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Starbucks sues the unknown maker of fake franchise sales websites

The coffee giant said the apparent scammers used its name and address to lure unsuspecting franchise investors.
Starbucks scammers
Starbucks filed a lawsuit against a group of unidentified scammers who set up fake sites using the company's name. / Photograph: Shutterstock.

No, Starbucks doesn’t franchise. But that didn’t stop apparent scammers from creating a website offering to sell you one.

That, at least, is according to a lawsuit from the Seattle-based coffee giant. The company filed a federal lawsuit last week against 10 “Does,” or unidentified people who created a pair of websites purporting to sell Starbucks franchises or licenses.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants created two websites, using photos from the company, and made them appear official. The websites were starbucksfranchise.com and starbuckslicense.com.

The websites used a photo of Starbucks headquarters, as well as the address, in the contact page. They also got email accounts apparently connected with the website—so info@starbuckslicense.com, for instance.

Starbucks said it received reports from customers, as well as authorized sellers of Starbucks coffee, questioning the sites’ legitimacy, according to the lawsuit. The defendants allegedly made franchise and licensing offers through those sites.

The defendants also allegedly sent samples of license agreements and invoices.

Starbucks said that the apparent scammers registered for the websites using a site called Namecheap.com. But the apparent scammers used the address of Starbucks to register the websites.

Starbucks then subpoenaed Namecheap, which revealed that the company that registered the domain name was called “Foresight Global Consulting.” But the coffee giant said that name, too, is likely fake. Starbucks also said that the registrant used the address of a Krispy Kreme location in North Carolina.

The coffee giant filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization, which gave Starbucks control of the two websites, which have since been taken down.

The scam is not entirely uncommon. A California man, for instance, was sentenced to two years in prison for scamming investors out of $4 million, apparently by selling them the franchise rights to In-N-Out in the Middle East. In-N-Out, like Starbucks, does not franchise. The retailer Uniqlo and the e-commerce company Flipkart have posted warnings about such potential scams.

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