 2009 both verified that this lawsuit was in fact filed against Google in the court listed above and that the proposed settlement was $20 million.
So. I saw no immediate red flags. When you get a suspicious random check from a settlement—you can call the court where the settlement was awarded, using a number that you know to be legitimate (not one that may be on the check). Or email the court. Ask if the case number you have and the check are real. San Jose District Court: (408) 535-5364.
I also looked up the settlement administrators, a law firm called Gilardi & Co. You can check their legitimacy with the Bar Association of California at (800) 843-9053 and on www.bbb.org. They currently have a “C” rating, but what I was looking for was to see if anything popped as a scam. It didn’t. The BBB in that area knows where the firm is located and they have answered one complaint.
And finally, you can always ask your bank for help in determining whether or not a check is fake. Let me know how it goes–if you got a check worth bothering with.