COLORADO SPRINGS — Impostor websites selling everything from timeshares to retail and clothing items are using Colorado Springs addresses to try to add legitimacy to their schemes. News 5 takes a deep dive into what's happening and why it's worth doing some extra research into online companies that claim they're based in Colorado Springs.
Telling you their impostor websites and bogus companies are based in the heart of town is a tactic fraudsters continue to use to build trust with unsuspecting consumers here at home and across the country.
Back in 2019 we learned through a News 5 investigation several timeshare companies were investigated by the state and labeled fraudulent while they were using virtual offices in Colorado Springs.
"Psychologically, you look at this office and it's a beautiful legitimate looking office right? I think that's what's really hard is even if people do a google image search and see this looks credible, but what consumers don't understand is that the person who is behind the fraud isn't here. They are not in that building," said CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba while standing in the middle of a Colorado Springs downtown street.
As the city continues to grow fraudsters still find it appealing to be able to use virtual offices and mailboxes at mailing centers to advertise that they are located here.
"What's interesting too is this address right here, the chamber of commerce is here. So, it's very ironic that right in this location you have businesses that are trying to be successful and by the same token you have scammers operating right in the foundation trying to infiltrate the system," said Skiba.
There are legitimate businesses at these addresses, but if a company uses one of these popular addresses the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado says consumers may want to do some extra research on who they're dealing with.
In downtown Colorado Springs 121 S. Tejon Suite 900 is an address listed by 441 businesses right now. Right across the street at 102 S. Tejon there are 137 companies using this address.
In other parts of town, 90 businesses are using 6547 North Academy. It's a mailing center near Dublin. Near Research and Voyager, 72 companies claim 1755 Telstar Drive is their address.
BBB investigators say the fraudsters will change company names multiple times to avoid detection and will also try to make it look like they've been here a long time.
"When a company resurrects a name of a company that was filed with the state in the 90s it makes them look credible. You can do a search and it appears this company has been around since 1997 and if a company has been around since 1997 it's probably legitimate. That's what people think," said Paul Myers-Bennett of the BBB of Southern Colorado.
Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to help you avoid virtual office scams:
- Take time to research a company more before giving them money
- Errors on the website could be red flags
- Verify information about the business location
Remember, not every company that uses a virtual office is a scammer, but being able to sniff out the crooks will save you money and headaches in the long run.
If you have questions about a company you are dealing with you can contact us here at News 5:
Also, the consumer protection experts at the BBB of Southern Colorado are happy to help.