HAMBURG, N.Y. — It's prudent to be suspicious anytime you're asked to provide your personal information, like your Social Security number. Cindi Olejniczak of Hamburg got a letter in the mail, along with a $595 check, saying she was part of a class-action lawsuit against Dish Network. She's never even been a Dish customer.
"I was just very leery of it," she said.
She then read that she would be given thousands of dollars in additional money if she would fill out a form, including her Social Security number. She almost tossed it out, thinking it was a scam, but she decided to double check.
"We always watch Channel 2, and there you were on the screen saying, 'Want me to VERIFY anything?' and that's where I went," Cindi said.
Is the Dish Network lawsuit real, and do people owed money have to provide their Social Security numbers to get the full amount?
The lawsuit against Dish Network is real. VERIFY found the case through PACER, which gives access to documents and cases filed in the federal court system.
A jury found Dish guilty of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by making more than 50,000 illegal robocalls to more than 18,000 people who were on the National Do Not Call Registry.
The judge actually tripled the amount of damages imposed on the company, and after attorneys fees and other costs, it worked out to $812.99 per illegal call awarded to the class members.
In Cindi's case, records showed Dish was responsible for 5 illegal calls made to her home. So why would she get a $595 check?
Kurtzman Carson Consulting (KCC), the company processing the claims in this case, told VERIFY that any payout above $600 requires the recipient to file a W-9 form with the IRS.
"The Court ordered all class members to submit W-9s before receiving their full claim amount, so that we can provide the IRS with proper reporting down the road," a KCC spokesperson told VERIFY.
KCC also explains this on an FAQ website set up for class members.
VERIFY also went directly to the paperwork filed in federal court. In her Final Disbursement Order, which you can view here, Judge Catherine Eagles said a class member would get the balance of the award "if the class member submits a signed Form W-9 to KCC within 90 days" of getting the initial check for $595.
So we can VERIFY, Cindi did have to fill out the form enclosed with the $595 check and provide her Social Security number in order to get the full amount she was owed as part of the lawsuit.
"I was floored," Cindi said. "I couldn't believe it, because I thought you were going to send me a note back saying you were right, it's a scam."
Melanie McGovern with the Better Business Bureau said people are right to be skeptical anytime they're asked for their Social Security number. If you're unsure if something is legit or a scam, she said you can always call the BBB.
"That's the best part of our organization is that we have local people answering the phone, and they're willing to help look anything up for people, especially a lot of the people who call us are elderly who might not have access to a computer," McGovern said.
Cindi cashed the $595 check, filled out the W-9 form and is now waiting on an additional $3,469.95. She almost missed out on all of it.
"How many people just ran it through the shredder," Cindi asked. "That's probably most likely what I would have done."
Instead, she feels like she hit the jackpot.
"It's like going to the casino and not having to spend no money," she said. "With you VERIFYING it and helping me through this, I'm just so happy. Thank you so much."
People like Cindi have until October -- 90 days after the initial check was mailed -- to provide the information for the W-9 form. Otherwise, they could miss out on thousands of dollars in cash.
The PDF supplied by the court includes the names and addresses of the 18,000+ class members, along with their addresses and how many illegal robocalls they received, which is used to calculate the award amount.
Unfortunately, the document -- which can be viewed by clicking here -- is not searchable. 2 On Your Side examined 40 of the more than 500 pages of exhibits with names listed and found a half dozen other Western New Yorkers, besides Cindi, who are owed money.