‘Running’ business ran away with Hawaii residents’ money

It’s a race that never happened — that’s according to people who say they bought tickets to a so-called “Birthday Run.”

The company advertises itself as a traveling combination 5K race and music festival, touting events in over 125 cities and 12 countries.

We learned the company advertised two races in Hawaii this past weekend — one on Oahu on September 10 and another on Maui on September 11.

Advertised as the “world’s biggest birthday celebration,” the event promised customers it is “like nothing you’ve experienced.” For Ewa Beach resident Mona Romanick, it literally was nothing.

“They did such a good job of scamming us,” she said. “You waste several hours and lose hope throughout the night. I’m surprised and shocked that it’s something people are getting away with.”

The Hawaii events were advertised online and people spent about $50 for a ticket.

Romanick signed up for the run that was supposed to be held along Olai Street in Kapolei, an industrial part of town. But on the day of the race, she said she couldn’t find it.

“When you go to an event like this, you normally have streets closed down, big signs, lights, it’s easy to find. It’s not something you have to dig into,” she explained.

“I ran around the city up and down, I went to police, I did everything. We became friends with other people in the search for this race.”

We learned that the website had taken down its listing of Hawaii events, but there are still several other cities being advertised on the site. We tried calling the phone numbers listed on the website, but we were sent straight to voicemail.

We alerted the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii about the Utah-based company. It did some digging and noticed some red flags about it.

“You look at the website, it’s glitzy and professional-looking, but you can’t get a hold of anyone,” bureau president Greg Dunn said. “The email address bounces back. The phone number is disconnected, the other one goes to voice mail. It’s not really clear if the races were actually held or not.

“You look at the sponsors listed on the page, they’re fake. The sponsors don’t exist,” he added. “It really leads one to question whether or not this is a legitimate business, or if it’s a front to scam people out of their money.”

When the BBB reached out to the company, it learned the address on the website belonged to a different company that knew nothing about the “birthday run.”

“Given all that information, we’ve made a designation this is pretty much an illegitimate company,” said the bureau’s director of marketing Jason Kama. “It’s not real. it’s not a real event.”

Still, the website advertised that the next “birthday run” will be held in Portland, Oregon, this weekend. We reached out to the city’s Bureau of Transportation and learned it did not have any requests for permits for such an event.

Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii is spreading the word to other bureaus across the country.

“We copied down all the lists of cities and dates and sent them out to our network,” Kama said. “What’s happening right now is everybody in their separate bureaus is getting the word out about the event. The payment processors are being shut down.”

A third party website that sold tickets to the event stated that any ticket purchasers could get a full refund through them.

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