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Don't throw that check away

If you received a check for $94.32 in the mail, it’s not a scam, so cash it as soon as possible.

Last year, a similar check went out, but 27% of those who received it didn’t cash it before the expiration date because many thought it was a scam.

The new check is going out to almost 2 million Oregonians who bought gas with a debit card at ARCO from Jan. 1, 2011, to Aug. 30, 2013. Last year the first round of checks were distributed as part of a lawsuit settlement with BP West Coast Products LLC, which owns the ARCO stations.

The final batch of checks started being sent out July 20 and has already arrived in many mailboxes throughout Oregon and will continue to be sent out through August. It will take 17 days to mail out all the checks.

“We always encourage Oregonians to be on the lookout for scams and to know the signs that something could be a scam,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “But, in this case, the checks are real, and we want Oregonians to know they are safe to cash this check at the bank.”

To assure Oregonians that the settlement checks are valid, a public awareness campaign and website have been launched at ThisCheckIsReal.org and in Spanish at EsteChequeEsReal.org.

Both the Oregon Department of Justice and the Oregon Consumer Justice organization, created as a result of this lawsuit, are part of this campaign.

David Sugerman, one of the lead lawyers who worked on the case, said his Portland office didn’t want to release too much information about what the checks look like to prevent forgery.

He said if you receive a check in the mail for $94.52 and it references the settlement, you should be confident it is not a forgery.

Also, the bank should be able to confirm the check is legitimate, he said in an email response.

Over the past year, the Mail Tribune has fielded many calls from people wondering if the check is valid. One frequently asked question is what to do with a family member who received a check but has died.

Sugerman said if a check arrives for a family member who died, a new check can be issued by writing to: Scharfstein v. BP West Coast Products LLC, P.O. Box 3266, Portland, OR 97208-3266. Include your full name, the full name printed on the check, current address, and any previous addresses that are known. Also include, if available, a copy of documentation such as: class member’s death certificate, trust or estate document, and/or power of attorney. If one of these documents is not available, submit a brief explanation with your request.

Sugerman said some Oregonians may have received more than $94.92 in the earlier round of checks, particularly if you switched banks or had two debit cards issued in 2011 to 2013.

If you still have questions about the checks, Sugerman said you could call his office at 503-228-6474 but cautioned that high call volume levels could mean long wait times.

Henry Kantor, board chair of Oregon Consumer Justice, said those who receive the check but don’t have the ability to cash can go to various locations around the state that are listed on ThisCheckisReal.org and EsteChequeEsReal.org.

To cash the check at these locations, bring a valid government-issued photo identification, and the name on the check must match the identification.

“Especially in this time of community need, $94.42 can go a long way,” Kantor said.

The suit was brought against ARCO’s owner BP West Coast Products, on behalf of people who used a debit card to buy gas at Oregon ARCO and am/pm gas stations between January 1, 2011, and August 30, 2013.

In 2014, the jury and the court found those debit card users were illegally charged a $0.35 debit card fee in violation of Oregon regulations and the Oregon Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The jury verdict resulted in an award of damages of $409 million.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

20861068 - a check with the words your money arrives in your mailbox as payment