One of the recurring themes of social media and the internet is "how stupid are people?" Every week there's a new scam and a new group of idiots crying "I had no idea" after their money is transferred from their bank account or credit card, or months after they hired that consultant to change their life for the better.
I have little sympathy.
There are two reasons people get scammed - one, they don't want to know the "road to wealth" or "you have been selected" scam is a scam, and two, they don't take the time to do the difficult work of checking the company or faux consultant out. Today's world is a world of desperation for wealth and recognition, and dammit, if someone is going to sell me a plaque that tells everyone I am somebody, I'm writing the check.
Initially, the honorees receive a card saying they have been nominated for inclusion in Biltmore’s prestigious registry of successful business and professional people. Others get an unsolicited phone call. Once a sales rep gets the “nominee” on the phone, out comes the persuasive, scripted pitch listing Biltmore’s benefits: a personalized plaque, help with producing a professional profile, a listing in Biltmore’s hardcover book and on the company’s website, and having Biltmore issue a news release “to all major search engines, including Google” lauding the honoree’s accomplishments. Also: two round trip airline tickets to one of 40 locations.
Then, the money: A lifetime membership in the social network costs in the neighborhood of $800, according to various complaints. Less costly platinum and gold memberships are also offered, as is a trial membership, which can be upgraded later, for approximately $200
Sounds good, even if the person selling the plaque is a known scam artist.
Meet who's behind door number 1 at Biltmore Who's Who:
The social media company — headed by former commodities broker Stephen Margol, who was banned for life from trading under a settlement with federal regulators — did not respond to numerous phone calls and a visit by The Miami Herald.
[Margol] induced customers to invest with Risk Capital by making false and misleading material representations and omissions during sales solicitation phone calls,” the settlement said. Their investors ended up losing most, if not all, of their money — $16 million between 2001 and 2003. Margol created Biltmore in the summer of 2005 — a year before his commodities ban became official.
But wait, there's more:
Florida’s Division of Consumer Services, the Better Business Bureau and various websites, including RipoffReport.com, have heard from a long string of customers about pushy sales tactics and allegedly unauthorized credit card charges beyond the initial charge.
And as all liars on social media try to mask the truth:
The vast body of negative reviews prompted Biltmore to engage in some online damage control, both on message boards and on Twitter, where the company has written “Not a scam” in its description field. But even that wasn’t quite what it seemed.
The avatar on the company’s Twitter account — a smiling young woman in a yellow polo — is a model whose image is lifted off the All American Clothing Co. website.
People always ask me, as if I picked the winning lotto numbers: "how do you find out all these things?" (I didn't discover the Biltmore Who's Who scam, as I don't take calls from companies like that because I'm not desperately looking for recognition from anyone who will sell it to me.)
Yep. That's where we are. Create the scam, scam the internet, and then scam the internet some more when the truth comes out.
By the way, the super-secret way I find out some of these things?
I use this: Link
Non-anonymous comments welcome. Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.