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Frank Gray

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Check scam outrages legitimate company

Last week we wrote about a local man who had gotten a letter from an outfit called Delta Market Research of St. Louis, offering him a job as a “product evaluator.”

The letter included a $1,400 check that was supposed to provide shopping money. But the man was, for some reason, supposed to wire $870 of that money to someone named Martin Taylor.

Of course it was all a scam. The check was fake. If the man had cashed it, he would have been on the hook to his bank for the $1,400, and if he had wired money to this man Taylor, it would have been gone forever.

Fortunately, the man recognized that it was all a fraud. He called police, and he called the newspaper, too, because, he said, if he got a check like that, you can be sure a lot of other people did, too, and they needed to be alerted.

Curiously, the afternoon after the column appeared, I got a call from a man identifying himself as Robert Norman, executive vice president of a company called Delta Market Research, and he was mad.

His company is based in Pennsylvania, not St. Louis, and the check that bore his company’s name was drawn on a bank where it didn’t have an account.

But since Dec. 17 or 18, he said, people had been calling his company from all over the country – Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas – asking whether the checks were real.

People were calling on Christmas Eve, and officials with the company had to forward the company phones to their homes so they could take the calls and let people know that this was a scam, the checks were phony.

It got to the point, Norman said, where they were tempted to answer the phone by simply saying, “It’s a scam.”

The whole point is, Norman said, that judging from the number of calls his business was getting, there must be thousands and thousands of these fake checks out there, all over the country. This fraud scheme was gigantic.

Also, most of the calls his company was getting weren’t from individuals but from check cashing stores, he said. That meant that people were trying to cash these checks, so there was no telling how many people actually cashed the checks at their banks without checking to see whether they were real.

Norman said he called the police, and all he was told was, “You’re out of it. There’s nothing you can do,” he said.

As far as the legitimate Delta Market Research goes, all these calls were interfering with its ability to do business, and there was the possibility that thousands of bogus checks with its company name on them could ultimately affect the company’s reputation.

What enraged Norman was that no one seemed particularly concerned. No one seemed to be paying attention. Thousands of people were at risk of being fleeced for a lot of money, but no one seemed to care because the banks would get their money back and the companies that wire money wouldn’t lose anything. In fact, they would make money on people who wired money to the scammers.

Norman said he was telling all those who called about the checks to call the police and their state attorney general and the post office.

Meanwhile, Norman was doing the only thing he could. This is a massive postal fraud, he said, and all he could do was “scream as loud as we can until someone listens.”

Hopefully, one of these days, people will start listening.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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