US Record Search
US Record Search & Information Services, Inc.: scam and fraud info
They are all run by the same guy: Fred Joseph using phone 1-800-250-8885 with fax 1-800-619-6731.
If you believe you have been defrauded by Fred Joseph or US Record Search, call the Florida AG's consumer complaint hotline 850-414-3990 (or1-866-966-7226 inside Florida only) so they can make a tally.
Next, fill out this form (it will take only two minutes): Florida Attorney General Consumer Complaint Form. Use category Fraud and address:
- US Record Search
- 5406 Godfrey Rd #100
- Coral Springs, FL 33067
- Phone: 954-757-6070
- Broward County
- Website: http://www.usrecordsearch.com/
After they get 200 complaints, they will open up an investigation. As of April 1, 2010, there are only 47 complaints.
Also, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you did this.
Here is the complaint I filed against US Record Search. I won the lawsuit, but the punitive damages were reversed on appeal, which I think was a mistake by the judge since Fred Joseph did not produced documents or appear as he was required by law to do. Therefore, the facts should have been decided per my representations as a discovery sanction.
I get a lot of complaints about Fred Joseph and his array of asset search firms. And the people who complain tell a similar story. In my case, he up-sold me to the $495 nationwide search claiming he's one of 10 firms in the country that can do this legally through the banking system, he takes the money from my bank account via electronic check, I hear nothing back from them, when I call to ask I'm told it's still in research and he can re-submit my search, etc.
On his website, it says he only uses public records searches. According to professionals in this area, it's very rare to get account # and current bank balance information from a public record search (generally only if you are lucky enough to find someone who just filed for bankruptcy or divorce which is really rare and then, even if you have those accounts, they are likely to have no money left). So it's impossible to have a business doing this and not have at least 99% of your customers unhappy. And from what I found, that's what happens.
When I sued him, he did not object to producing records showing the search results from the banking system. He produced nothing. I asked him to produce any evidence he lifted a finger to do my search. He produced nothing. He lost both the original case and the appeal and was ordered to refund my money. He admitted to me via email he does searches electronically using ChoicePoint. I asked him for electronic proof he did that for my search. No records produced. Why would he produce nothing? He hired a lawyer so clearly he wanted to win the case. So why not produce evidence that would help him win? The only reason I can think of that he produced nothing is because he did absolutely nothing after taking my money.
In the interests of balanced coverage of this matter of public interest (Fred claims to handle 25,000 people a year), I received a rebuttal from US Record Search to the information on this page. Some of the statements they make are outright lies such as "call our office almost everyday." His own phone records would prove that that is an outright lie. Other statements are misleading, e.g., there is an invoice to the DOJ, but there was only a single invoice. If he's half the price of any other search service, why did the DOJ only use him ONCE? The rebuttal also fails to identify how it is possible for them to perform these searches successfully. If they want to send me an explanation of how it is possible to get more than a 99% failure rate for doing the "current bank account balance and account number" search I contracted with them for, I will be more than happy to publish it here.
Famed fraud investigator, Barry Minkow, has appeared on 60 Minutes (with a segment dedicated solely to him!) and has helped the FBI uncover more than $1 billion in fraud. In late 2006, Barry contracted with Fred's firm to do a search. They did a charge of $1,750 on Minkow's bank account. Minkow, unlike the rest of us, is an expert in fraud detection. Minkow discovered the fraud and caught it just one day before the legal limit and was able to reverse the bank charge. He got lucky. The rest of us were not so lucky.
I sued US Record Search in my local small claims court and won $2,500 on my $495 loss. If you've been ripped off, you can do it too. Even though I only lost $495, I sued for $7,500 for fraud. The remaining amount being for punitive damages which, when there is fraud, you can get. And you can get more than 10 times actual damages when there is a repeated history like there is here. That's why I asked for $7,500. The judge awarded me $2,500 and US Record Search appealed. At the trial, they produced no evidence that they did anything to do my search. They produced no evidence that they paid "the banking system" anything. They just produced the worthless Accurint search that they paid $2.50 for (and only did it after I sent them a demand letter) and one communication from a satisfied client. When I contacted the "satisfied client" to confirm the letter, he told me that they didn't know what I was talking about. The judge reduced the judgment to $625 saying I provided insufficient evidence that there was fraud.
This page is about the following web sites which advertise various information searches:
- http://www.usrecordsearch.com US Record Search - background search, record search investigations
- http://www.bankaccountsearch.com/ "The world's leader in bank account(sm) searches"
- www.phonenumbertrace.com "The world’s leader in phone number tracing" (sm)
- http://www.us-search.net Find Somebody People Search US Search
- Federal crime record search, public records searches, background checks - Criminal-Records.com
- and so on...
According to the public records I obtained from the Florida regulators, complaints against US Record Search started coming in as early as November 5, 1999. Remarkably, the complaint Kenneth Kemp filed in 1999 was virtually identical to what happened to me: promising to find the information you wanted, refusing to listen to any additional information on the subject of the report, using a telephone check, no call with results, you call to complain and they say "it is still in research," and you call again to complain about why you haven't heard anything and Fred Joseph insults you. The court documents below include these letters.
From all the evidence I've gathered, this appears to me to be a scam where they promise to find all this stuff for you and then do (virtually) nothing to find it until you complain. In my case, it was only after I complained that they ran an Accurint search which cost them a whole two bucks and change (but they charged me $495.00). That search that they ran for me was an Accurint Asset Report, and not the "bank account number and balance" information that I had contracted for.
Also, what they represented to me that they would do for me (use the banking system to find the assets), is something that appears to be quite impossible as all of the people who have been in the business for years that I've asked about this say there is no such thing as "the banking system in Washington, DC" that can be used to get these records.
This is impressive...7 years now and as far as I know, there have been no criminal charges and I bet very few lawsuits. If you feel that you've been ripped off and you want to recover your money, you have to sue them yourself; you cannot rely on the police to file a report and have the DA pursue it.
If you are looking to do an asset search, here are two reputable sources I'm aware of and have used successfully:
- CheckMate - The nation's leading asset search specialists (they are excellent)
- Judgment Trackers - Professional Judgment Enforcement and Asset Investigations
US Record Search is definitely not on my list as one of those reputable firms I use. And when I contacted them to give me the names of law firms that use them on a regular basis, I got the run-around. No names of any people I could call. So if they are on someone's list of reputable services, please contact me and I'll publish it.
US Record Search advertises heavily on various web sites. Here's their contact info:
U.S. Record Search & Information Services, Inc.
3300 N. University Dr. Suite 10
Coral Springs, FL 33065
1-800-619-6731 (per Fred Joseph Affidavit)
Former address (1999):
1639 NW 81st Av
Coral Springs, FL 33071
1287 N. University Dr STE 100
Coral Springs, FL 33071
Based on database searches I did, the AKA's of the owner (who is 45 years old) include:
- Fred Joseph
- Frederick Evan Joseph (his real name)
- Fred Evan Joseph
- Fredrick Joseph
- Joseph Fred
- Joseph Frederick
Other people associated with or having knowledge about the company
- Rick Waters (website technical)
- Janice Vreeland (admin; someone named Janice told me on 9/28/06 that they had received my lawsuit so I presume it is the same person)
- Forrest Freedman (registered agent as of Feb 22, 2001) was formerly located in the same building; now at 3333 W Commercial Blvd, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (954) 714-1037. He's their current attorney. After I served them with my lawsuit, Freedman drafted the papers to try to have it dismissed using a declaration from Fred that I orally agreed to Broward County, FL as the venue for all disputes. Next, he sent me a letter offering to refund my money. I declined his offer by phone (because I had already filed suit for over 10 times that amount due to punitive damages). He told me not to do anything to interfere with US Record Search's business.
- IRA F MARKOWITZ (former registered agent in 1999; same building suite 504). He was Fred's lawyer on or about August 9 to December 29, 1999. I know this because he responded to Kenneth Kemp's complaint about US Record Search with the Florida Division of Licensing and the Michigan Attorney General.
Because I only tried one bank search, I don't know if all of the US Record Search websites are scams, but I wouldn't be surprised if they all were. In my case, I found that they took my money and I got nothing within the promised timeframe. When I called and complained, they first told me it is still in research. If you keep calling, they start insulting you. I searched the Internet and found others with an experience similar to mine.
Here is my story...If you have an experience similar to mine, please use the contact link and let me know.
I had a large judgment against one of my debtors and I wanted to do an asset search to find out if it was worth my while to collect.
After doing an Internet search, I found the URLs above which seemed like a better deal that the reputable services I had been using.
July 6, 2006. I called their 800 number at 1-800-250-8885 (their other number is 954-757-6070) and spoke to a person who identified himself as Fred Joseph. I was told the following:
- I would get both account numbers and current account balances for all accounts held by the debtor nationwide. This is truly impressive since I know of no other service that would do that.
- I didn't need to send him a copy of the judgment. Truly impressive since ever other service requires that.
- Searches were done "through the banking system." Truly impressive because there is no such thing as far as I know.
- That the $495 nationwide search was the "best deal" because the debtor might have an brokerage account out of state that the search would pull up
- That, despite what it says on their website, they didn't take credit cards in virtually all cases (they say you have to come in the office in person to use a credit card). If I wanted to get the search done, they could do it by electronic check; all they needed was the info from the face of one of my checks which I gave them because if they can pull money out of my account with the info available on any check, they must truly be legit (I later found out this is totally untrue)
- That the search takes 15 to 20 days.
- The results would be sent to me via both email and US mail and they'd call me.
My bank account was charged $495 on 7/10. They basically print a "check" with my account number on it, print "this drafted authorized by your debtor; NO SIGNATURE REQUIRED", and fax it to the bank. The bank then pays from that. It's too small an amount to call you to see if you really authorized it. This is a major hole and source of fraud in the banking system. Anyone who has your account number can basically forge such a check and take the money and run.
August 8, 2006. It's a month later, I hadn't received anything. Not even a call to apologize about the search taking longer than it should I called the 800 number and again talked to Fred. He said I'd have to wait for the response and that it is in the banking system and that I'd just have to wait until they called me. He said he only makes $35 on the whole deal. He said he wishes he could rush them but that they take their own sweet time. He said I should stop being a "cry baby" and just wait. I asked who my search is handled by. He said "our research department." I said I wanted to call the research department to see what is taking so long. I asked, "What is their phone number?" He said, "I am the research department." After a few more insults hurled my way, Fred hung up on me. At this point, I had believed I had been scammed and that I'd never see any results (or else, now that they know I'm serious, they'd do a half-hearted search to cover the tracks so it looks good in court).
So I did the Google search on the company name and scam, and this time found results I hadn't found the first time:
- Rip Off Report U.S. Record Search, AssetSearches.com ripoff takes your money and doesnt do the search!!! Coral Springs Florida
- Rip Off Report Assetsearches.com, U.S. Record Search Internet ripoff Scam usrecordsearch Coral Springs Florida
- Rip Off ReportU S Record Search Failure to adequate perform the Service Requested Coral Springs Florida
- Rip Off ReportAssetsearches.com Fred ripoff! Scam! Fraud! Thief! Http--www.assetsearches.com Internet
- Rip Off ReportU.S. Records Search - Assestsearch.com - Frederick Joseph - Fred Joseph ripoff Takes payment with intent to defraud Never delivers the services for which I paid Lies does not return calls Corral Springs Florida
- Internet-Fraud Forum - http--www.assetsearches.com-
So I see that what has happened to me has happened to others. It is certainly possible that this happens to everyone who gives them money since:
- Fred's failure to be able to explain who does the research was the key point. He became flustered when I started quizzing him about who does the search and how to contact "them." That's a big red flag for me. He couldn't tell me who did the research, where they were located, and how they did the search. He basically just did hand-waving saying "it's in the banking system." Not very credible at all. That said it all to me. As far as I know, the "banking system" doesn't exist as far as it being a central database you can search like Fred claims. Banks are forbidden from releasing this information, paid for or not, except under court order to the bank itself (not the "banking system"). You cannot simply enter a search into a central banking database like Fred claimed to do.
- Every time you talk to Fred, the facts keep changing. One person he'll tell he only makes $20 on a search, another person he'll say it is $35 dollars, etc. How can it keep changing?
- If they are a scam, it would explain how they can do these searches for 1/2 the price of anyone else (as advertised on their website). If you don't do the search at all and get 1/2 the revenue, it's a phenomenal business! Based on complaints received by just one of his competitors (who claims to get as many as 1 a day), Fred could be doing as many as 50 "searches" a day. That's $25K per day and if he doesn't report it, it's tax free. So based on those assumptions, that's over $6 million a year tax free. That's why he does it. Even if he only did 5 "searches" a day, it's still a GREAT "business."
- My scam theory is consistent with why they don't take credit cards; with credit cards, you can get your money back and Fred wouldn't make any money that way (plus the credit card companies would drop him). He says he'll take credit cards if you come into his office...in Florida. I'd bet that hardly anyone does that.
- Fred told me he's the night manager...which of course may be true, but he's also the owner, so calling himself the night manager seems misleading to me. Why would he do that?
- He claims they only make $20 per search and that the rest is paid to "the banking system" in Washington, DC. But there is no such thing that I've been able to find.
- He says he has a research staff of 35 people. But he says they just punch in the search request after logging into the banking system with their username and password and hit submit. OK, so why do you need a 35 person research staff if that is how it is done? Even if you are doing 50 searches a day, you'd only need one person to punch that in. And the math doesn't work out. If he's only making $20 per search and does 50 searches a day, that's $1,000 per day. Split 35 ways, that's about $30 bucks per per researcher per day. I guess they must all only work an hour or so a day. That doesn't make much sense. The math doesn't work out.
- It says on the web page that on bank searches you'll get results "within a couple of days." I sure didn't. I got nothing. Same with others I've talked to who have used them. Here's what's on their site verbatim: "Just provide us with a name, or the name of a financial institution, and we'll come up with detailed results, within a couple of days."
- The fine print on the website (which I saw when putting together this case) says "We limit retrieval to documents or information available from a public entity or public utility which are intended for public use." Well, excuse me, but how the heck are someone's bank records (with account number and balances) available for public use? They aren't (except that sometimes you get lucky and find them in a recent divorce or recent bankruptcy, but that is a VERY LOW likelihood you'll find something recent and even lower likelihood that the accounts you find that way will have any money in them by the time they are published)! The reason he puts that on the site is to avoid being shut down by the state regulators. They can't touch him if he's just doing "public records" searches. But if he's doing just public records searches, how can he promise me to find bank account numbers and balances? These aren't public records except in the rare cases listed above).
- The website says they are the "nation's leader in search for and locating assets." I seriously doubt that as well. In fact, for every category, it appears they claim they are the world's leader or nation's leader. It's possible that they are the nations leader in doing searches, but I seriously doubt that they are the nation's leader as far as getting results.
- And the kicker was that the exact same thing happened to others, right down to the profanity and insults from Fred Joseph.
- I'd have thought if you get really serious and take him to court, he then pays to have someone really do the search. That would be really clever. Then he could tell the judge this one search took longer than normal. Very convenient since that way he can appear never to get caught. Of course, if you are a smart plaintiff, you subpoena his bank records which will show lots of income and no expenses, except for the people who sue him. He certainly didn't do this in my case. He just spent two fifty on a cheap Accurint search and probably thought that it would cause me to go away rather than do a real bank asset search (which would have cost him a lot more time and money to do than the cheapo Accurint search they did).
- He told my attorney that his repeat customers include major law firms including (1) Baker & McKenzie, (2) Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and (3) Baker & Botts LLP, but refused to provide a contact name at each firm to verify that. Why not?
- On May 12, 2007, I printed their webpage promising results in just a few days, "Just provide us with a name, or the name of a financial institution, and we'll come up with detailed results, within a couple of days." Their lawyer will argue in court that that's just an exaggeration and that results aren't guaranteed.
After they removed the money from my bank account, I never heard back from them within the promised timeframe. When you call, they just tell you it's coming and you have to wait for the banking system. If you persist with more question like exactly who do they send the search to that actually perform the search, they can't answer that. They call you a "cry baby" or other type of insult. You're told just to keep waiting.
I will be suing both Fred and his company for my money back plus $7,000 in punitive damages so they stop doing it to others. All of his employees who knew what was going on and aided the fraud are also co-conspirators on the fraud and would be liable as well. And debts incurred via malice and fraud and not dischargeable in bankruptcy which is really good for me. You can sue both the company and the people who knowingly participated in the fraud.
Here's a demand l faxed them to their fax number: US Record Search Demand Letter.
The receptionist says they've been in business for 20 years, but as far as I can tell, the business didn't start until around 1999. There are at least 4 reports at Rip-off Report.com about them which had the same results I had.
I also contacted the Coral Springs Police Department. Hopefully, the DA will bring criminal charges against them. I'd bet that few, if any, customers are satisfied.
August 12, 2006: I call the 800 number and talked to a woman who identifies herself as "Sue." She is able to pull up my nationwide asset search. She said she cannot tell if the search results have come back yet. I'd have to call the main office. She said she's located more than 50 miles away and rarely goes there, but that it is in the Wachovia Bank building at the corner of University and Sample Road. She says she's worked for the company for 6 years. She said she knows the company has been in business for 20 years because there is a certificate on the wall that says that. I told her that as far as I can tell, this business appeared to me to be a scam and nobody ever gets their money back. She said I'd have to talk to the main office and hung up on me. Her reaction was such that it was clear to me that this wasn't the first time that someone had called and complained about being ripped off (which I confirmed later when I found the rip-off report mentioning Sue above). As soon as I mentioned the word "scam," she knew exactly how to handle the call.
August 13, 2006. I call up a friend of mine who is an expert in the asset search/collections business. He does asset searches for leading law firms and is one of the top guys in California. He says that, as I suspected, there is no such thing as "the banking system" that someone can use to do these asset searches.
August 14, 2006. I call up US Record Search again, but this time during the day. The person I speak with identifies herself as Ellie. I ask for a status on my search. She looks up my records and says the search results were mailed yesterday. True. What's in my inbox is this email saying they couldn't find anything :
- Subject: SEARCH RESULTS FROM US RECORD SEARCH
- August 14, 2006
- Dear Steven T. Kirsch,
- Based on the information that you provided, there were No Records located in the Nationwide Bank and Investment Record Searches under the name of the following individual, Javier A. Cuadra SSN=595-xx-xxxx.
- Please be advised that if you can provide us with a copy of any Court Documentation, (i.e. Money Judgment, Divorce or etc.), pertaining to this case, as prescribed by Federal Legislation, we can re-submit the search with no additional costs.
- The results of the Nationwide Property Record Database Search are as follows: <text version of a $2.50 Accurint Asset Report>
Not credible. I had offered to give Fred a copy of the judgment at the start and he said it wasn't necessary. And there is no "banking system" that they use for the search and I'll bet every bank search they do finds nothing. The Nationwide Property Record Database Search is simply an Accurint "Asset Report." The cost is only $2.50. That's right: two bucks. He charged me $495, did nothing until I complained, then, after I complained did a two-fifty search on Accurint, a commercial database that I use too (only he didn't know that). However, I'd guess most everyone would be fooled by the cover-up since relatively few people know about Accurint. So the email looks like it finally "came back" from research and someone spent a long time researching it. In reality, they spent two dollars and it took about 1 minute of their time and they only did that after I threatened to sue.
That doesn't get them out of the lawsuit, though. I contracted with them via telephone agreement with Fred Joseph for BANK assets within 20 days and they delivered nothing. Their story about using the banking system which they used to convince me into contracting with them is, as far as I can tell, a complete fabrication. So I have 2 causes of action: one for fraud (enabling me to get punitive damages) and the other for breach of contract.
I give them one more shot. I call back at 10:27am Hawaii time and ask for a collection agency or law firm that uses their service. Surely, if they are the world leader and one of only 10 firms that can legally do these bank searches as Fred claims, then they must be inundated by collection agencies and law firms that use them on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, I was told that "we can't give out that information." I'm told I'd have to talk to the owner, Fred, who is in after 6pm.
I also call another asset search firm, CheckMate - The nation's leading asset search specialists. I talk to Terry. I ask him if he's ever heard of Fred's firm. He said he gets complaints about Fred's firm at the rate of almost one a day... which is very impressive since there is no link between his firm and Fred's. He told me he hears a consistent story:
- Fred tells people he is one of only 8 firms in the country that are allowed to legally do these searches,, that you are lucky to have found him because most people get ripped off if they go to a law firm or detective agency who charge many times what he charges (because they use him then bump up the rates to the consumer; by going to him directly you cut out the middleman). Customers wait for weeks, get nothing, when they complain, they start getting insulted.
That sounds just like what happened to me! And it's virtually identical to the pitch I have an mp3 of where Fred is pitching a potential client. Terry has never heard of a satisfied customer of US Record Search. He refers people to Lisa Trimble (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Division of Licensing) at 850-245-5499 to complain.
I email Fred and tell him I'm thinking of using him for 5 more searches, but I've checked with his competitors and they give me the names of major law firms as references. Fred tells me to "call 1-800-250-8885 and speak to a representative. They will be more than happy to help." I told him I already did that and that they couldn't give out that info and said I had to talk to him. He replied that I'd have to call the 800 number and talk to Fred. Unfortunately for him, I was able to determine that it was Fred himself that sent that email.
August 15, 2006: I found out that Fred used to have a private investigator license (it expired on July 25, 1998), but I was told he can't get one anymore, e.g., this might be due to a felony conviction or something like that. So if he limits his business to public records searching, he doesn't have to be licensed. So that's what he does. And Florida doesn't license or regulate people doing public records searching, so all the complaints haven't been pursued since it isn't in their jurisdiction.
The proper contact is Fred Speaker 561-640-6144. They have an open investigation on US Record Search.
If you want public record info on Fred Joseph, contact Marsha Stroud at 850-245-5459. This was pretty interesting. They now have an investigator on this: Brian Mccormack 561 640 6144. You should contact Brian to relate your story. Kenneth Kemp's 1999 complaint was dismissed because there was no evidence that Fred was doing "private investigative activities" so they didn't have jurisdiction to pursue the case. That makes a lot of sense; as far as I can tell, there is no evidence that I'm aware of that Fred does much if any research at all for his customers (other than the Accurint search he did for me that I never requested).
Based on what happened to me and the research I did, I believe that there is reasonable case to be made for criminal Internet fraud going on here. This would be a violation of Florida criminal statues (felony in the third degree which is up to 5 years in jail):
- [[www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0817/SEC11.HTM&Title=-%3E2006-%3ECh0817-%3ESection%2011#0817.11|Title XLVI Chapter 817-Section 11]]: Obtaining property by fraudulent promise to furnish inside information (Fred promises to use the "banking system" to get this information and says only 20 firms are licensed to do this; I have an audio recording of this promise)
- [[www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0817/SEC12.HTM&Title=-%3E2006-%3ECh0817-%3ESection%2012#0817.12|Title XLVI Chapter 817-Section 12]]: Penalty for violation of s. 817.11
- [[www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0817/SEC44.HTM&Title=-%3E2006-%3ECh0817-%3ESection%2044#0817.44|Title XLVI Chapter 817-Section 44]]: Intentional false advertising prohibited
A quick search of the US DOJ website shows that they've had criminal convictions against people who sell Beanie Babies on the Internet and fail to deliver it (or deliver products of inferior quality). See Internet Fraud.
What happened here is no different than those cases. I believe it is fraud when someone promises to do something that they don't intend to (or know that they cannot) do.
I cannot see how at least one crime didn't occur here. Fred says (I have an mp3 file that someone sent me in the mail) that he logs into the banking system to enter the search. If Fred can't provide the website, username and login that he uses to access the "banking system" and can't provide a list of happy customers who have had successful searches ever month, he's running a fraudulent business and Fred and his co-conspirators (those employees who know of the scam and look the other way) may also be guilty of criminal conspiracy.
But if Fred can show virtually all the people that he received income from over the past 5 years received bank accounts and balances, then I'd be absolutely astonished. But it doesn't change the fact that I was defrauded. What he told me (and what I have on tape) are lies which I believe are specifically fabricated to induce people to part with their money.
You can get more than your money back. I got a $2,500 judgment for my $495, but on appeal the second judge said the evidence was insufficient to justify punitive damages and just awarded me my money back. Obviously, different judges rule differently on the same set of evidence so you never know.
The second judge asked, "well, isn't this like a car dealer who sells you a defective car and then offers to fix it for you?"
I should have said: "no, it's like ordering Beannie Babies over the net. The seller says to you on the phone he's a dealer authorized by the US government, that he has a $2M bond, that there are only 10 authorized dealers of beannie babies in the country, and that he'd ship my order in as little as 2 days, but he's required by law to quote 12 to 15. The product never arrives after 30 days, you call and he says "it's backordered. we'll get it to you soon." Reality: nothing of what he said was true and he never ordered anything. He says "I'll re-order it for you." Nothing ever comes. If you hire a lawyer, he then offers to refund your money or actually order the product. Since few people go that far for a cheap item, he pockets your money in almost every case. For the few people that sue him, the worst that can happen is he returns your money. Great scam, isn't it? And he's not so big an operation for the DA or DOJ to go after him on criminal charges."
- 1 Scamming other people
- 2 The process I used to get my money back plus punitive damages
Scamming other people
Here's an email I received on 3/4/09:
- I called them on Monday to initiate a search for a relative.
- I asked for and got a confirmation number and correspondence via email that my charges were processed.
- He said he would do so immediately.
- I called today, after not hearing back and the "receptionist" (or whoever) could not tell me anything. When I gave her the confirmation number she said "We don't give confirmation numbers. I don't know what you are talking about". She said Fred would return my call. He did and tried to tell me he gave the confirmation number to me as a favor, but it's really just for their internal use. I told him I would not require his services any more. He said he'd call me back after he talked to his "search department" and see if they hadn't started already. I told him my bank account had not been charged by him yet so I doubt he had started anything. He said "call me back tomorrow". I said no, and my bank would not be accepting any attempts to charge me for services and that I had no further need to discuss this or call him back.
- One hour later I checked my bank and he had indeed just tried to take payment and was rejected. So, foiled for now, but I plan to scrutinize the account for further attempts to charge me in any amount. The bank assures me they will not let a charge for any amount be processed. If even one attempt is made I will proceed immediately to the police and file a report and then let my family of hound-dog lawyers and politicians handle the pursuit of justice. Also, I took note of your many helpful thoughts in your web report.
An email I received on May 5, 2009:
- Dear Steve,
- My name is xxxx. I was also scammed by Fred Joseph with US Search. I have a very similar story to yours. I faxed him a check on February 10, 2009 in the amount of $395.00 to do a bank account and property search. He told me it would take 1-4 weeks in banking weeks. It has been well over that now. Every time I called, he would tell me it hasn't come in yet and that the search is not waiting for me to call they will call me when it comes in. He did end up producing the property search but everything that was on it was old. I know for a fact that the person I was having the search done on has had a few new vehicles other then the ones US Search provided.
- The latest thing that has happened was my attorney tried to call him, Fred just kept talking over him and told him he could not speak to him without my permission and hung up on him so I faxed an authorization giving him my permission to speak to my attorney. My attorney sent a letter along with the authorization and told him we wanted the records produced within 5 days or my money back. We never received a response. My attorney tried calling Fred again and Fred said he never got the authorization, (I have the fax confirmation that it was sent) but we faxed the letter and authorization again. My attorney called him back and Fred again just kept talking over my attorney and hung up on him again. We also faxed a copy of the letter to Fred's attorney that was on your website (Attorney Forrest Friedman), we never got a response back from him either.
- I tried calling Fred today, I told him I want a refund, he said we do not give refunds and as usual he just keeps talking and doesn't allow you to speak. I brought up the fact that my attorney called him and he Fred replied by saying over and over "That guy is obnoxious." I told him I know he is a scam artist and I had sent a complaint to the Attorney General and I plan on sueing him if I do not receive a refund. He still said he will not refund my money. I said again I know he is a scam artist and he hung up on me.
- I wish I had done my research before going ahead and hiring these people. After reading that the same thing happened to you and other people, I just wanted to share my story with you.
- I don't mind if you post this, just please do not post my name because I am still in a pending court matter (the reason I was trying to get bank records)
- Thank you.
The process I used to get my money back plus punitive damages
I sent the firm a demand letter
The amount in dispute is too small to make hiring a lawyer cost effective. So the best way is to sue the firm in your local small claims court in your state. Your state has jurisdiction because for a phone transaction, both states have jurisdiction as long as you did not agree verbally to jurisdiction in Florida. Also, Fred directed the fraud at California by doing nationwide advertising and then taking the money out of your account in your home state. In California, you can sue for up to $7,500. So I'll sue for the $495 I lost plus the remainder in punitive damages so that Fred doesn't do it again. Of course, $7,500 is way too small to discourage Fred, but it's the maximum you can get in California small claims. The demand letter is the first step. Here's mine: US Record Search Demand Letter. Fred didn't respond to my letter. I didn't expect him to. He thinks I'm bluffing. He's in for a surprise.
File a police report in your local jurisdiction
I didn't do this. I later learned you that I should have filed a police report in my home area. My local police are supposed to forward the report to the Coral Springs Police who should then forward it their DA to bring criminal charges against US Record Search (that is how it is supposed to work).
At some point, maybe they will refer this over to the DA for criminal charges against Fred and possibly his employees as well. You can't close your eyes to a fraud and escape liability pretending not to know. It doesn't work.
Collect enough admissible evidence to make sure you win at trial
In this case, I received an MP3 recording in the mail of Fred tripping all over himself in lies talking about this mysterious banking system and how he only makes $20 on the deal, yet has 35 researchers. When the customer insisted, Fred guaranteed results in 30 days (yet when my search didn't come back in that time, he told me searches are ALWAYS out of his control; they take their sweet time). While the MP3 may be inadmissible since I do no know who made it, the MP3 can be used to help the Defendant recall what he said.
File a lawsuit
Since Fred's firm is out of state, I have to get permission from the court to serve him. So I had to file 2 documents with the court:
Serve the lawsuit
Because US Record Search is out of state, I had to serve them through the Secretary of State. The process server I used for this is at (916) 501-1510. I send them the documents and the fees, and they serve the California Secretary of State. The California Secretary of State then mails the complaint to the Defendant and they are deemed served. There is no way for the Defendant to avoid service.
Serve a subpoena on the corporation
Here's the subpoena I served on them. They produced objections and no documents. I should have filed a motion to compel when I got the objections. That was a mistake on my part.
Here are other US Record Search customers who claimed to me that they were ripped off by Fred:
- Mark Nelson, 727-418-4538 Palm Harbor, Florida
- Christal Saint-Denis, 1-775-883-6884, 408-891-9270
- Charlotte (Tampa, FL): 813-978-8449
- Ethyl (NJ): 732-718-9708
- Barry Minkow: Barry Minkow
- Jeremy Grimes: 614-353-8222 (he's a Private Investigator who got ripped off for $495)
- I have others
My trial was on October 23, 2006 at 3pm in Palo Alto. Small claims Case 206-SC03702. I won a judgment for $2,500.
Here are the materials that were admitted as evidence in that case:
- Kirsch v. US Record Search arguments and evidence showing how Fred got nothing after a month, but the other 2 legit asset search firms all turned up the assets within a few days!
- Complaint against US Record Search
- More evidence against USRecordSearch including Bank records showing Fred spends the income on personal items and search engine marketing and Kenneth Kemp's original complaint in November 1999.
- BBB Report on US Record Search
- Declaration re US Record Search fraud
- Kirsch v US Record Search Subpoena
- Kirsch v US Record Search Subpoena attachment
Note: Junkfax.org received a rebuttal from US Record Search to the information on this page.