If you are being harassed by the EU Business Register / World Business List / European Trade Register / Waldberg and Hirsch

I have written several times about the “EU Business Register Scam.

The same scam continues to be played out, with people being taken advantage of by a deceptive solicitation implying free listing in a business directory, and then being charged €995 x 3, and harassed by a “global debt collection firm” if they decline to pay – simply because they missed the small print.

Today I received an excellent and welcome comment from reader CZECH_FIRM at one of the articles, and it’s valuable enough that I felt a full post was warranted. I have taken the liberty of cleaning up the translation from Dutch a bit (based on rules of grammar, but not having seen the source text.) This user contacted the Dutch police and received this definitive response:

Dear Sir/Madam:

If you have been defrauded by making a payment, you should report this to the police.

We have been warning people about this company since 2015. I cannot confirm that there have been any past investigations regarding this company. In any event, if  you receive any invoices from this company, you can forward them by email to valse-email@fraudehelpdesk.nl.

Please see the warnings about this company below:

DECEPTIVE FORM FROM “WORLD BUSINESS DIRECTORY”
March 4, 2015
Businesses receive a form from EU Business Services Ltd. The business gathers company data to be published in World Business Directory. It is implied that the update is free, but whoever responds ends up signing a three-year contract.

Advice: You do not have to do anything. You are not obliged to respond to these types of offers. You can simply throw the document away.

Have you also received a dubious mail? Let us know so that we can warn others.

Warning for World Business List emails

Be on the lookout for an e-mail about enrollment at the World Business List in Zeist. This e-mail is from the address: general.company@globalcompanies.online or info88@globalcompanies.online. and contains a PDF file where “the company” indicates that you can be in a list of companies when you fill out the form. If you return this you will be committing yourself to a three-year contract. It seems free, but costs 995 euros a year.

Kind regards,

Sandy Honders-Egter
Medewerkster wijksecretariaat
Politie I Midden-Nederland I Utrecht stad I wijkteam Centrum
Kroonstraat 25, 3511 RC Utrecht
Postbus 8300, 3503 RH Utrecht

T 0900-8844
Work days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

So it appears that at long last, we have confirmation that the Dutch police are working on shutting down these drones. Reporting any invoices or interactions with these companies to the email address above ( valse-email@fraudehelpdesk.nl )will help them in their efforts.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken

 

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Extracting a Light from a Christmas House

So, like my wife and me, you love Christmas (or Hallowe’en houses) and you love to set up your Christmas village, and now – it happens more often than you’d like – you’ve pushed one of those never-sufficiently-to-be-accursed clips all the way into the house and you can’t get it out.

You’ve worked at it with tweezers and hemostats, and you’ve got one side out, but that other one is just unreachable. Yarg snarl yarg.

Here’s what I do, and I hope someone finds it useful.

1) The first thing to do is get one side out all the way. With a long tweezers or a hemostat, this is usually pretty easy.

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2) With a thin piece of duct tape, pinch the metal clip to the body of the lightbulb.

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3) Now you can push the lightbulb all the way back into the house and have enough room to grab the second clip.

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4) Out it comes. Take off the duct tape, re-seat the bulb, and you’re good to go.

Happy Holidays!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

A Mystery Shopper Scam

Be very careful out there.

Despite assurances from the Gummint that the economic crash of 2008 is over, a lot of people are still unemployed or underemployed and are looking for ways to make a living.

Here’s a scam that I followed up with via email, just to see what’s involved. It turns out to be a new twist on the old “bogus check” scam, but this one is very well-crafted and could fool a lot of people who are not suspicious.

This is the letter I received from “Customer Impact” in Bryan, Texas:

Scam letter

Notice all the “Endorsements”… naturally all bogus. Enclosed was this evaluation form for the “Mystery Shopper” jobs:

scam form

And lastly, the bogus check. There is no such company, the check is simply printed out on a commercial form, and if you cash it and send any money to the scammers for whatever reason, your money is gone and you could be prosecuted for passing fraudulent documents. It’s happened.

scam check

NEVER send money via Western Union or Money Card or other means to someone you do not know. Just don’t.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Never download apps that do this.

You’re browsing along on your mobile, and suddenly this screen or one like it pops up. You can’t go back. Sometimes your device begins buzzing. Sometimes there’s an ominous computer-generated voice along with it.

Screenshot_2017-10-25-04-40-30

You can usually quit your browser altogether, but you might lose where you were. If you click “OK”, you might get another warning:

Screenshot_2017-10-25-04-40-54

Click the “Remove viruses” button and you’re taken to the Play Store where you can download the app that “removes viruses.”

Screenshot_2017-10-25-04-41-15

Don’t do this. Just don’t.

If the authors of the application use this technique to terrify you into downloading their app, you can hardly trust software they’ve written.

If this is being done by an affiliate marketer, it could be legitimate, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

Lastly,  as a general rule Android devices don’t attract viruses. Many of these “cleaners” are devised to either put real malware on your device or generate more scare messages which will lead you to a paid cleaning service.

Best to stay away from all of them; here’s an excellent article on the subject from ExtremeTech.

Be safe out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Facebook clickbait – it must work.

On my mobile device, since FB Purity doesn’t work on handhelds, I have to scroll through a lot of real garbage – often every other post is “sponsored.”

Here’s a sample of things I’ve seen just in the last few days.

Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-39-47Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-40-25Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-41-05Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-41-27Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-43-51Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-45-00Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-47-44Screenshot_2017-10-17-17-00-29Screenshot_2017-10-18-09-54-44Screenshot_2017-10-18-09-59-10Screenshot_2017-10-21-03-57-48

Obviously clickbait works, or companies wouldn’t do it – but it’s so annoying to see all these hackneyed “you won’t belive” and “this will shock you” attention-grabbers. The other part, of course, is that most of these articles are relatively valueless anyway, either [bad] opinion pieces or poorly-compiled lists.

It makes browsing Facebook on a mobile a less-than-fulfilling experience. I wish FB Purity were available for my Android, it really cleans things up on the desktop version.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

MAD™ Memories Department – Commercial Roulette

From Mad™ Magazine issue 59, December 1960, comes one of my favorite features. While the illustrations are intended to be humorous, the text is lifted from real commercials that aired during the era.

Commercial breaks were rigorously timed back in those days, so it was difficult to spin the dial during a break and find a program instead of another ad.

Click the images for larger versions; Artist, Bob Clarke. Writer, Gary Belkin.

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The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

Watch that fine print

spectrum

Wow, TV + Internet +Voice, $29.99! That certainly grabs the attention.

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“Each.” That means the total price is about 90 bucks. Hmm, not such a great deal after all. And “Standard rates apply after 1 year,” says the teeny-tiny print on the back.

This is not exclusive to Spectrum – pull just about any flyer out of your mailbox or newspaper, and you’ll be likely to see something similar. Sales, marketing, and advertising – three industries that drive our economy, and all dependent on

  • persuasion
  • puffery
  • deception, and
  • outright fraud.

It’s scary, and except for the last one, it’s almost 100% legal.

1. Persuasion – the key to your wallet

Let’s look at the key points from Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini:

  • Reciprocation: Consider the in-store wine tasting, or the free scone at the coffee shop. We think we’re coming out on top, but the expectation to give back is strong within us, and leads us to buy something.
  • Consistency: We like to see ourselves as consistent souls with unwavering beliefs. So if you ask me to publicly declare my devotion to animal rights, for example, I’m more likely to donate money to PETA later.
  • Authority: Four out of five dentists recommend using the reassuring gloss of authority to sell this toothpaste.
  • Social Validation: Rugged individualist fantasies aside, we are more likely to do something if we see that many other people like us have also done it.
  • Scarcity: Anyone who has grabbed a plain, overpriced t-shirt from another’s hands at a “one-day-only” sale understands how persuasive limited-time and limited-quantity offers are.
  • Liking: If you like someone, you are more likely to say “yes” to her request. If she is pretty, you’re even more likely. And if she compliments you, well, that works, too.

The book goes into great detail about how marketers invoke the “click, whirr” response in us, but this is the core of the book. Ironically, it can be read either as a consumer guide or a training manual for salespeople!

But you see these techniques in place everywhere. JC Penney tried ditching frequent sales for “everyday low pricing” and it didn’t work. People like sales. Never mind that a sweater that’s marked $39.95 today, and goes on sale tomorrow at $42.95 (slashed from $79.95!) is more expensive “on sale” that it was yesterday, people will buy it because a) they have short memories, b) they’re not savvy shoppers, and c) it was on sale!!!

Need to pop into the grocery store for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread? They are likely in the farthest corner of the store, so you have to walk by everything else to get there. High-profit items are carefully placed at convenient height, and the location of goods is regularly rotated to keep shoppers off balance – the longer you’re in the store searching for things, the more you’ll buy. Most items in grocery flyers are not “on sale” – they’re just there to make you think they are. Colors, smells, relaxing music and clever signage (“Only $1.00” – even though it’s always just been a dollar) add to the myriad ways stores try to part you from your cash.

2. Puffery – Marketing’s license to lie.

In law, puffery is a promotional statement or claim that expresses subjective rather than objective views, which no “reasonable person” would take literally. (Wikipedia.)

Thanks to the machinations of countless generations of attorneys, advertisers are free to say pretty much what they want about their products. The claims made via puffery may be patently false, but they are “not really lies” because they can’t be disproved. “The World’s Best Hot Dog” is an unassailable statement because no “reasonable person” could be expected to believe it, and it can be neither proved nor disproved, being a completely subjective statement – and puffery creates no express warranty or guarantee for the consumer. Some examples of puffery include:

  • Meals fit for a king!
  • Our mattresses are softer than a cloud!
  • Better ingredients, better pizza!
  • The Best Coffee in Town!
  • Lose Weight Fast!

If something is demonstrably false – i.e. “nature’s perfect food” can be challenged by science – then it’s probably punishable by law. Opinions, however, are not statements of fact.

3. Deception

Hall of Shame Advertisement

My favorite deceptive ad of all time, which I have referenced before. This is the crown jewel of shameful advertising. If you strip away all the puffery, this ad says “Buy our rabbit ears – they’re prettier!” But every statement in the ad can be interpreted in more than one way, and taken together (by someone who’s not especially sophisticated) they imply some incredible technological breakthrough at a dirt-cheap price.

Advertising restrictions were not as stringent a generation ago:

The jingle in this retro ad is a bit different from the one I remember:

If you want shoes with lots of pep, get Keds, kids, Keds.
For bounce and zoom in every step, get Keds, kids, Keds.
Those shock-proof arches can’t be beat
They sure are great for growing feet
You’ll be a champion athlete!
Keds, kids, Keds.

Equally bad was this ad for Kellogg’s Apple Jacks from the 60s:

“A bowl a day keeps the bullies away!” How many kids begged their moms for a box of this cereal, only to find that they got slammed into the lockers just as hard the next day?

If you want deceptive advertising, just head for the nutritional supplement industry. I take these people to task at every opportunity, as I recently did with ProBioSlim. I made the manufacturer so mad that I actually got my first cease-and-desist letter, out of which came precisely nothing.

4. Outright Fraud

Frankly, I feel like most affiliate-marketer-sponsored nutritional or weight-loss products are criminally fraudulent; just type “snake oil” in the search bar of this blog for myriad examples. But in this section I mention a few cases that actually spawned legal action and forced advertisers to change course.

  • In 2014, Red Bull paid $13 million to settle a class-action suit because it claimed “Red Bull Gives You Wings.”
  • In 2010, Kellogg claimed Rice Krispies could boost your immune system. In 2011. Kellogg agreed to pay $2.5 million to affected consumers, as well as donating $2.5 million worth of Kellogg products to charity.

  • New Balance was accused of false advertising in 2011 over a sneaker range that it claimed could help wearers burn calories. Nope. In 2012, New Balance agreed to pay a settlement of $2.3 million.
  • Lumos Labs: In January 2016, the makers of popular brain-training app Luminosity were fined $2 million by the FTC for deceptive advertising, claiming that the app could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, among other things.

  • In the 1990s, the “Airborne” herbal supplement was everywhere. It claimed to hold off harmful bacteria and germs, preventing everyday ailments like the flu and common cold. The claims ended in a class-action lawsuit involving over $30 million in settlement payments.

Puffery is one thing, outright lies are another. While the FTC and the FDA are underfunded and overburdened, they do their best to protect the consumer from fraud and abuse wherever they can.

Ultimately, caveat emptor along with a healthy dose of skepticism, social awareness, and a willingness to do the necessary research is the consumer’s best defense against fraudulent advertising practices.

As usual, be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.