Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category

Update on the Macular Degeneration Association

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Canceling my previous recommendation for

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

I recently recommended a flash charger for cell phones and other devices, being sold by for a great price.

I stand by recommendation of that particular product, but I find it necessary to withdraw my recommendation for

They strongly encourage their customers to recommend their site and products to friends and relatives, and they give customers a $10 credit for each referral that results in at least one purchase. However, they don’t mention anywhere in the various screens urging people to refer others to their site, or in the emails that get sent out whenever a referral credit is generated, that these credits expire after 48 hours. Other credits they give occasionally display the expiration date prominently, which suggests that the concealing of expiration times for referral credits is intentional.

Their inventory doesn’t change often enough for anybody but a shopaholic to be likely to want to buy something from their site within 48 hours of every referral credit. Therefore, their business model for finding new customers is apparently predicated on (a) actively concealing how long referral credits are good for and (b) not actually paying out most of the referral credits that are generated, since they expire before they can be used.

This is an incredibly shady and dishonest business practice which borders on fraud. I don’t do business with companies that do stuff like this, and I discourage others from doing so.

Honda Village fires us as a customer

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Phone phishing scam of the day

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I got a call on my cell phone at about 2:20pm (US/Eastern) today whose caller ID claimed to be from 406-623-3644 and “Hardin, MT”. Here’s the transcript of the voicemail message that the caller left:

Hey guys this is Sara Ellis here.

Hey we spoke on the phone last week [lie!] about possibly trying to lower your interest rates and reducing your monthly payments on your credit card.

So I wanted to let you know that I did find a solution.

Um we’ve got a program that can lower those interest rates to as low as 1.5% and possibly cut your monthly payments in half.

And since you were only making the minimum payments [lie!] this would be a great opportunity for you.

This will be my last courtesy call so please give me a ring today.

You can reach me here at 1-877-723-1419.

Again, my number is 1-877-723-1419.

If you Google 406-623-3644 or 877-723-1419 you will see that a bunch of people are getting this call. It looks like it may be a new scam that just started up.

I’ve filed complaints with the FCC, the FTC and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.

Beware of unsolicited calls about consolidating credit card debt! At best, it’s a slimy debt consolidation service looking to charge you ridiculous fees for their service. At worst, it’s criminals looking to get their hands on your credit card numbers so they can then use them to make fraudulent purchases.


NJ govt: Our job is to enforce red tape, not investigate criminals

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

I sent a detailed complaint letter to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office about a company doing business in their state which, it seems clear, is knowingly committing fraud against consumers on an ongoing basis.

My letter contained all of the information that the AG’s office could possibly need to investigate the company in question.

They apparently forwarded my complaint to the Department of Consumer Affairs of Ocean County, New Jersey. Hey, Attorney General Paula Dow, it’s nice to see you passing the buck instead of doing your job and investigating large-scale fraud!

The Ocean County DCA sent me a form letter and a complaint form to fill out and send back. There isn’t a single piece of information requested on the form which I had not already provided in my letter. The letter said that only after I sent back the form would they “review the information to determine whether we have jurisdiction to process the complaint.”

I called the investigator listed on the form and told him that (a) every question on the form was already answered in my letter; (b) I had already received a refund from the company and had written to them only to encourage them to investigate the company to prevent others from being ripped off; and (c) I had no intention of wasting my time and money sending back their form.

The investigator responded, “We can’t investigate your complaint without a signed form,” to which I responded, “My letter was signed. If you’d rather enforce bureaucratic red tape than investigate criminals, that’s your choice, but I’m all done here,” and hung up.

Hey, Ocean County DCA Director Stephen Scaturro, It’s nice to see that your investigators are so dedicated to preventing consumers from committing the unforgivable sin of notifying you of large-scale fraud without using the proper form! scam artists extraordinaire

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

We were recently in the market for a new dresser for our daughter. After a great deal of research, we settled upon a particular Carolina Cottage dresser. Since we knew exactly which dresser we wanted, we decide to buy it on-line, which wouldn’t cost any more than a brick-and-mortar store, since we’d have to have it delivered in any case, and might cost even less.

After researching online prices for this dresser, we found one site,, with a price significantly lower than all of the others. It turns out that PriceFalls storefronts other merchants as well as selling its own stuff, and this particular deal was actually being offered by Unbeatable Sale, a.k.a., Bon’Cui,, ComfortMarket,,, ToolsChest, GreaterMedical,, HalloweenMall,, WeddingPartyMall, and lord only knows what else.

I’ll let the letter I sent earlier today to the Cyber Fraud Unit of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs pick up the story from here… (more…)

Tony Mitchell threatens to sue me over my blog postings

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Executive summary: Tony Mitchell threatened to sue me for exposing his company’s slimy telemarketing practices on my blog. I had to pay a lawyer to defend myself against his threats. See below for his letter and the one my lawyer sent in response. If you hate slimy telemarketers and opponents of free speech as much as I do, please consider clicking the “Donate” button to the right and kicking in a few bucks toward my legal defense. (Note: The previous sentence will be removed if/when I’ve recouped my legal expenses.)

I have written before about Mitchell Communications Group, a.k.a. Faithful Marketing, a.k.a. Vandell Communications, all different names for the same telemarketing firm owned and operated by one Tony Mitchell. Hereafter I will refer to them as “Vandell”, since that’s the name they’re using as I write this.

I won’t rehash here everything I’ve written about Vandell, but here are the high points:

  • Vandell’s one and only line of business appears to be calling people on the phone, telling them that they’ve won a fabulous prize, and convincing them to attend a 90-minute sales pitch for a vacation club / timeshare rental club / whatever to claim it.
  • Vandell claims that they only call people who have entered contests, but there are many testimonials on my blog and all over the internet from people who say they entered no contests and yet were called anyway.
  • Vandell claims in their scripted sales pitch that they are not a telemarketing company, and yet they describe themselves as a marketing company on their web site, and their main business is making telephone calls; if they’re not a “telemarketing company,” then I don’t know what is.
  • In a misguided effort to respond to the material I’ve posted about them, Vandell has posted numerous forged comments on my blog, including one comment purporting to be from a police officer.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Vandell has decided that the best way to silence their critics is to threaten lawsuits against any web site which criticizes them. Such sites are easy to find by searching for “Vandell Communications” or “Mitchell Communications”, or searching for the caller ID of the number from which they call you.

I’m an easy target for such chicanery, since I blog under my own name and my contact information is readily available. A couple of months ago, I received the following letter. (more…)

Bye Bye, Citizens Bank

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Last July, when we were preparing for our trip to Israel, I called Citizens Bank and asked this simple question: “What is the least expensive way for me to get Israeli sheqels out of my Citizens Bank checking account?”

In response, the customer service representative told me the following:

  • The fee for withdrawing currency from an ATM in Israel is 2%.
  • The fee for exchanging currency at a bank branch is waived because I am a “Citizens Gold” customer, so this is cheaper than using an ATM in Israel.

Unfortunately all of this is incorrect:

  • The fee for withdrawing currency from an ATM in Israel is actually 3%, not 2%.
  • While the “exchange fee” is indeed waived for Citizens Gold customers, the bank charges a hidden fee by marking up the exchange rate by around 10%, so in fact exchanging currency at a bank branch costs 7% more, and is thus 233% more expensive, than using an ATM.


An open letter to Tony Mitchell

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

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!

Dear Mr. Mitchell,

A few months ago, I posted a voicemail message my wife and I received from your company about a prize we had supposedly won from a contest we had supposedly entered.

Since then, over 100 other people have commented here (and more have posted elsewhere) that they’ve received the same call. The facts and experiences posted by myself and others make it clear that these calls are a scam.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it’s true that anyone who follows your instructions will receive a prize as as you promise. Unfortunately, that that’s just about all that’s true; most everything else you tell people is a lie. That’s why what you are doing is a scam. That’s why I posted about it on my blog. And that’s why I’m posting about it again — because you continue to lie and deceive people while falsely professing your innocence.

In a recent comment on my blog, you said, “I dont [sic] not [sic] understand why the individual has made such a blog and if there is any support or evidence to this being fradulent [sic] I [sic] would like to be informed or just an explaination [sic] of why he has chosen to attempt to cybersmear my creditibility [sic].”


Scam call from “Mitchell Communications” / “Faithful Marketing” / “Vandell Communications”

Friday, August 6th, 2010

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.”