Predatory Companies Want Their Hand In Your Wallet!
About a half-century ago, the brilliant folk singer, Woody Guthrie, wrote: “Some men rob you with a six gun. Some with a fountain pen.” The dark irony of that quote was brought home to me in a very real way.
As small businesses, you might get frequent calls from different companies trying to get you to improve your website, switch over to their phone service or to “save big money” on your credit card processing services. This article concerns itself with the latter. Their promise of lower fees is always accompanied by all of the extra perks that they can offer, such as free repair and maintenance. If you’ve been saddled with high rates, or maybe desire a more professional image than using PayPal can offer, you might even have invited one of these agents in to compare rates and make a deal.
Now, most of us would never fall for one of those Nigerian “I’m royalty and need an American bank account to transfer my enormous wealth to” scams, or we wouldn’t still be in business! But what if the con man is standing right in front of you, in a nice suit with great looking numbers on his laptop? Or, maybe the agent doesn’t even know that the company he’s representing is, in fact, a total scam operation. I recently learned this the hard way.
GIVE ME CREDIT HERE…
Some years ago, I took the bait; this one company had everything I wanted. They offered a dazzlingly low percentage rate, plus they had the coolest wireless credit card terminal that I really wanted. Doing bridal shows and taking the occasional on-site payoff, a terminal like that solved a lot of problems. (NOTE: This was long before things like “The Square” or other smart phone apps/solutions became available. This was the cutting edge!) The agent promised me the moon: worry-free service, free repairs or replacement for the life of the contract, “you’ll never even have to buy printer paper,” and on and on. The monthly fee would be a bit more than some other plans, but covered the cost of the equipment and the wireless account, which is billed much like a cell phone. Life was good… until it wasn’t.
It didn’t seem long before the screen on the terminal went dark. When I called to complain, I was told that I’d be without the terminal while repairs were made and that they would be at my own expense. I decided that I could live with the screen not being backlit; I just needed to do all transactions in a well-lighted area. Soon after, however, the terminal wouldn’t connect with the network at all. It was useless. I called again and demanded repair or replacement. The company refused, so I told them I wanted to end our deal and send the terminal back. Not only did they give me an address to send it to, but a return authorization number, without which, they don’t accept any packages. So the equipment was returned and the contract canceled. Or so I thought.
Three months later, a check bounced. This took me by surprise! I knew my account was low due to some major expenditures, but my ledger showed several hundred dollars left. This prompted a trip to my bank branch and a confab with my branch manager. It turned out that the company had continued taking the $110.00/mo. fee for the past three months, leaving the account short. After reversing the overdraft fees, my branch manager was able to not only lock the company out of my account, but get the three months worth of charges reversed. (Did I mention he’s a really cool guy?) Having “plugged the leak,” I headed home thinking I was done.
WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?
A few days later I got a call from an abrasive woman from a company I’ve never heard of: LeaseSource-LSI LLC. Apparently this company was engaged by the agent who had “sold” me the equipment to finance the leasing of the terminal. A revelation to me, this representative told me that my contract was “uncancelable,” and that I had to pay well over $1,000.00… for nothing. I reiterated, “You’re telling me that you expect me to pay over a thousand dollars for nothing; no goods, no services, nothing?” “Yes,” she said, flatly. My laughter provoked a barrage of insults, crude language and threats of legal action. I hung up on her.
For weeks going on into months, threatening phone calls and letters came in from them. The threat of a lawsuit appeared in written form. Given the paltry amount, I never once took them seriously. I’ve had some disputes with different companies for different reasons before, so I was a bit stunned when I got notice of a hearing at some court in New York. The funny thing was, it came in the same LeaseSource envelopes that all of the letters had arrived in! Absolutely nothing ever came to me originating from an actual court.
Still, it had an officious look to it, so I decided to follow the instructions that came along with it and submitted a letter with all of the pertinent information. It was sent well ahead of the hearing date.
Shortly afterward, I get another LeaseSource envelope informing me that they’d gotten a judgment, the balance now including all sorts of other costs and fees they planned to extract from me. Tersely scrawled on it, purportedly by a court clerk, was the message: “Default judgment. Letter from defendant does not constitute an appearance!” In short, because I could not travel to New York, they handed a judgment to the crooks at LeaseSource.
This wasn’t passing the sniff test. Everything had come from LeaseSource. It had all the earmarks of a scam. I’d heard stories of credit card companies doing this to try and scare people into paying. Speaking with Ms. Abuse at LeaseSource was a waste of time. Still determined not to send them money for nothing, I set the whole matter aside, undecided what to do next. I’d almost forgotten about it when my bank called.
THE DEEP FREEZE
Let me add here that things had changed since the days when I signed-up for the credit card deal, the Michigan economy making business scarce. It has been referred to as “economic ground zero.” Gigs dried up by more than half and real income even more so, people being unable to pay what they used to. My account had been in “survival mode,” often with less than $100.00 in it. This was the case until my 2013 tax return came in. More than half belongs to my wife, who I file jointly with. The other half had been earmarked for some vital vehicle maintenance. But that was not to be: the bank called to say that all of my funds were frozen. LeaseSource had struck! They were (and are) trying to seize that money.
When this happened, I did something that I should’ve done long ago: checked out the company and their slimy lawyer, Joel I Sussman, PC, on the internet. And there they were: story after story on pages like Ripoff Report, Scam Watch and the Better Business Bureau, of other companies that had the same experience, some getting hit much harder! Several also reported the abusive woman, Julissa Gomez. Beyond mere complaints, there are no less than two class action lawsuits, one of them launched by the New York State Attorney General’s office!
This company is a many headed hydra, operating in several states under various names, including LeaseSource LSI, Northern Leasing and SKS, and in all of the legal actions, the lawyer initiating the suits is Mr. Sussman, all from New York.
At this point, my issue remains unresolved and I’m looking over any and all options. I am determined to fight them to the last. In the meantime, I wanted to warn other unsuspecting DJs and businesses: BEWARE OF THESE PEOPLE! You might not hire them yourself, but they might be cloaked by another company acting as their agent. They not only finance credit card gear, but all types of office equipment and even medical devices. They’ve made a cottage industry out of bilking businesses and their owners out of money in exchange for shoddy or even no services. If you suspect you might be involved with them, don’t wait; check out your company on the internet now!
To see some of the various online complaints and reports, please check out:
Until next time, safe business!
Disclaimer: The opinions and information expressed in this article are those of and from the author, and do not reflect in any way those of DJ Enterprises, LLC or ProMobileDJ.com for which he is a writer.