I received a phone call the other day from Katrina Ryan, a representative of the ‘Stanford Who’s Who’, a directory service based in New York.
She was following up on my inquiry about a free listing on a women’s business site which had been advertised on LinkedIn.
Katrina said she would be my account manager and she needed to ask several questions to judge whether I was a suitable candidate.
After a few minutes of gushing at everything I said, she congratulated me on being more than qualified. I suddenly remembered Groucho Marx’s line that he didn’t want to be a member of any club that accepted him as a member. It was a weird feeling.
For the next 20 minutes Katrina explained the benefits of the ‘Stanford Who’s Who’. These included exclusive networking opportunities, a gold plaque, a concierge service, free airline tickets, profile promotion, my company prominently displayed on page one of all search engines, and the undying attention of the New York staff.
It sounded very impressive for a free listing.
Katrina then offered me a choice of membership deals. I could have either the $800 Platinum service with additional monthly fees or the $600 Gold package with additional monthly fees. She then asked for my credit card details. I replied that I didn’t have it on me. She said she’d wait for me to retrieve my card and type up my biography for the ‘exclusive’ networking site while she was waiting. I said I didn’t want to pay that amount of money.
She then offered me a new membership deal, $199 for 2 years. I said I didn’t like that either. She then said I could have it at the non-profit price of $99.00. I asked her about the company again. I wanted to know their internet address and why they were advertising a free service when clearly it wasn’t.
By this stage Katrina knew I wasn’t going to pay anything, thanked me for my time, and hung up.
I Googled the company and found it featured prominently on scammer alert lists including Ripoffreport and Scambook. There were plenty of complaints from disgruntled customers about aggressive sales tactics to get their credit card details, charging the cards immediately and indiscrimate withdrawals made without permission.
Nobody had been able to get their money back or cancel their membership. They wondered why LinkedIn, a legitimate networking site, continued to display their advertisement.
In her latest Neurotica post, Claire Bell writes about sociopaths and how to recognise them. They are expert flatters who exude charm and confidence. They stroke our egos and make us feel important.
Scammers are sociopaths and they cause a lot of misery. It is time to fight back.
I thought about creating my own scam. I call it ‘Scam the Scammer,’ and it involves ringing companies listed in Scambook and Ripoff Report and ordering their most expensive services with bogus credit card details.
When they ring back to complain that the card was rejected, I will apologise and then provide them with a new set of bogus details. When they ring again, I will keep them on hold and pretend to look for non-existent cards until they spend a fortune on long distance phone calls and hang up.
Scammers of the world – you have been warned.