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Those funny blood-sucking scammers

Since almost becoming a victim of one, I’ve gotten very interested in web scammers.  These are people who put up websites whose secondary purpose is plugging dubious products, and whose main purpose is fraud and theft.

I started posting about web scams in my regular blog; the topic became so engrossing (to me, anyway) that it was a distraction from what I usually write about.  So I’m shifting web scamming to its own blog, and this is it!

Why?

Entertainment: The earnest fantasies that web scammers spin are hilarious.  And their devious machinations show lots of talent and effort, making me wonder why they don’t just get jobs.  Laughing at them throws sunlight on them, drying up their slimy schemes.

Someone has to do it: The Better Business Bureau is mired in the 20th century.  Credit card issuers eat reversed charges, having learned the futility of pursuing nomadic and offshore operations.  The feds have bigger fish to fry.  And Amazon has lulled consumers into supposing that all web stores are honest, reliable businesses.  A few bloggers are doing what they can to warn people.  And that may be the most we can realistically accomplish.

I hope you’ll enjoy and benefit from this blog.  Please reply with your experiences, corrections and ideas.

Call to action

  • If you have a blog or a web page, it would be a public service if you would include links to posts I’ve made.  Together we can “google-bomb” the scammers by positioning honest information higher in Google search results than their fake reviews.
  • Send me a link to your blog about scamming, and I’ll include it here.
  • If you bought something from a scammer and you don’t want it, give that purchase some purpose.  Send it to me!  I’ll review it (but I’m not promising to test stuff that’s too sketchy or scary) and write about it to warn others.

8/31/16 Update:  When I set up this blog, I copied over my posts about the LUX HD450 phone lens scam and removed the links to the scam site.  And I wrote additional posts without scam site links.  Since then I’ve noticed that the same posts with scam site links get 40 times the readership as posts without links.  I’m guessing that this reflects something Google is doing to prioritize search results.  To reach and warn more people, I’m going to add links to scam sites.  I’ll color them red; click at your peril!

Sucked in by Secret Serums

I was given a free offer as a reward of 2 skin serums: My Instant Line Filler, My Secret Anti-Aging Treatment  There was no cost at all, except for shipping/handling.  Today, 7/15/17, I have a pending amount in my account for $79.99 and I have no idea what it’s about. …

The quote above is from RipoffReport.com.  It’s typical of many complaints about Secret Serums from unwary and inattentive online shoppers.  If you order “free trial” samples, they will enroll you in their autoship service and start billing you monthly.

This isn’t a good deal.  But after a careful reading of the web site I saw no deception involved.  Secret Serums explains exactly what they’re going to do in plain sight, several times.  To make an order, you even have to check a box showing that you read and agree to the terms.  All the same, a lot of people fall into their trap.

On July 15, 2017, let’s get under the skin of SecretSerums.com .  Contact information (also see “Suspicious Location” below):

Phone: 1 (800) 474-8947
Email: customerservice@secretserums.com

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: +1.  A lot of stretchers, but I don’t see anything ridiculous claimed here.

Suspicious location: -1.  I can’t find “41 Canal Street, Lewiston, ME 04240” with Google Maps.  It looks like Lewiston follows the convention of putting odd house-numbers on the west side of a north-south street.  And the west side of Canal Street is a canal.  Google Maps shows a tree at this location as Accessories Unlimited, Inc.  hq

Despite the lack of a building, a lot of dubious-looking businesses use this address:

  • Natural Health Network
  • Great Lakes Fulfillment Services
  • Allen Manufacturing Inc.
  • Veloura International
  • Bella Genix
  • Bio Geniste
  • AU Essentials
  • NitroMxs
  • Fancy Stitchers
  • Outsource Works
  • HTRush
  • NewVega Lash
  • Maine Wool and Design Corp.
  • ZQuiet Professional

Onerous terms: -1

  • Your “free trial” begins on the day you place your ordernot on the day you receive it.
  • It ends on the 14th day; you must call by this day to cancel your subscription.  The 15th day seems pointless, but in effect it acts as a trap for people who put off canceling until what they think is the last day.
  • At the end of your “free trial” Secret Serums will charge you $85 for each of your “free” samples.  Then they will start sending and charging you for serums every month.
  • Although they advertise a “Good to the last drop guarantee,” you can only return products if they are unopened.  You can’t return your “free trial” sample at all.
  • SecretSerums won’t refund the shipping and processing portion of your payment.

Ads, spam, robocalls: -1

  • They’ll beam ads at you and spam you.  You can unsubscribe from particular mailing lists.
  • They’ll share your data with associated companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their business, your data is part of the deal.

Lying and deception: +1. None found, despite many complaints about unauthorized charges.  The free trial selection page includes a summary of the autoship-related Terms and Conditions; the order form page explains the autoship subscription policy two more times.

Obfuscation: +1.  None found.

Phony reviews: -1.  True, but to get to the shills you’ll have to scroll past numerous warnings to stay away from this company.  I particularly enjoyed Health and Beauty Care – Expert Reviews, which advises “This way it offers you hydrated and healthy skin that no doubt would turn heads, making you feel special.

Crummy product: 0.  I don’t know how to evaluate these products.  Keep in mind that a scam can involve a good product.

Overpriced: 0.  Secret Serums asks $85 for an ounce of line filler.  Amazon offers Secret Serums line filler for $80/ounce.  Amazon also offers Revlon line filler for $9 for .41 ounce.  That’s $22 per ounce; 74% less than Secret Serums line filler.  I don’t know how to compare the products, but the Secret Serums prices seem out of line.

75% discount: +1.  False.


Total score; 0

Unauthorized charges:  I’m turning on the CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT red light, altho I think most of the trouble is due to buyer confusion (which works in Secret Serum’s favor).  Secret Serums doesn’t accept PayPal.


Conclusion: If you’d like to play their game and try to score a free sample, be careful and quick like a mouse stealing cheese out of a trap.  Otherwise, buy it on Amazon.

 

 

Shipwrecked by Siren Song (Siren Saver) Alarm

If a woman runs into a store for protection from a mugger, and the store owner robs her, it’s front page news.

If 30,000* women send for a gadget for protection, and the seller robs them all, that’s still front page news — on this little blog.

*Siren Saver advertises that they’ve sold this many sirens.  On July 11, 2017, let’s look at Siren Song Alarm from SirenSaver.Com.  Contact information (see “suspicious location” below):

1-877-235-9173
Email: support@sirensaver.com

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: -1

  • Luckily for me I remembered I had my Siren Saver alarm on my purse, and since I was too scared to scream for help, I quickly reached for the alarm and pulled the pin.
  • Quickly becoming one of the most sought after safety devices in America.
  • UPDATE: Due to increased social media attention, we’re currently almost sold out, so please hurry and get yours before they’re gone!

Suspicious location: -1.  7514 Girard Ave Ste #1-175, La Jolla, CA 92037, United States.  I couldn’t find this address with Google Maps.  I see a furniture store at 7509 and a dry cleaner at 7521.

Onerous terms: -1

  •  ***ALL SALES ARE FINAL***
  • ALL refunds or warranty replacements will be subject to a 30% restocking fee.
  • If you reverse their charge on your credit card, that’s “Theft.”
  • They don’t guarantee that the siren is fit for any use, nor that anything they say is true.
  • They disavow any guarantees not specified in the Terms Of Service, which contain no guarantees.  This term seems to wipe out their advertised “Satisfaction Guarantee.”

Ads, spam, robocalls: -1

  • They’ll beam ads at you, spam, phone and text you; you can only partially unsubscribe.
  • They’ll share your data with other companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their company, your data is part of the deal.

Lying and deception: -1.  expertShill People Lifestyle, a.k.a. NationalSafetyBlog, which advertises on Facebook, manufactured an expert reviewer out of clip art.  At the bottom of the page a disclaimer admits the whole thing is fiction.  If they lie, and then mutter “That was a lie,” I’m dinging them for lying anyway.

Obfuscation: +1.  None found.

Phony reviews: -1.  The scam site drips with testimonials by made-up people.  Clicking on them just leads me to the order form, which has even more testimonials by made-up people.  The more credibility props you see, the more you should suspect they’re needed.

Crummy product: -1 From Amazon: “Don’t waste your money. This would not draw anyone’s attention you could scream louder.”  “This came with no instructions so had to figure out how to put it together. Not as loud as I thought it would be and the key ring fell apart so I had to replace it.

Overpriced: +1.  False; the $20 price is in the middle of the pack of personal sirens I looked at on Amazon.

75% discount: +1.  False.


Total score; -4

Unauthorized charges: CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT.  I found many complaints of more products sold than ordered, more money charged than advertised, and continuing unauthorized charges.

  • From #ReportScam: They did not work as advertised and I have been trying to return them, but they will not give me an adress to return them and will not refund. Now I find an additional charge in March for 19.97 plus a foreign transaction fee? I have reported to my bank’s fraud division.
  • From Ripoff Report: “I bought three Siren Song alarms and nothing more. Just received and e-mail, that went to my junk/spam folder notifying me that I have been charged $8.95 for a “VIP Membership” which would be a recurring monthly fee! Low and behold it showed up in my bank as a pending charge. I DID NOT consent to this or give anybody permission to use my card for anything other than the purchase.
  • The Better Business Bureau rates Siren Saver “F” with 18 negative reviews.  “I bought a 2 siren song and they charged me 3 different times once 39.70 and the second time for 4.95 and then 59.95 I called them they told me it was for a subscription fee but refused to tell what the subscription was for …

SirenSaver.com doesn’t accept PayPal, which isn’t too surprising.


Conclusion: Just scream.

Bill Marriott, please stop the robocalls

Are you troubled by daily robocalls from “Elizabeth”?  Then join me in letting Marriott’s megaboss know how you feel.

July 4, 2017
Mr. Bill Marriott
Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board
Marriott International, Inc.
10400 Fernwood Road
Bethesda, Maryland 20817-1102

Dear Mr. Marriott,

“Hello, my name is Elizabeth …”. Like the movie “Groundhog Day” I get a phone call from Marriott every single day that begins with these words.

Elizabeth is a robot. She says she is in the Resort Rewards Center, and she wants me to book a stay in a Marriott hotel. I’ve tried telling her not to call me any more; it doesn’t work. I’ve tried blocking her number; she spoofs a different number every time, so this doesn’t work. I’ve tried not answering calls from cities other than Seattle; but now she pretends she has a Seattle number, so this doesn’t work.

So now I’m going to try writing to you. Think of the harm this relentless, low-class, aggravating sales campaign is doing to Marriott’s reputation. Imagine the chances that I will ever stay in one of your hotels again. Please have mercy and stop the robocalls.

Sincerely yours,

Puzzled by FIXD car health monitor

Bought this for my mom for help with car problems since my father passed away,” writes Austin J. of Pensacola FL, who is not an actual person.

On July 4, 2017 (yes, the smoke is rolling in my window as I write) let’s plug the Scam-O-Meter into FIXD and see what’s going on.  Contact information:

FIXD Automotive
75 5th St NW, Suite 380
Atlanta, Georgia US 30308
support@fixdapp.com
phone: 404 458 7936

There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: +1.  None found.

Suspicious location: +1.  False; 75 5th St NW, Suite 380, Atlanta, Georgia US 30308 is a real building.  Other uses of the address that I found were legitimate businesses.hq

Onerous terms: 0.  Their terms are better than many, so I’m cutting them some slack.  However,

  • You have 30 days from the date of your order — not the date you received the monitor — to return your monitor for a refund.
  • They’ll deduct the cost of shipping the monitor to you from your refund.
  • They don’t guarantee that anything they say is true.

Ads, spam, robocalls: +1.  You can opt-in to receive emailed advertising; you can unsubscribe.

Lying and deception: +1.  None found.

Obfuscation: -1

  • Count-down timer to rush you into a hasty decision.
  • The page is continually overlaid by notices that people in other locations are buying monitors.  Maybe they’ll run out of them?

Phony reviews: -1

  • BetterLifeAdvocate gives a fawning review with testimonials by a mix of real and made-up people and graphical links to FIXD; looks like a shill.
  • On-site testimonials by made-up people whose pictures are clip-art.  The one whose father passed away has quite a career as a reviewer.shill

Crummy product: 0.  I can’t tell.  It earned only 2.7 stars among Amazon buyers, with a fairly even split between people who loved and hated it.  “Tech support very slow and vague. App now crashes every time I try to connect. Unfortunately I think this company is going out of business – i’d recommend spending your money elsewhere. Total waste of time and money and failed to work when I actually needed it.

Overpriced: 0.  I can’t tell.  FIXD is asking $60 on their own site, vs. $79 on Amazon.  Amazon offers other car monitors for $18 and up.  These products are too technical to easily compare.

75% discount: +1.  False.


Total score; +3.

Unauthorized charges: I found no reports of this.  But there have been service problems.

  • One person complained on Ripoff Report about a confused response by FIXD to his cancellation request.
  • The Better Business Bureau rates FIXD “F” due to failure to respond to complaints, even tho the complaints they listed had responses.  Common issues are delivery delays and slow, confused responses to requests for cancellations and refunds.
  • FIXD accepts PayPal.

Conclusion: It looks to me like this is a legitimate business that’s overwhelmed.  (The obfuscation and phony reviews are troubling, though.)

Battered by Battle tactical flashlights

Only at Battle Flashlights can you order one item, and get sold and charged for two!

Battle Flashlights
501 W Broadway, Ste A304
San Diego, CA 92101, United States
Phone: 1-855-454-6186
Email: support@battleflashlights.com

June 24, 2017: There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: -1.  Kudos to whoever wrote this copy for making an 800 to 1,000-lumen flashlight sound like a nuclear weapon.

  • Some users are afraid it will be regulated and sales of this item will be outlawed for civilian use.
  • “Paralysis strobe” technology.

Suspicious location: -1.  501 W Broadway, Ste A304, San Diego, CA 92101 is a mailbox. po

Onerous terms: -1

  • They’ll charge a 30% restocking fee on returns for refund or replacement.
  • They don’t guarantee that the flashlight is fit for any use; nor that anything they say is true.
  • You can’t sue them, join a class action that’s suing them, or join a group arbitration. If you somehow end up in court with them anyway, it has to be a court in San Diego, CA.

Ads, spam, robocalls: -1.

  • They’ll beam ads at you, spam, junk-mail, telephone and text you.  You can only partially opt out.
  • they’ll share your data with other companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their company, your data is part of the deal.

Lying and deception: -1.

  • 200 times more powerful than a camera flash?  Battle Flashlight; 800-1,000 lumens.  Camera flash onto 1 square meter; 1.4 million lumens.
  • What’s included with your purchase?
    • 1x BATTLE FLASHLIGHTS flashlight – 800-1000 Lumens – 2000X Zoom
    • 1x Rechargeable Lithium Battery*
    • 1x Lightning Fast Wall-Charger*
    • 1x Lightning Fast Car-Charger*
    • 1x Luxurious Protective Case
    • 100% Rush Shipping NationWide!

A few paragraphs away, I found: * These items are optional and have an additional cost.

Obfuscation: -1.

  • hiddenCount-down timer on the second page implies that you don’t have enough time to make a careful decision.
  • They slip a second product into your package on page 3, doubling the money they’ll charge.  The total charge is in a light type-face, easy to overlook.

Phony reviews: -1

  • The first page of the web site poses as a review.
  • It includes several testimonials by people with no last names.

Crummy product: 0.  There’s no way to know.  Remember that you buy and pay for two products here.  One richly described flashlight, plus a “free” tactical kit, concealed until the third page, for which they charge an additional $20.

Overpriced: -1. Rhetorically they ask, “How are we able to offer this extraordinary flashlight for such a low price?”  By forcing you to also buy a second product.

75% discount: +1.  False; I think?  See “Bloopers” below.


Total score; -7

Unauthorized charges:  I found no reports of this.  Battle Flashlights does not accept PayPal.


Conclusion: Forget these guys; buy a flashlight at Home Depot.

Bloopers:  True!  We’ve hit the jackpot this time.

  • laughIt is already selling out all over The USA and Europe and has now landed in!
  • … this “military grade” flashlight has become very popular among both men and women from .
  • 1x Luxurious Protective Case.  Surely the copywriter is winking at us here.
  • Remember:(Our shipping network reaches every corner of with no exceptions!).
  • They can’t decide what their regular price is; and their arithmetic is hilarious.bloopers

Gulled by Gladiator tactical flashlights

I WAS going to buy & backed out of the screen … They went ahead & charged my card & shipped the order (WITH RUSH SHIPPING EXTRA) an added the upgraded package & signed me up for some club membership I didn’t want!

The above is from Frank in central Florida, replying to another post.  Gladiator Flashlights contact information:

10755 Scripps Poway Pkwy #360, San Diego, CA 92131 USA
support@gladiatorflashlights.com
1-844-769-4088

It’s June 11, 2017.  There may be nothing illegal or wrong with the following business practices. But they suggest that the seller is not to be trusted. I’m using my Scam-O-Meter scoring system; -1 means true, +1 means false, and 0 means undetermined. I penalize the seller for statements made by shills.

Ridiculous claims: -1

  • Should this flashlight be banned from the public? It could be soon.”  This is from the Gadgets World public page on Facebook.  The real question is whether this scammer should be banned from the public.
  • These days, in a world where terrorism, and natural disasters are becoming the norm, it’s more important than ever to have the right tactical gear.”  As trade goods?
  • This light’s incredible LED technology is used by the U.S. Navy Seals, …” etc.  True, you don’t see many incandescent light bulb flashlights these days.

Suspicious location: -1.  10755 Scripps Poway Pkwy #360, San Diego, CA 92131 USA is a mailbox.po

Onerous terms: -1

  • ***ALL SALES ARE FINAL***  (this may be why I found no guarantee period or terms).
  • ALL refunds or warranty replacements will be subject to a 30% restocking fee.
  • Products are sold on a one-time and subscription basis.”  I gather from Frank’s experience that subscription is the default sale plan.
  • You can cancel your subscription any time, but they won’t give your money back.
  • Even if you never use the products you receive, you have to pay for them.
  • Reversing their charges on your credit card is “theft.”
  • They don’t guarantee that the flashlight is fit for any use; nor that anything they say is true.
  • You can’t sue them, join a class action that’s suing them, or join a group arbitration.

Ads, spam, robocalls: -1

  • They’ll beam ads at you, email, robocall and text you.  You can only partially unsubscribe.
  • They’ll share your data with other companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their company, your data is part of the deal.

Lying and deception: -1.  From the complaints I’ve read, it’s clear that the Terms and Conditions omit important information, such as how to make a purchase without a subscription.

Obfuscation: -1

  • You have to drill down thru three pages to find out the price.
  • Count-down timer to make you think you don’t have enough time for a careful decision.

Phony reviews: -1.  I particularly enjoyed this line from TVStuffReviews.com; “The company stresses that not only is the product of our product with the business and the service offered is much better.

Crummy product: 0.  This looks like the usual low-end tactical flashlight; some people are satisfied with it, others not.

  • Frank wrote “Wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I got most of my money back & got to keep their flashlight package none the less. Surprisingly the flashlight works great! Lol
  • The Better Business Bureau has this complaint; “I Do NOT want there BOGUS FLASHLIGHT that their Video Shows its as BRIGHT as SUN but in REALITY the flashlight is just a plain flashlight…I WANT a 100 PERCENT REFUND and I Want NOTHING to Do with this Company EVER AGAIN.

Overpriced: +1.  False.  Gladiator is asking $20.  Amazon carries the Gladiator LT600 flashlight, which sure looks like the same light, for $30.

75% discount: -1.  True.


Total score; -7

Unauthorized charges: CREDIT CARD RISK ALERT.  If you enter your credit card number on the order form, the scammer will put a charge on it immediately even if you don’t click “process.”  In addition to Frank’s experience, I see many complaints on the Better Business Bureau about being charged more than advertised for the flashlight and being charged a monthly membership fee for a club the customers didn’t join.  Gladiator does not accept PayPal.


Conclusion: It’s not worth even a good flashlight to let these scammers glom onto your credit card data.

Blooper: