Review – Payne Richards & Associates Refund Scam

Payne Richards & Associates ( is but one of a plethora of operations engaging in the recovery of unclaimed funds. What these people (shamelessly calling themselves “a firm of licensed private investigators”) do, is they scour various publicly available databases to “discover” funds people have failed to claim. They then alert the said people about the existence of these funds and offer to recover the monies, in exchange for a 10% commission.

While the above described MO is not exactly a full-blown scam, it has to be noted that PIs, such as PRClaims, mislead these people, never letting on that they could in fact recover those monies for free, with minimal effort, themselves. They pose as the sole entity capable of accessing the said funds, and thus they abuse the gullibility of their victims.

The worst thing about it all is that since such smooth operators never do anything illegal, they cannot even really be grassed up to the authorities. PRClaims for instance, have been in business since 2002 (according to their BBB profile page) and they are still going strong.

Despite the fact that several high-profile media outlets have discussed the issue and have attempted to raise awareness over the years, people still seem largely unaware of the swindle they most often readily agree to and are even thankful for, when all is said and done.

The website features a number of hand-written “Thank You” letters, which one is tempted to regard at first glance as cheap forgeries, often used by the perpetrators of various scams. The saddest thing is though that these letters are quite probably genuine. Considering the way PRClaims serves up the deal to its victims, it is hardly surprising that people are more than willing to part with a couple hundred bucks to recover a couple thousand.

The key person of interest behind the PRClaims operation is a certain Mr. Paul R. Hashim, who has been involved with several such companies over the years, among them one called US Claims Services (, which at one point was the focus of an investigative article from the LA Times. The column discusses the pitch used by the Mr. Hashim and his crew, as well as the various misleading claims they pile onto their victims to convince them to cooperate. While some may indeed argue that the services provided by the likes of PRClaims are – to a certain degree – legitimate, there’s little doubt they are in fact based on deception.

How do you recognize an unclaimed money scam?

While PRClaims is a relatively neutral name from the perspective of trust-building, Mr. Hashim’s other operation, US Claims Services, played a much more aggressive game in this regard. Trying to pass itself off as some type of authority, the “agency” sought to establish a positive rapport with its would-be clients/victims from the get-go. It also claimed a regulatory profile that simply did not exist. PRClaims is obviously doing the same, claiming that it is licensed by the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services, among other authorities, but it is unclear if this is indeed the case. It may well be though, since Mr. Hashim and his crew have been busted making false claims in this regard in the past, so they may have indeed put in the extra effort to make things right and less exposed to scrutiny on this front.

The letter/email sent out to the unclaimed money scam victims usually talks about a third party escrow. This is where things become somewhat hilarious. These third-party escrow accounts are usually the state controllers, who feature easy-to-access online databases, and who are more than glad to return the funds to their rightful owners, free of charge. What you need to do – if you ever receive a letter/email from an operation like PRClaims – is to access the site of your state’s controller, check whether you do indeed have unclaimed money registered, and then make your claim directly with them. You’ll thank yourself for the money you’ll save this way, especially if you’re dealing with a significant sum.

The dangers of dealing with operators such as

Based on the above, one would say that the worst-case scenario when dealing with a “scammer” of PRClaim’s ilk, would imply paying an unnecessary 10% fee on the recovery. The money would still be recovered though, right? Not necessarily.

According to the above-linked BBB profile of PRClaims, some people got treated way worse than that. One person for instance, committed the mistake of replying to PRClaims’ initial message, and handing them his personal information. The “agency” was then quick to slap him with a number of bills, while completely forgetting about taking care of the actual recovery. Eventually, the victim was forced to pay the said bills and to re-initiate the recovery process from scratch, through the proper channels.

Other complaints detail proposals that included the above said 10% for a service that ended up costing the person who posted the complaint, about 5 minutes of time spent online.

How should you proceed if you do indeed receive a letter from an unclaimed money recovery agency?

Do not reply to the message, and do not give them your personal information under any circumstances. What most people do is they check with their local state controller, to see if there is indeed substance to the claim. If they are indeed owed unclaimed money, they can simply go about recovery on their own, directly contacting the state controller. Cutting out the middle-man is the way to go, and that is indeed what you too should do.

Payne Richards & Associates Refund Scam: The bottom line

If you know how to handle the situation, a letter from a PRClaims-like agency may even work out in your favor. Again: what these people do is not illegal and it is not what one would call a hands-down scam either. It is based on deception though and as such, it does not happen in good faith.

14 thoughts on “ Review – Payne Richards & Associates Refund Scam”

  1. Rippin' Robert O'Riordan

    About halfway through your article, I, too, contacted my state’s Unclaimed Property Division. No 10% finder’s fee owed, it all comes to me! THANK YOU!

  2. I signed a PR agreement. PR never requested any bank or SS info, just address, phone and email. PR evidently sent claim request to state comptroller because a week or so later I received claim request from comptroller. I sent info to Comptroller and received full amount from Comptroller. About a week later I rcvd invoice from PR for 10% that I agreed to pay. I think I’ll send them. Cashiers check From my credit union just so PR doesn’t file a claim against the agreement I signed. I the money was from 21 years ago and I probably never woyld have discovered on my own. I wish I would have reseached PR and filed claim on my owe using thier research. Oh well. I have 300 clams i didn’t have before. Hopefully I’m helping pay someone who has and needs that job.

  3. Thank you for the info. I’ve received a missive from Payne Richards, as well and luckily, I called Atmos, who reportedly owes me over a thousand dollars and they said it was a scam. I’m not so sure that’s true on their part, but I’m grateful that I didn’t have to pay someone else for something I can do on my own. If Atmos owes me money, there’s no doubt that I’ll get it on my own. And if I fail, I’ll let you know.

  4. Pamela Richardson

    I wish that I would have done more research before signing the form with Payne Richards. I signed the form not realizing that I could have checked on the Texas Comptrollers website myself. I did not use the forms that Payne Richards sent me, I actually called the state after I signed the form and talked to a friend that told me to call myself. After speaking with the state I used their claim forms and spoke to them directly. I got my check and now Payne Richards wants 10%. I guess that I will have to pay them to avoid any legal actions being taken against me. But they did absolutely nothing to deserve 10%. Shame on me for not doing my own research.

    1. I made the same mistake and am currently stressing if its safe to pay Payne Richards. Did you pay them and that was the end of it? Im concerned about sending any banking info (a check, my debit card numbers, how ever i end up paying) and cant seem to find any information for people who, like us, didn’t do the necessary research.


    Thanks. This saved me the 10% and all other hassles. And I learned about how the comptroller’s program works here in Texas.

  6. Thank you for the info. I just received a letter from these morons. Thanks to you, i went to my state website and i indeed had a decent amount owed to me. it’s like Christmas!! I wasn’t going to send them my ss# anyway’s and after i saw they wanted a finder’s fee i figured if they could find it maybe i could too ( if it exists)…google searched and it sent me straight here. Midway through your article i was already submitting a request form on my state’s site. You are good people

  7. elizabeth yordan


  8. I looked up the company, read some comments and FOLLOWED THE SUGGESTIONS THERE that I check with my State’s Unclaimed Funds dept.

    I did – there my name was, with indication “over $100” due from a school I had indeed done work for.

    It cost me NOTHING to get forms and return along with the same validating documents required by these folks.
    No charge, no nonsense, just full refund.

  9. Joseph John O'Malley

    Scumbags all around us. It’s built into the system. I fell for it too, luckily only a few hundred dollars.
    You’ve done your homework, thanks for the shining light. People should not be afraid to contact their government, they are human just like us and will help you in most cases. Thanks again, but i already sent the paper in, Notarized, and 15% fee ! Must be because of the small amount.:-)

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