If it's one thing I take pride in it is exposing fraudulent companies because if it's one thing I hate is people taking advantage of other people. Over the years I've written about a variety of shady companies and organizations. For example, if you Google "Swinton Avenue Trading" you will find that the #1 hit on the internet every time is my blog post about the company. If you're interested, you can click here to read my original post which has generated thousands of hits and hundreds of responses.
It's been awhile since I've felt the need to take action again but three days ago I received a rather important looking piece of mail that caught my eye. At first it looked like a recall notice for our Toyota Corolla. Upon looking inside, I immediately knew what it was---it was a fraud.
It starts on the outside with "Request for Immediate Action - Time Sensitive Material Enclosed." I've taken a few photos and posted so you can see what it looks like.
Note the important looking: "Warning: $2,000 fine for any person interfering or obstructing with delivery of this letter. US Mail TTT. 18 US Code"
It's just another tactic to make the recipient think it's something extremely important that must be addressed immediately!
My Toyota Corolla is five years old and has 150,000 miles on it so the factory warranty expired on it a long time ago and no I've never been interested in an extended warranty. Why? The Toyota Corolla is an excellent vehicle with very few, if any, problems. It's one of the reasons I purchased it. It is known for its durability and reliability. It's not likely something serious will happen to it that would warrant major engine or powertrain repairs, not for a long time.
Anyway, I opened the urgent and official looking piece of mail to read "This letter is to inform you that your factory warranty has expired, or may be about to expire, and you may extend the coverage on th behicle with a service contract. coverage offer expires on 26 Mar 2011" and shows an expiration date of 26 Mar 2011 and lists my coverage request as "Pending." Interesting considering I never requested any information from them.
Naturally even though I knew it was a big fat scam, as always I called because I love to call these types of companies, get the 411 on their fantastic offers, then I harass them over their unethical business practices, after which they hang up on me because they know I'm right. The representative I spoke to asked me a series of questions, nothing personal, I wouldn't have given him that anyway. I told him the mileage on the car and he said I was not eligible for coverage because their cap is at 140,000 and I have 150,000.
I tried telling him that their letter was so "official looking" that it could be viewed as misleading. I thought about the number of elderly people out there who get things like this in the mail and they don't have much money and they worry about their vehicle breaking down. I can see where it is possible that a person who doesn't understand these things, would think this was an official and urgent document requiring immediate attention--that attention being that they risk losing the factory warranty on their car, when in fact, the factory warranty probably expired years or miles earlier.
I'm not the first person to receive this notice, nor will I be the last. But at least I am wise enough to spot a scam a mile away, a lot of people aren't. To their credit, ConsumerMan on MSNBC did a story exposing companies like this a few years ago. Click here to read the story. Also RipOff Report and other websites have covered this and other companies in detail.
Also click here for a sample of the CarSafe contract. Nine pages of nonsense. In the end, it's a ripoff.
This post is just my way of reminding folks to be on the lookout. A lot of us have elderly relatives, friends, neighbors who receive this type of mail and we should be looking out for them too in an effort to make sure they don't get duped over this kind of crap. In the meantime, stricter mail standards should be enforced to prevent this kind of unethical business practices.