Internet and Mail Scams in Champlain
For the past two years (2006, 2007) I have been receiving periodic phone calls from people looking for the Easton Consulting Group, Consumer Resource Services, and a number of other "consulting" companies (calls were from people all across the Eastern U.S.). The people had been allegedly ripped off in an email or mail scam promising guaranteed grant money (I use the word "allegedly" for obvious legal reasons). When the 800 number for these companies stopped working, the people called directory assistance, and when no listing for the companies was found, they were given my number as a similar match since my company is in the same town and has "Consulting" in its business name. As the frequency of calls increased over the past few months, I started checking for information on these companies. What I found was not encouraging. I have created this page to share my findings with others who may be interested.
DISCLAIMER: Black Drake Consulting is a legitimate company and is no way affiliated with Easton Consulting, Bradford Consulting, or other companies. I have written this page for information only. The information on the page was gathered from personal experience or sources on the web. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of outside sources. If any information is inaccurate or untrue, let me know and I will update the page.
Champlain, New York
Champlain is a small, mostly rural town in northern New York that lies on the Canadian border. Interstate 87 (the Adirondack Northway) runs through the town and connects Albany (3 hours south) and points south with Montreal (about 45 minutes north) and Eastern Canada. Champlain's location on the border has made it an attractive location for a variety of import/export, mail, and freight forwarding companies. Many legitimate Canadian companies have offices or mail boxes in the town in order to have a U.S. mailing address to facilitate business (and conversely, many U.S. companies have a mail box in towns just north of the border in order to have a Canadian address). This is perfectly legal and normal, and helps with the millions of dollars of cross-border business that occurs each day.
However, along with the legitimate businesses, there are a few illegitimate ones as well. From an article in the Buffalo Business First newspaper (online edition):
"Champlain, N.Y., might be tiny but it looms large in the files of the Better Business Bureau in Buffalo.
The quiet little town on the Quebec border is the hub of Canadian-run, cross-border mail and telemarketing scams, says David Polino, president of the bureau which covers all of New York except metropolitan New York City and Long Island."
The Upstate NY chapter of the Better Business Bureau will not even include Champlain and nearby Plattsburgh in its yearly statistics:
"The BBB Serving Upstate New York excluded two towns located in our service area when compiling the above statistics;
Champlain, NYand . Plattsburgh, NY
have been dubbed across the BBB system as the cross-border scam capitals of the nation. With total populations of under 5,000, these border-towns have proven a great resource for unscrupulous Canadian businesses. It is fairly simple for the companies to set up mail drop boxes, use the legitimate Plattsburgh NY address in their marketing, and run back across the border once they’ve completed their scam. The Better Business Bureau Serving Upstate NY, along with other NY and Canadian government officials have formed a task group to address the specific problems stemming from these towns." U.S.
Several scams have been identified: Guaranteed grants, secured credit cards, business directory advertising, health plans, online medications, etc. Since I have been contacted by people caught up in Grants, I focus only on this topic (and the related guaranteed loans). According to several callers, they received emails or postcards telling them they qualify for a guaranteed government grant (when I've heard the amount it's been $5,000). The company then asks for a "processing fee" of between $200 and $300. Once the fee is collected, the people no longer hear from the companies. (LEGAL DISCLAIMER AGAIN: I relate only what I have been told over the phone and cannot verify the accounts are true. They do however match a pattern identified by federal and state authorities).
Warnings of similar scams have been issued by Federal and State agencies, as well as non-government organizations such as the BBB. Please use the following links to read more about it:
- Credit Card Fraud Protection Guide: page with many links to useful information, from AccuPOS
- Federal Trade Commission warning on grants
- New York Banking Department warning on advance fee loan scams
- Better Business Bureau warning on advance fee loan scams
- I was also recently contacted by a founder of www.badcreditloanwarning.com, a site designed to inform people and potentially help those that have been scammed. I post their link for your information only.
Company Specific Links
The following are links to sites discussing Easton Consulting Group as well as others. Again, I cannot verify any of the information as accurate, and post only for your consideration. If you search the Upstate NY BBB site for firms in Champlain, you will find a number with a similar pattern of promising a service, then not delivering, nor responding to people once they've encountered a problem.
- Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York report on Easton Consulting Group
- McCleod Law offices discussion board (Easton Consulting comes up about halfway through the messages)
- SCAMclub discussion board
Easton Consulting Group lists their address as 1320 Route 9, Champlain, New York. The address is home to Freeport Forwarding (518-298-8582), a freight forwarding, shipping and private mailbox company. The company did verify to me that Easton Consulting has a mailbox there (and that they collect their own mail). But like many forwarding companies, Easton is one of many businesses that have boxes there. I do not know if the owners of the company are aware of the allegations against Easton (or several other firms that use that address). And, like many businesses, I doubt Freeport has any direct links to Easton other than hosting a mail drop for them (any more than the US Post Office has a link to a company with a PO Box).
What to do
If you have been a victim of a scam, see the following links for agencies where you can file a report. Also, on one of the web posts, someone mentioned the strategy of "following the money" (see post by "Donna in Fort Worth, TX" at the Rip Off Report website, Submitted: 11/20/2004 11:19:18 PM, scroll down the page a bit to find the post). If you paid through a credit card, your credit card company should be able to tell you who the money was paid to (often an intermediate collection company). Contact the collection company and seek a refund. Dispute the charge with your credit card company (although the time limit may have expired). If you gave a scam company your bank account information for a direct deduct, report it to your bank's fraud department and ask for information on who the money was paid to. Also file a complaint with appropriate Federal and State agencies.
To report fraud:
- New York State & Federal Resources
- Consumer Sentinel (Link updated 3/2010)
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Consumer's Guide to Avoiding Fraud
I have posted this page only as a collection of information for people. I am not personally involved in any law enforcement investigations, law suits, legal or non-legal action against Easton Consulting Group. So please do not contact me just to say you've been ripped off (contact the fed and local authorities instead). However, if you know of additional resources/links that would be helpful for me to add to this page, or if I need to correct inaccurate information please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org (put Easton in the subject line so it gets past the spam filter).
Black Drake Consulting
May 19, 2007
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