Sunday, March 02, 2008

Napalm! (Updated 3/31/2013)



So this showed up in my mail the other day.

Click on the image to read the original, or continue below for a line-by-line explanation. But the short version is that this is a letter to try and stop this site from talking about McKenzie Scott/ITS/etc.

The entire letter is filled with so many things that make me react strongly that i'm not sure where to start. But before i go line by line through it, let me note 2 overall things. The first is that this effort to intimidate someone who is critical of ITS et al seems to be in-line with the way this company does business.

Rather than provide a quality product, they prey on people's fears not only to get customers to sign up, but also to silence criticism. The second item of note is that they must have gone to some length to find my real name AND home address. To me that's pretty invasive - they could have left a note on my blog, but instead thought it would make more of a point that they could enter the privacy of my home (with a registered letter and then a saturday delivery to my home address...)

Now, this letter is clearly meant to scare me off and while there hasn't been a suit filled yet, they are clearly threatening it. In the event of a lawsuit, then it seems to me that they would be open to charges of malicious prosecution and frivolous pleadings (i.e. big counter lawsuits for attorneys fees, costs, treble damages, etc.) However, even in this letter they assert that i am in violation of "applicable law." Feels like harassment to me...

The whole reason i wrote these posts is that through my experience i realized how much this company takes advantage of people in a vulnerable situation and i wanted to help others who were in a similar situation be fully armed with the facts so that they could make the best decision possible. So, if having a knowledgeable and educated target audience is a problem for ITS's business model, that's just too bad.

With that said, here's a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary.

P1.

"This law firm represents ITS Corporations and its affiliates, a.k,a. McKenzie/Scott Partners, Inc. and America’s Job Network, Inc. ITS provides career transition resources to Fortune 1000 companies and senior level executives throughout the world. As its business practice relies largely on its reputation, ITS strives to maintain positive client relations and provide excellent customer service."
No need to comment on this - users comments on this blog speak to how well they do at meeting the reputation that they "strive" for.

P2.
"While you are welcome to conclude that ITS is not the right fit for you, your use of an internet blog, http://randomconvergence.blogspot.com/, to unfairly disparage ITS is unacceptable and in violation of applicable law."
Nice of them to allow me to draw my own opinions. However, since what i write about is also true, i think that makes what i write "fair" (rather than "unfair.") Disparaging perhaps, but since it's true, i guess that shows that Mr. Honhart and presumably his client agree that the behavior and series of events that i describe are an indictment of McKenzie Scott, ITS and their related companies. In short, any negative impression that someone would get from these events is the fault of the company who perpetrated them, not the person who describes that activity.

Kinda like a Nixon blaming newspapers for reporting on Watergate rather than realizing that it was his actions that were the root issue.

And then the contention that i'm in violation of "applicable law" - not sure what law they're referring to since it's all true, which is generally a pretty solid defense. Seems like this is one of those lawyer phrases that gets thrown in to say "in case you're violating the law, then your violating the law..." Nevertheless, it's clearly meant to be threatening.

P3.

"Assuming you are who you say you are, you have never been a client of ITS or any of its affiliates, and ITS has never taken money from you or entered into a contractual relationship with you."
Not sure whether to laugh or be offended by the audacity of this paragraph. On this blog i don't "claim" to be anyone. Rather, someone (ITS? the lawyers?) had to do some digging to find me - so, what they should have said is "assuming that you're who we think you are..."

But they are correct in this aspect - i never signed a contract with McKenzie Scott (which i clearly mention in my posts). If i had, then i'm sure they'd be complained about how i was violating something in the contract i signed. And while it's true that they never took any of my money, it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. (As outlined in my posts), there were many attempts by phone and email on the part of McKenzie Scott to get me to become a client, to pay them money and to sign their contracts. And i would imagine that they have records (like a CRM system, email system, etc.) that make them well aware of this situation.

So, to say the least, this statement is disengenious.

P4.

"Rather than communicate with ITS about your experience and decision not to work with ITS, you have chosen to post defamatory and inflammatory statements about ITS, and encouraged and assisted others to do the same, revealing private and confidential information, trade secrets, copyrighted information, and actively and aggressively interfering with the business relations ITS enjoys with its clients and potential clients in the process."
The opening of this sentence implies something that is at odds with their previous implication - namely that i had an offer from them to "work together..." Looks like they just realized in this paragraph that we did have a relationship.

The use of the word "defamatory" is pretty accusatory (and legally significant coming from a lawyer?) From the legal stand point, it's hard to see how it can be defamation if it's true. And again, this seems like an admission that the firms behavior is objectionable since they feel like an open depiction of their activities puts them in a bad light.

To top it off, the links i point to were on the internet - so it's hard to see how the McKenzie Scott and ITS would feel like they were private, confidential, and trade-secrets.

As for copyright - i'm quite sure that what i did falls under "fair use." (Note: a lot of the links are now broken, so maybe that means that they realize that having these things available on the internet takes a bit of the wind out of their sails...)

Now, instead of picking apart every word in the last half of this paragraph (i especially like the use of the word "enjoys"), let me just say this. The near unanimous feedback from people i have interacted with on this blog and in other venues is that this whole thing is a scam of the worst sorts. It feeds on people's fears and insecurities. And while i admire the companies literature and soft-sell approach (in the way that many people admire a good con-artist), at the end the day, they are preying on people who are already in a vulnerable situation. This is reprehensible and all anyone has to do is look through comments on this blog to see that this is a universal perspective.

I wrote these posts precisely because i wanted to arm other people with better information so they could make an informed decision about what to do. So if the conveyance of this information has caused some people to avoid wasting money on McKenzie Scott and ITS, well then i think that's a good thing. And if this causes the company a loss of business, then perhaps they should spend their time and energy on making a better product (or getting out of the market since people can get equivelent services for 1/10th the price) rather than lawyering up.

P5.

"ITS has received reports from some of its satisfied clients, who report that they have attempted to post their own success stories and positive experiences about ITS on your blog, only to have you refuse to post those comments. Instead, you post nothing but negative comments about ITS from almost exclusively anonymous sources and conceal their identities under a cloak of secrecy."
I can't directly refute the first sentence, because i have no idea what they may or may not have been told by other people. However, i can report that while there have been a few comments that i have refused for a variety of reasons (see this post for more on this topic) - there has NEVER been a comment left talking of a fully positive experience. To me that's pretty incredible - look at all those negatives and no positives.

For the record, i think the closest to a positive comment - which i did publish - was "I do believe they may offer some great services but my guess is that it is mainly overpriced as a whole." So, the reason why all these comments are negative is a reflection of the company, not my editing! duh!

P6.
"As it is, your agenda-driven conduct appears to have more in common with one of ITS’ competitors than that of an individual who chose to not use a certain service. It is our opinion that competitors are now using this forum with your help to unfairly attack our firm and interfere with our operations. There is ample evidence that credible organizations that run search engines and blogs do not support sites that are not fair and balanced. They include Google, whose software you use, and Yahoo."
Aside from the ad homenem attacks and (wrong) assumptions as to my motives, I assume this is another set of threats. I would imagine that variants of frivolous pleading counter-suits would be an appropriate response to any attempt to influence google and yahoo in a retalitory manner.

p7.

"We are investigating whether you are in violation of the Federal Communications Decency Act. The CDA does not protect a website operator, like yourself, who is an "information content provider," defined as a person who is responsible, even in part, for the creation or development of the content of a website."
Laughing out loud on this.

First of all, i sure hope you hire a law firm that actually knows about this act rather than a real-estate law firm. Because if you did, they'd tell you that this act actually protects those publishing material (as long as it's not porn). Again, the way this is written is very misleading to make it seem like a threat. This law is actually about making sure that companies like "google" or "yahoo" won't be held responsible for what those who use their services do. On the question of whether the actual author is responsible - it's neutral and leaves all existing laws intact. So again, the truth is a pretty good defense.

And note: endangered species and greenhouse admissions are also on the list of things that CA doesn't protect. So maybe the lawyers should investigate those question as well...

And for Mr. Honhart's benefit, here's some information on that act that might help his get his head straight while you're "investigating" if it's applicable to this situation: wikipedia or wikipedia. And just in case, here's the full text of the actual law.

p.8

"On behalf of ITS, please consider this a request, to immediately remove from http://randomnconvergence.blogspot,com/ all references to ITS and any of its affiliates and cease and desist from further posting this material on your blog or any other website. We also request that you provide us with the real names and addresses – physical and/or Internet – of the individuals who have posted on your website so that we may similarly advise them to cease and desist."

Yeah right. On behalf of all the poor folks that you bilked out of money, consider this a request to refund any and all funds to all your previous clients and desist from preying on anyone else ever again. Also, stop harrassing me with empty threats from your lawyers. In short: pound sand.

As a final note, here are the lawyers in question: Fisher, Sweetbaum, Levin & Sands - http://www.fslpc.com/

Interesting that ITS would hire a bunch of real estate lawyers. Here's a map from the offices of ITS (or at least where ITS has as their mailing address) to their lawyers. Seems like a long way to go to get lawyers who aren't quite in the line of business that your looking for.

And here's the lawyer who sent letter

Again, this kind of thing doesn't really seem to be his expertise. I'm guessing ITS got a good deal on him.

Also interesting that all of the old links for the ITS companies don't work anymore... Anyone who has current links for anything that's broken, feel free to leave them in the comments and i'll update the posts. (Update: looks like www.itspersonalmarketing.com is the right site for them now...)

Update: One of the comments left on this page generated an update to this post.
Update: If you've been a customer of ITS/McKenzie Scott, see this post.
Update: See latest legal actions.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting. Did I miss something here? On the first page it says you are in violation of applicable law, but doesn't state what law The second page it says they are investigating as to whether you are in violation of law (Federal Communications Decency Act). First you are and then they're not sure and are investigating?

This appears to be a classic "shock and awe" tactic used to intimidate, as you so note. A registered letter with a lawyer's letterhead and legal jumbo is designed to "warn" you of alleged wrongdoing-in their opinion.

In my opinion, I don't see this blog as anything else other than an informed blog designed to educate others, as you also claim, and nothting more. Of course the company won't like it but this is America. We have rights to our opinion and are protected under constitutional rights.

The Internet is a great resource for research on any product/company and there are many reviews out there. It is opinion and we are all protected under the First Ammendment. For example, would a hotel file suit against someone if they wrote a negative opinion on the hotel on a review on a site like hotels.com or tripadvisor.com? Is Wal Mart going to file suit against someone who wrote a bad review on a toaster they bought there claiming this will damage potential sales?
Is this where it's headed?

Some of these new laws, like the Federal Communications Decency Act, actually infringe on First Ammendment rights and are very difficult to prove in a court of law. Many get tossed out. Especially since there is no porn or any obvious felony matters being violated.

By the way, if an individual feels harrassed by any kind of mail received, they can always refuse a letter from the post office, whether through regular mail or by certified delivery. It's called "return to sender". Human curiosity leads us to forget about this. I send back anything from anyone whom I don't recognize.

Anonymous said...

One more point I forgot to mention on the above comment: In the last paragraph of page two, it requests that you provide addresses, "physical and/or Internet" to them. They're not a federal agency or law enforcement entity. This is a trap they are hoping you take. If you do provide that information, then the people (all of us posters) whose information you provide could potentially have a case against you for divulging our private information without our consent. This would compound your situation in their eyes. Don't fall for it. You obviously seem to intelligent to do so. That's a cheesy tactic. They're banking on the fact that a letter like this will scare you and you'll close up shop and run away and cry uncle.

This is nothning more than pure intimidation. I applaud you, even though I am on nobody's side here and am completely unbiased, for not letting them take away your feedom of speech rights under the First Ammendment.

Anonymous said...

That has to be the weakest threat letter I've ever seen.

Keep up the good work, people need to be able to find info about these guys.

When an "ITS" guy called me recently, claiming I'd talked to him before and asking for a time to set up an appointment, I google ITS and the domain his mail came from changingcareers.com--what I found made me immediately suspicious, those search terms returned a massive googlebombing of gimmicked cross links from subdomains of the company's own site, or from obvious junk links. That set off my bs alert, so next I googled ITS, changingcareers and scam, which led me to find your blog.

Very useful information for anyone else who gets their call and is looking for more information.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting a review of your experience with ITS. Sadly, there is not another (that I could find) blog or independent commentary on the positive services ITS may offer. Regardless, the information available on ITS in its totality suggests that its services are not meant for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your work posting this information!

My girlfriend was contacted by ITS thru monster.com. They sent her the fedex, book, ect. After another few sales calls where she kept insisting on the price, they sent her the 4-page Service Charge explanation guide. Basic fees are up to $6500, with extra "add-ons"

She was ready to send a check but decided to talk it over with "Mr. Paranoia" first ;o). I found this site in a few minutes and sent her the link. I told her it sounded fishy, boy was I glad I googled.

Bobo said...

They threaten to sue everybody!

Don't do business with these people. After they steal your money, they will threaten to sue you if you try to expose their scam and get your money back. Don't fall for any of their B/S.

The FBI has a case open on these guys. If you have any information, call the FBI office in San Francisco at 415-553-7400.

Or use the web site: https://tips.fbi.gov/

Anonymous said...

Guess what showed up in my spam box...hahaha when I googled the firm it brought up your link and others like it but nothing for this firm....very interesting that a firm like this would not want to be on the internet. What a scam. A lawyer in Phoenix tried the same thing on a newpaper wanting all the internet information of their readers and its got them him in some serious legal trouble. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I just got my letter today..tried to find them and found this..Thanks for saving me the money.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting posts. You are right in that they are quite smooth in their delivery. I decided not to use their service. I can use the money I've saved for food!!!

Anonymous said...

aha- they send materials?
Then, everyone should call them, and request materials.
Then, of course, either:
a) discard them
b) if they include any postage paid mailer, then use it. Don't agree to anything, just send them a 'no thanks' in their mailer. (or a 'screw U', as you choose)
Cost them time and money if you can!

Anonymous said...

Dude,

Keep up the good word on these and other crooks! I was called and emailed by these jerks recently. When I asked why they charge a fee they tried to sound like they were doing me a favor and better than recruiters. Sure, enough could not find a business report on their company or anything. Hope the Feds shut these crooks down like they did to the Bernard Haldane Associate criminals.

Anonymous said...

I am sooo happy that I found your excellent blog before I fell for their scam. Keep up the good work and do not be afraid of these clowns. I have a buddy who is a law professor who can help if these a-holes try to sue you.

The guy who called and emailed me name is Brett Hoyt. He was rude to me on the phone and quite arrogant. Here is what he sent to me today:

"I enjoyed our conversation today and look forward to reviewing with you your career situation on TUESDAY AT 1pm. I wanted to confirm how you can get to the videos and marketability report we discussed, all of which will be of great help to you.

To view the videos, I have authorized your email address, ben@ben-oracle.com, to be your private access code. When you go to our website, go to the 1st blue menu button at the top left of the page and click on market tour. Use the link below to get to our website.

The tour of today's job market is based upon our experience in managing tens of thousands of campaigns for people at all income levels. In less than 30 minutes, you'll learn everything you need to know about today's job market. In your case, I think you will find that it can be especially helpful in the following areas.

- How the job market really works
- Where to find the right openings
- How to find leads to "unpublished" jobs
- Placing resumes with your best prospects
- How to change industries
- How to negotiate a major increase

When you finish the tour, you will find it beneficial to complete a brief marketability profile. Once submitted you will instantly receive a free 6-page report on how marketable you are... compared with others at your income level. You'll also receive a 2-page analysis on how to expand your marketability.

While this will be great information for you, it will also help me put together your personal career assessment.

Be sure to review our video on resumes. It will bring you up-to-date on the latest resume breakthroughs... and the new resume styles that work today. You'll get some great ideas on making your resume much more effective.

To help get maximum benefit from these video presentations, I am including a link to the PDF file we discussed. This brief 2-page guide will alert you to the key items to watch for in each video. Make notes on any questions, and we'll discuss them in our next meeting.

As we discussed, please email your resume to me as a Word.doc attachment. I will send you your written resume analysis before our next meeting. I look forward to our conversation.

P.S. I have authorized your access to the Market Tour for today until midnight (This limitation is because of the popularity of our Market Tour. Thousands of people worldwide request access each day... and it takes considerable bandwidth).


Regards,

Brett Hoyt, Senior Consultant
ITS
phone: (303) 357-3985


Your private access link to our website is:
http://www.newjobsonline.com/ext/?uid=6CN5PVNJ0SW2CW2TFK28R7F7

Keep up the good fight, spread the truth on these criminals and hopefully the FBI will shut them down for good! Needless to say, I am going to flake on the jerk tomorrow!

Kiley said...

Hey there,

I'm just passing through to let you know that I've become a target of these slimeballs over the past few weeks too...my phone doesn't stop ringing from this dude located in the 972 area code, and I suspected from the start that it was bogus crap to begin with. Seeing your extensive "relationship" (hehe!) with their legal minions simply solidifies why I will have nothing to do with them whatsoever.

Keep on keepin' on. I might be sending Allen Grieb an email later tonight. ;-)

David said...

You were wise not to do business with this company. I have received 5 resumes and cover letters from this company, and I believe any reasonable person would clearly find that the cover letters were essentially all copies. You can judge for yourself; I've posted them on my blog at http://dpinkus.blogspot.com/2009/04/changingcareersonlinecom-part-ii.html. I've left my real name on the envelopes because I'm not afraid of anything they might attempt to do to me. They were so careless that one of the cover letters had a misspelling in it "...you think I would fine helpful", and they put my department as "Inform" instead of "Information Technology". I can think of nothing more disgraceful than to take advantage of people trying to find work when the unemployment rate is nearing 10%.

Anonymous said...

These clowns are up to more no good dirty tricks:

http://careermanagementservices.com/

I keep getting emails and calls from these dirtbags.

Robohobo said...

Here is a woman who writes resumes for a living talking generally about this firm.

http://www.executive-resumes.com/2007/11/beware-of-career-marketing-predators.html

I was considering using these guys and now I am going to RUN, RUN, RUN away.

marcs said...

Not to pile on, but experience is same as yours. New approach is a menu of services you select. msalvatini@mac.com. let me know if you want full story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all so much! One of their reps called me today. He was pleasant but cheezy and outdated. He took up 15 minutes of my time in a hard sell and the only advice he offered on my resume was to lie about why I left one of my positions. While its true that some fabricate reasons for leaving and others do not, I would not do a business with a "company" claiming to be capable of marketing me in a very professional accounting job market that needed to stoop to such a low level to offer anything at all.. At the very least this company has no value to add. And they have not talked me into signing anything, so there is no question that I am able to express my very informed opinion. Thank you again guys. You should consider suing the compnay in small claims court.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very informative blog. I have just recently received 2 e-mails from these people. What tipped me off was that they sent almost the same e-mail 2 days apart (spam), and that the referral link went to two different domains. The first one went here

http://jobs3.managementrecruiting.com

and the second one went here

http://jobs2.professionalopenings.com

Reading your blog and following the links to the NYTimes article, other websites, and the FBI investigation, I see my skepticism was justified.

Anonymous said...

I will not acquiesce in on it. I regard as nice post. Specially the appellation attracted me to study the unscathed story.

scambustersusa said...

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Smith is a former career marketing executive, so he has an insider’s understanding of the business. Nowadays he investigates, writes and makes presentations on scams. His articles on health insurance and hospital billing scams have appeared in leading magazines and newspapers. Scambusters, a book he wrote uncovering sixty common scams and how to prevent them, was published by HarperCollins in 2006

Smith is seeking ways to pass on this important information to job candidates before they get stung. So he’s turning to career professionals and appealing for their help. If you have any ideas they would be most appreciated. You can contact him through his website’s blog, or directly at ScambustersUSA@gmail.com .

His new book Retreads received rave reviews from those who know the field best: career professionals. You can review their comments and add your own to Smith’s blog and website at http://s.webstarts.com/jobscams/

Anonymous said...

nice article. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Anonymous said...

Hi people, I just signed up on this delightful community forum and desired to say hiya! Have a extraordinary day!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read all this stuff, but I only needed to read a little to know how valuable of a service you are running. What is interesting is that they don't know who you are yet they know that you were never a client (regardless of what you posted, you could have lied and been a client). What becomes disturbing is that in all their claims to sites like ripoff reports they do the same thing and say that these complainers were never a client and manage to bamboozle thbose sites in getting the claims marked as false. I am glad that someone can stand up to these ass-holes and make sure they don't get away with it.

From someone who did NOT become a client because your blog saved me from a BAD mistake.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I have tried to look up most of the URLs listed in the various comments, and with one or two exceptions, they don't work. I sense that this outfit is successful in scaring others away from keeping blogs online.

I for one am unendingly grateful to this blog for saving me from making a huge mistake. Keep it up, don't let them scare you into closing this blog, it's just about the only one that pops up with a google search. One more name for the list: Neil Booth, and the name they gave me was SET based in Denver, same address as the other names.

Anonymous said...

How hilarious is it that the attorney who authored this letter has the initials "MEH".