Local check mailings raise suspicion, but the $92 checks are legit
When someone you don't know suddenly sends you a check for nearly a hundred dollars - it can pay to be suspicious. But in this case, the checks are real.
They're settlement checks from a class action lawsuit over illegal robocalls.
The case is unique, because instead of going to individual consumers the robocall sales pitches targeted small businesses.
Seattle attorneys Rob Williamson and Kim Williams filed the class action lawsuit after being contacted by small business owner Richard Maclean. Maclean complanied his business line was being targeted by robocall sales pitches from a company called Stellar Concepts and Design.
"We filed the lawsuit in January of 2010." said Williamson.
The couple's law firm, based out of their home office, specializes in class actions against telemarketers who send junk faxes, make robocalls, or violate the Do Not Call list.
Their investigation traced Stellar Concepts to Florida. Court records show the small marketing company hired a third party auto dialing service in California to blast robocalls to small business across the country.
Under federal law, robocalls to businesses are legal. But here in Washington robocalls to everyone, including businesses, are a violation of state law.
Because Stellar Concepts did not have the assets to pay fines and penalities mandated by Washington State law, Williamson and Williams went after Stellar Concept's insuarnce company.
"We got 4 million dollars after we won our lawsuit." said Williamson.
After administrative and attorneys fees- the remaining $2.5 million was divided among the nearly 28,000 small business owners in Washington who got those calls.
Williamson and Williams say since the checks went out at the end of August, they're getting about 20-30 calls a day from people wondering if the checks are legit, or wanting more information.
"In this case we just got a judgement for the money and sent it out to everybody. And they really didn't know why it was coming and what for."
The struggle now, is to get all those checks cashed within 60 days.
After 60 days, the settlement calls for any unclaimed money, depending other total, to either be redistributed among the people who did respond, or donated to the Legal Foundation of Washington, a non-profit that funds legal-aid programs for low-income people.