UPDATE [August 30, 2011]: Tony Mitchell has threatened to sue me for criticizing him on my blog. Read all the details here, and please consider chipping in a few bucks to help cover my legal defense. Thanks!
UPDATE [February 7, 2011]: As others have noted, they’re now making calls under a third name, “Vandell Communications”. I can confirm that’s how they’re spelling the name because, for some inexplicable reason, @VandellCom followed me briefly yesterday on Twitter before unfollowing me. D’oh!
UPDATE [November 30, 2010]: If you receive one of these calls, please report it to both the National Do Not Call Registry and the FCC. The latter is more likely to result in action against the caller, but it’s important to file both complaints.
UPDATE [November 7, 2010]: Please see my Open letter to Tony Mitchell, the owner of Mitchell Communication Group, a.k.a., Faithful Marketing.
UPDATE [October 29, 2010]: When this article was first published, on August 6, 2010, they were “Mitchell Communication(s) Group”, but now they’re “Faithful Marketing”. They’ve changed their name, but not their modus operandi. I’ve updated the title to reflect the new name, but I’ve otherwise left the article as originally posted.
Got a scam call today I wanted to let other people know about.
The caller ID was “Gorden Leslie” with the phone number 773-891-5581. Here’s a transcript of the message:
Hi, this is Patrick calling from Mitchell Communications Group. I have made numerous attempts to reach you [lie!] regarding an entry form that was filled out in your name within the last 12 to 18 months to receive a new car. [probable lie!] This will be my final attempt to notify that your name was pulled and you’re going to receive one of our top four major prizes. It would be in your best interest to give me a call back as soon as possible. The number is toll free at 1-877-279-3457 extension 243. We’re not a telemarketing agency [lie!] or a timeshare and this is not a cold call so please do not ignore this message. I’m very aware of the do not call list so I wouldn’t be calling unless you actually entered. [lie!] This is a time sensitive matter I do look forward to hearing from you. Once again congratulations my name is Patrick.
Just for kicks, I called back and was connected to a woman who identified herself as “Rhonda, your prize coordinator.”
She asked for my name and phone number. I told her that it sounded an awful lot like a scam, so to prove she was telling the truth about my filling out a contest entry form, she’d have to give me back my name if I gave her my number. She got all defensive and said it wasn’t her job to “prove” anything to me. Needless to say, this proved that it’s a scam, since a real, legitimate contest wouldn’t hesitate to prove that you’d actually entered. I decided to play along and gave her my name and phone number.
I took notes for the remainder of the call. Here are some highlights that I managed to jot down:
- She said “top three major prizes,” in contrast to “Patrick’s” four major prizes.
- She claimed that I had filled out an entry form at a “mall, sporting event or festival” 12 to 18 months ago and “the contest is now closed” and I’d been selected as a winner.
- She said the three prizes were:
- 1st: 2010 Ford Expedition or $25,000;
- 2nd: fly and stay holiday (she went into lots of detail about this; guess what the prize everybody wins is!); and
- 3rd: 27″ flat-screen television.
- She said my wife and I had to go in person to find out what we’d won and sit through a 90-minute “award celebration and presentation” for the “grand opening of a new travel agency.” She claimed that the name of the travel agency was “GCI Travel”.
- The address she gave for the presentation was 800 South Main Street, Mansfield, Mass.
- No children or guests would be allowed to attend the presentation with us.
- We had to bring two forms of ID — a driver’s license and a major credit card — with us. “These are for identification purposes only and will never leave your hands.”
- She gave us a claim number, MCG534.
- She said we had to agree to let them publicize us if we won the car or we wouldn’t receive it.
- She claimed that I’d indicated on the entry form that I was married, over a certain age (I think it was 25 but don’t remember for certain) and make $60,000 per year. She said we would have to fill out another survey at the prize event and if the information didn’t match we wouldn’t receive the prize.
- She tried very hard to convince us that this wasn’t a scam. She said the point of the contest was to make us feel good about this travel agency so that maybe we’d give them our business later, although there was of course no obligation. The phrases “you don’t have to buy, sign or join anything,”, “nothing to be skeptical about,” “we’re not here to waste your time,” “just trying to show you guys a nice time,” and “no trick no hoax no scam” were all used.
- She said she was going to fax or email us a letter with confirmation of all this information and we would have to sign and bring it back with us.
- She said we could go to pick up our prize tomorrow (yes, tomorrow!).
- When I told her my wife was out of the country for the next several weeks, she first asked if there was another married couple that could attend and claim the prize on our behalf, and then asked if my wife could fly back into town for the day to claim the prize and then fly back to wherever she was (really!). She said that once the Ford Expedition was won, the prize drawings would be over.
- When I told her that no, neither of those was really an option, she gave me her phone number (877-249-6405 ext. 126) and told me to call her back when my wife was back in town. She said she wasn’t going to send us the confirmation letter until then. It’s a shame; I really wanted to see it just for kicks (and to get more information about the scam).
Interesting fact: According to Google maps, one of the companies that does business at that address is “Premium Destinations Northeast.” Hmm.
I can’t find anything definitive on-line about a travel agency named “GCI Travel”. But I think in fact they’re a timeshare company.
I filed a complaint with donotcall.gov and the FCC (both are important). I’m pretty sure this is a timeshare scam, and I’m also pretty sure their phone call to me was a violation of the do-not-call law.