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The Google Adwords Settlement Check: Is It a Scam?


Do you own a Google Adwords account? Don’t be surprised if you get a check in the mail for $1.17, or maybe 34 cents, or even just 7 cents.

So what is this, a scam?

 A friend of mine reported receiving one of these checks last week. It came from the “Torrey Pines Bank” and the “Hanson vs. Google Settlement Fund” out of Petaluma, Calif. It claims to be part of a settlement of a class action lawsuit entitled “CLRB Hanson LLC vs. Google Adwords.” The court is listed as United States District Court, District of Northern California, San Jose Division, case No. 05-03649. It urges you to cash the check before December, after which it will be invalid.

 Well … a check for 7 cents? Frankly, I would just throw it away. I mean, I can find 7 cents on the sidewalk.  I have a suspicious mind. I looked online. Blogger Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land says he got a $25 check from this settlement, with the exact parameters above. Most of the checks mailed, however, seem to be for less money than cost of a stamp. Schwartz says hundreds of Google advertisers who joined a class action lawsuit will receive checks this week from a 2009 settlement for $20 million. The case accused Google of charging advertisers 120% of their maximum daily budget within the AdWords (clicks) system.

The E-Commerce Times in 2005 and the San Jose Business Journal in 2009 both verified that this lawsuit was in fact filed against Google in the court listed above and that the proposed settlement was $20 million.

So I didn’t see any immediate red flags. When you get a suspicious random check from a settlement – you can call the court where the settlement was awarded, using a number that you know to be legitimate (not one that may be on the check). Or email the court. Ask if the case number you have and the check are real. I also looked up the settlement administrators, a law firm called Gilardi & Co. You can check their legitimacy with the Bar Association of California at (800) 843-9053 and on They currently have a “C” rating, but what I was looking for was to see if anything popped as a scam. It didn’t. The BBB in that area knows where the firm is located and they have answered one complaint.

 And finally, you can always ask your bank for help in determining whether a check is fake.  Note: I received an email from Brett Hanson, the lead plaintiff in this case and spoke with him on the phone. He said this was a very complicated case. It is not a scam. For details, go to

More info or report scams:   Visit the BBB website at Call (509)455-4200 or (800) 356-1007. Or sign up to receive our Scam Alerts at

Holly Doering, BBB Editor


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