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On watch for scams

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The invoices look legitimate to the unsuspecting eye, but Indianapolis attorney Amy Wright knows something isn’t right about the documents her client received.

Some have official-looking logos or seals at the top or names that are very similar to the authorities that monitor trademark and intellectual property information or send out bankruptcy and debt collection notices.

scams Fraudulent notices stack up on the desk of Indianapolis intellectual property attorney Amy Wright. Wright says at least once a week her clients give her notices that look like legitimate invoices or government documents, but may in fact be scams. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Wright, who practices at Taft Stettinius & Hollister, says her clients pass along these documents at least once a week, and the number of fraudulent notices that her clients receive has doubled over the years.

“I have to think it’s a very lucrative business sending these out,” Wright said. “We started seeing these a few years ago, but really during the past six months it seems like there have been more of them. So, we’re on the watch and trying to let our clients know.”

Most of the scams are tied to public information, such as patent applications, lawsuits and debt-collection cases. These scams often demand payment for a debt or try to sell a service by giving the impression it’s needed for protection of a particular trademark or domain.

The scams Carmel bankruptcy attorney Erika Singler sees typically involve mortgage foreclosure filers. As she understands the practice, Singler said the scammers look for foreclosures filed on county court dockets to find individuals who are delinquent on home payments. Then, those homeowners receive letters from a purported business saying that the “business” can help rent out the house for enough money to cover the mortgage and sell the house back to the homeowner on a land sale contract or lease with option. All the homeowner needs to do is deed the house to allow for the “business” to draft a lease, collect rent and evict tenants.

“What the scammer then does is rent out the house, but doesn’t pay the mortgage and instead pockets the money and leaves the owner on the hook,” Singler said.

Before 2009, Singler said she saw these types of notices regularly, but the number dropped after a law change that year that alerted homeowners facing foreclosure about fraudulent notices from scammers. In the past year, though, Singler said clients are bringing her more of these notices, though she can’t pinpoint the reason for the increase.

Wright and other IP attorneys say the economy likely plays a part in the increase of these scams in the patent and trademark realm.

“I think it’s probably a combination of things,” Wright said. “It could be economy related, or that companies are starting to become profitable again and these (scammers) think it’s a good time to try this. Or maybe the software and technology to harvest this information is just more advanced now.”

Trademark attorneys have seen notices from the “U.S. Trademark Registration Office” or the “Trademark Monitoring Service,” which don’t exist but could be mistaken for real government offices like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. These notices offer to monitor the progress of a filed trademark application, provide third-party watch services, renew a registration, or provide another service relating to the trademark. On the patent side, attorneys report their clients have notified them about receiving notices from the “Patent & Trademark Office Register of Patents” that are essentially invoices requesting a filing fee payment.

These documents might appear legitimate because they often include an actual business name or trademark application information that’s been submitted or on file publicly.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently posted a notice on its website warning consumers about these types of scams. It encourages people who believe they have received a deceptive solicitation to file an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and to forward these solicitations to the USPTO at TMFeedback@uspto.gov.

white Tragesser

Joel Tragesser with Frost Brown Todd in Indianapolis says his clients bring him about six to eight of these notices a month – some from the U.S. and others from international entities.

“Many times, these entities will send to larger clients but try to bypass the person in charge,” he said. “They might send them to accounts payable or the financial people who might not know the difference between a legitimate notice or not. I tell all my clients not to pay, and to make sure that everyone in the office knows that.”

When a client gives him one of these notices, Tragesser searches the entity’s name to determine if it’s legitimate. Sometimes, he stumbles upon another lawyer’s blog or public notice alerting readers that the particular entity is operating a possible scam. Usually, that’s about as far as it goes for Tragesser and his clients. He tells them not to pay and to disregard these notices unless they come directly from him or another of the client’s counsel. Legitimate third-party payers sometimes do try to contact clients, but he says the firm typically handles those and it’s not something the client receives without the attorneys first alerting them.

One approach Tragesser takes to prevent clients from receiving these notices is during the application process when he is filling out forms with the applicant’s information. He often lists his own information or leaves that blank so that all contact comes to him. That curbs public record searches using that information to send out these scam notices.

“Obviously, it’s not foolproof because my clients still receive notices,” he said. “But maybe it is successful to some degree since I’ve never had someone pay.”

Like her colleagues say, Wright emphasizes the importance of her clients alerting their financial departments and secretaries about these potential scams. Sometimes, notices are for small amounts and might not register on the radar of suspicious activity for anyone, she said.

“Most of my clients know that any correspondence about trademarks or their legal interests will come from me,” she said. “If it’s not (from me), it could very well be a scam.”•

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  1. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

  2. A high ranking bureaucrat with Ind sup court is heading up an organization celebrating the formal N word!!! She must resign and denounce! http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

  3. ND2019, don't try to confuse the Left with facts. Their ideologies trump facts, trump due process, trump court rules, even trump federal statutes. I hold the proof if interested. Facts matter only to those who are not on an agenda-first mission.

  4. OK so I'll make this as short as I can. I got a call that my daughter was smoking in the bathroom only her and one other girl was questioned mind you four others left before them anyways they proceeded to interrogate my daughter about smoking and all this time I nor my parents got a phone call,they proceeded to go through her belongings and also pretty much striped searched my daughter including from what my mother said they looked at her Brest without my consent. I am furious also a couple months ago my son hurt his foot and I was never called and it got worse during the day but the way some of the teachers have been treating my kids they are not comfortable going to them because they feel like they are mean or don't care. This is unacceptable in my mind i should be able to send my kids to school without worry but now I worry how the adults there are treating them. I have a lot more but I wanted to know do I have any attempt at a lawsuit because like I said there is more that's just some of what my kids are going through. Please respond. Sincerely concerned single parent

  5. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. 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Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

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