WESTLAKE, Ohio — Mike Jones of Westlake is relieved he didn't fall for a fake check offer that could have cost him thousands of dollars and is issuing a strong consumer warning about the bogus offer that unfortunately has victimized dozens of others.
Jones told News 5 the offer started two months ago when received an unsolicited text on his phone offering him $500 a month if he got his Ford pick-up truck wrapped with advertising. Additional texts from the company, allegedly located in Sacramento, California, instructed Jones to deposit a $2,450 check he received by certified mail into his bank account as his first payment.
But Jones said he knew something wasn't right when he saw the check was supposedly from Marano Plumbing, a company located in Southeast Pennsylvania, a check the company had no idea was fraudulently using its company name.
“And I’m like are you crazy, I’m not doing that, from a plumbing company no,” Jones said. "So that’s when I reached out and contacted News 5. I know I was lucky; I didn’t let any greed get me and say I’m just going to go for this. It was $2,400 is what they sent me on a $500 a month program, so everything was off.”
Ericka Dilworth, Cleveland Better Business Bureau Director of Operations, told News 5 the fake check offer is causing consumers to lose hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
Dilworth said once consumers deposit the check, they're instructed to take money out of their account and send it back to the company before the check clears. Days later, when their bank finally determines the check is a fraud, the consumer is left with nothing but losses.
"Don't give any of those funds away or return any of the money back to the business until you know for certain, and that could take weeks, that the money is in your account," Dilworth said. “The scammer uses a legitimate business because they feel that the consumer is going to be more comfortable with this transaction. Keep in mind texting and emailing is not the way to get hired, there’s going to have to be some face-to-face or phone call kind of discussion.”
News 5 is not naming the Sacramento company involved in this case until we get more information from investigators.
Meanwhile, News 5 contacted former Morano Plumbing owner Susan Marano, who has called in the Pennsylvania State Police to investigate the fraudulent use of the company name in connection with the bogus check offer.
Marano said she accidentally lost one of the company checks in Jan. 2022 as she and her husband were selling the company to an employee. Marano said the new company owner has received dozens of phone calls over the past few weeks from consumers across the country who have been issued the bad checks, illegally using the company name.
She issued her own warning about the fake check offer.
“It seems like this must be their full-time job to defraud others," Marano said. “If somebody is asking you to cash a check and give them money, red flag, it's a big red flag!“
"If I find you, you will pay, you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and I will be right there clapping. I’ve worked hard for my money and my business all of my life, and if somebody needs money here’s another message, get a job, there’s plenty out there.”