My mentally disabled friend was recently ripped off for over $5, 000. They won't even respond to her written request for a refund other than try to tell her how it is great, have missed multiple appointments to discuss a refund and will not refund anything.
Who are they?
These guys are doing business under a lot of different names, but they all come back to one thing - they are trying to rip you off:
Bank Card Empire
Ultimate Business Solutions
#1 Evidence that they are a SCAM
First of all let's think about their offer. They want you to be an affiliate to refer people to sell their merchant account products. Take a look around at affiliate programs out there. The legitimate ones don't charge you $500 for the opportunity of referring people to them. That is ridiculous and should warn you right away that something is wrong. The website that they are selling you is a replicated website which means it is useless in the search engines and is just a copy of the same thing they give everyone else - they call it 'your' website but it is just their website with your affiliate ID. Legitimate affiliate programs don't charge you to link to their website as an affiliate.
Second they will try to convince you to pay them to market their own product for you. Does that make any sense at all??? If they were making money by marketing their product why would they cut you in? They wouldn't!!
Here's an example. Let's say I have a business selling merchant accounts. And I make phone calls on the telephone to sell my product. Let's say I make an average of $3 per call. Would I turn around and tell you I would call those people on your behalf for $2 per call? Of course not! I would want to keep the $3, not share it with you. However let's say I make less than $2 per call - say $0 per call. In that case I would sell that to you all day. Think about it! Them charging you for them to do their marketing for their company is obviously wrong. If they were making money on those leads why would they sell them to you instead of use them themselves? The obvious answer is that they aren't making money on those leads and they know perfectly well that you won't either! (Of course once it a while someone will make money, but the VAST majority will lose money.)
When I called in they told me that if I spent $5, 000 that I would make $2, 000 per month forever and would turn a profit on the original $5, 000 within 2-3 months. This is FRAUD. They know perfectly well that this won't happen. If it did, they would spend their OWN $5, 000 and not MY $5, 000 to turn their own profit in 2-3 months. Ask them what percentage of people who buy make a profit. Either they will lie to you or they will deflect the question or say they don't know. (They could know - they just don't want to know.) My guess is that it is well under 1% of those who sign up who make money.
Look around online. You will see a LOT of evidence that A) People aren't making money, B) they won't give you a refund.
Here's how they work:
They get your name as a lead from somewhere indicating that you want to own a business or make money from home. They have several reseller companies some of which as far as I can tell are Ultimate Business Solutions, AIG Promotions, Edgemont Productions, etc. I couldn't figure out for sure how they all fit together but you can know you are part of this same scam if you hear any of those names. Unfortunately, eventually they will change their names to something else because of all of the bad press.
The bottom line is that their REAL business is not selling merchant accounts, their real business is selling their SCAM to you.
Other things of interest:
Bank Card Empire currently has an Unsatisfactory report with the Better Business Bureau and has 76 complaints! That is a lot of complaints for a small company! According to the BBB the business owners of the company are:
Mr. Michael Malkin, Secretary / Treasurer
Ms. Danielle Ashrafi, Director / VP of Agent Relations
Mr. David Mersky, President
Mr. David Weaver, Vice President
They currently have 2 lawsuits pending - 1 in MI and 1 in AZ filed against them - both for fraud. (From what I can tell the principle owners seem to live in MI but the company is based in AZ - there is also some indication that they are based in Houston, TX).
Look around on the web - there are lots of other sites with complaints about them other than just [redacted].
So if you haven't bought yet - DON'T. Hopefully you are one of those wise enough to do a little research and realize this is a really bad idea.
#2 If you have been taken in, what can you do to fight them?
So let's say you have bought and realize that you made a big mistake. Whatever you do don't just be intimidated and walk away. That is what they are counting on you doing!!! They call it breakage and make a lot of their money because people are just passive and scared and don't do anything when they get ripped off. You need to do something. If not for yourself, then for the thousands and thousands of other people who they are ripping off. (I got involved with investigating them because they ripped off my neighbor who is mentally disabled and living in poverty and still they won't refund her.)
Here are things that generally work and don't work:
1) File a chargeback through your credit card or credit cards that you purchased with. This is the #1 most important thing to do. First it means you might get your money back. Second, it HURTS THEM. You see the bank that provides their merchant account watches to see how high of a risk they are. The more chargebacks they get (whether you win the chargeback or not) the higher risk the bank considers them. If they get enough chargebacks, eventually the bank will freeze their money, stop doing business with them and possibly even puts them on something called the TMF making it almost impossible for them to get a merchant account anywhere. The bank will take a reserve out on them depending on how many chargebacks they get - hurting their cashflow and ability to scam more people. Also if they get more than 100 chargebacks in a month they get on the watch list with Visa & Mastercard - something VERY expensive for them. If you have Discover make sure that Discover knows what they are all about and they will probably eventually take away their Discover account completely - Discover is aggressively avoiding merchanting these type of companies.
By chargeback I mean call your bank that you have your credit card through and ask to chargeback (get your money back) - have them use the reason code not as described because they promised you income you didn't receive. Or if they charged you more money than they told you they would, charge back using the fraud reason code. (Mostly explain to the person at the bank the details of how you were ripped off and they will help you out. If one rep isn't helpful try another until you find one that is sympathetic to you.)
2) If they fight your chargeback and win, chargeback again! This is super important. First, you have a better chance to win the 2nd chargeback than the 1st. Second, it counts against them twice!! So their bank looks at them as being twice the risk - if they got you for $5, 000 and you chargeback twice the bank looks at it as $10, 000 in chargebacks so you get to do double the damage! Eventually they will have to stop fighting chargebacks because if they don't they will lose their merchant account.
3) File a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General Consumer Protection division. The Attorney General's office is the one legal entity that can get to these guys - they have the ability to fine them, shut them down, and even put them in jail. It's their job. You can search online and find the website and file a complaint right online. Be sure to have as much evidence as possible of fraud. What is most important is to provide as much documentation as possible as to how they Misrepresented what they sold you - things like they told you that you would make money in a certain time-frame and then you didn't. In any case, file the complaint. The attorney general's office will pay attention to the volume of complaints - the more complaints they get the more aggressively they will go after them.
4) File a complaint with the Attorney General's Office / Consumer Protection Agency in your state. Most states won't do much but some states have very strict telemarketing laws that they will go after them for. If you live in Kansas definitely file with your state, because they probably aren't in compliance with the 7 day written right to refund.
5) File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. This makes their count of complaints go up at the BBB. It also takes them hours to respond to the complaint. Once the complaint is closed with the BBB (the BBB won't actually do anything) refile the complaint with more information. Once that closes refile again and again until the BBB won't refile it. Each time you do this, they have to spend a bunch of time responding to it and the BBB complaint count goes up.
6) Post on places like [redacted] and other similar websites on the Internet. Be heard and tell your story. You may provide evidence for lawsuits - you will definitely hurt their reputation causing other people to not buy from them and to get their money back.
7) Be persistent on the phone with them. Every time you call in and argue with them about a refund you are costing them money. Don't give up. They have everything to lose. Not everyone at their company is dishonest, perhaps we can convince some of them to go find a job working for an honest company. You have nothing to lose - they already have your money.
8) Be creative. There are probably a lot of other things you can do that are perfectly honest and legitimate that will cost them money to keep your money that they should be returning to you.
Things that aren't all that effective.
1) Going to a lawyer or threatening them with a lawyer (unless you have a brother or uncle that will do it for free.) Let's face it - you probably don't have a spare $20, 000 for the first round of taking them to court.
2) Going to the FBI, FCC or FTC. It's not what they do.