If they’re willing to spam you, think twice. No, think three times.

Spam is one of the plagues of the 21st century. Despite feeble efforts of government regulatory bodies (think CAN-SPAM act, which resulted in an increase of spam), spammers continue their tactics. In the second quarter of 2013, per Kaspersky, spam comprised 70.7% of all email sent globally.

All you have to do is look at the kind of things caught by your spam filters to get an idea of the reputability of companies who are willing to spam you – porn, get-rich-quick offers, penis/breast enlargement, Canadian pharmacies (typically run by
Russian crime syndicates), diploma mills, real-estate swindles, wrinkle creams, hair-regrowers, insurance fraud, worthless supplements, cable/satellite/internet/TV scams, weight loss “miracle pills,”… the list goes on and on.

The trouble is – spam is profitable. People answer ads, buy products that they don’t need and that don’t work, and spammers make money.

Granny-Grandma-Internet-old-people

But there’s a reason that spam is also called “junk email” – and that’s because almost everything offered to you by spammers is just that – junk. It’s worthless, and probably worse than worthless – it could end up costing you lots of money and frustration. You would think this goes without saying, but obviously it doesn’t.

Let’s look at an example, arrived freshly steaming in my junk folder today:

CHW

First off, the mail consists of an image, which makes it hard for spam filters to tag it. Anyone who works hard to defeat built-in and ISP protections against spam probably has the ethics of a honey badger.

This particular ad touts a “home warranty service,” which is really nothing more than a pre-paid service contract on home appliances and infrastructure. But what does the Better Business Bureau have to say about CHW?

Government Actions

New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Complaint
Date of Action: 7/28/2014
The following describes a pending government action that has been formally brought by a government agency but has not yet been resolved. We are providing a summary of the governments allegations, which have not yet been proven.

On July 28, 2014, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs filed a Complaint in Superior Court in Middlesex County against CHW Group, Inc., d/b/a “Choice Home Warranty,” an Edison-based company that allegedly induced consumers to buy “comprehensive” coverage for crucial home systems and appliances, and then denied consumers’ claims for repair or replacement through the use of deceptive tactics. As a result, consumers who paid hundreds of dollars for CHW’s “home warranties” – which are actually residential service contracts – were forced to pay out-of-pocket for air conditioning, refrigerator, or other repairs that allegedly should have been covered under their “warranties” with CHW.

As set forth in the State’s complaint, filed by the Division of Law on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs:

CHW and its principals often denied claims based on consumers’ supposed failure to properly maintain their covered home systems or appliances. The defendants also often denied claims based on supposed pre-existing defects. The company denied claims even when technicians declared that the covered home systems or appliances had been properly maintained, and/or had failed for reasons not related to poor maintenance or pre-existing problems.

As a way of denying claims, the defendants on many occasions demanded that the consumers provide years’ worth of records to prove they performed regular maintenance on the covered items. These denials were issued despite the fact that CHW’s residential service contract does not state that the company can demand maintenance records from consumers.

Additionally, when consumers requested specific explanations for their denial of claims in writing, CHW on many occasions failed or refused to provide written explanations.

CHW also promised consumers that if covered items could not be repaired, the company would replace them. However, when consumers needed to replace covered items, the company often required consumers to accept cash “buy-outs.” These “buy-outs” were hundreds of dollars less than the consumers’ cost to replace the items.

CHW also repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises for prompt service. In several cases this was because the company failed to pay its contracted technicians.

CHW’s residential service contract states that, upon receiving a request for service, the company will contact a local technician within two days during normal business hours and four days on weekends and holidays. However, CHW did not have contracted technicians in some areas. Consumers in those areas had to find their own technicians, then pay the technicians directly and seek reimbursement from CHW. On other occasions, contractors sent to consumers’ homes by CHW turned out to be unlicensed and/or uninsured.

The State’s Complaint ultimately requests that the Court, among other things, find that the defendants violated the Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations; order defendants to pay consumer restitution; declare CHW’s residential service contracts with consumers to be null and void; and impose civil penalties.

For more details go to:
http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases14/pr20140728a.html

In response to these charges, the business provided the following statement:

“We are disappointed that the State has chosen to file this lawsuit. We unequivocally dispute the allegations, intend to vigorously defend against them, and are confident that we will ultimately prevail. Choice Home Warranty has fielded thousands of warranty claims from our customers, resulting in claims payments of tens of millions of dollars. In fact, many of the complaints referred to by the Attorney General’s office, were resolved long ago, to the satisfaction of the consumer.”

This particular suit is ongoing, and allegations have not been proven… but the number of complaints, roughly 300 per year, is probably a pretty good indication that not all is well. I return again to the simple fact that this company is willing to advertise via spam, always a huge red flag in my book.

Have a look at a gripe posted at complaintsboard.com on 3/20/15, yesterday as of this writing:

Every time I called, they sent someone out. I paid the $45, only to find out a repair wasn’t covered. Then, my washing machine was acting up. Replacing the mother boards was more than what the machine was worth. They opted to send me a check for $300. That was a month ago – currently, no check. I then had another claim, and again, it wasn’t covered. So I told them that since they don’t cover items for my home, I wanted to cancel. I received a call last week stating that since I cancelled, they wouldn’t send the $300 check. I told that person that I filed the Washing Machine claim over a month ago, and that check should have already been issued and mailed. He hung up on me. So, I have been emailing CHW about the status of my account and check and received nothing. Then, just now, I called CHW customer service and asked who the President and CEO is, and they put me on hold and never came back on the phone. I want to file a formal complaint. Make sure to have my account closed and have that $300 check which I am entitled to. Horrible, horrible bait and switch and God awful Customer Service.

Here’s one from Ripoff Report:

Our A/C compressor stopped working. It is 17 years old (we bought the home less than 6 months ago) and choice thinks it should last 18 years. They call it “premature failure” which is not due to normal wear and tear, so they denied the claim. They advertise that they will cover your appliances no matter how old. Don’t believe it! Their exclusions are general enough that they can deny any claim.

So you pay to sign up, you pay $45.00 for a service call, and often you are told that the repair isn’t covered… this echoes the kind of allegations leveled by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. And when you try to get a complaint resolved and get the kind of “customer service” related above, you know you are dealing with a company that doesn’t give a rat’s south-40.

Before you even consider dealing with a company that spams you, no matter how appealing the offer may look, do some research.

In the interest of full disclosure, and the Internet being what it is, the presence of a complaint anywhere does not guarantee that a company is malfeasant or dishonest. But as you are doing your research, look for patterns. If there seems to be an abundance of complaints across multiple sites, you might want to look elsewhere. Also, the BBB is in business to make money, and companies can purchase accreditation with them, so being accredited with the BBB is also not a guarantee of ethicality.

As always, please watch over your loved ones – especially the elderly and vulnerable. Educate them to stay away from spam offers if they have access to email.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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