(Below is a letter I sent requesting an investigation into a very curious, high-pressure, busines-to-business fraud operation that tried to rip me off. I have seen a few other references to this company around the web, but if anyone has any further information about this, please let me know. I never got a reply to the letter.)
UPDATE 2005/05/01! I just found out that these clowns were finally prosecuted in 2002, at least in one state (Vermont). Hooray. Here is the link. I cherish closure. Here is a "ripoff report" about the same company. Wow, this is really big (beware annoying popup)--and apparently one defrauded customer actually took out a mob hit on the bastards!
Champlain, NY 12919
I am writing to you regarding what I believe is a case of organized business fraud that is being run in part from the post office that serves the zip code 12919 in Champlain, New York.
Around November 1998 a contractor employed by my company received a phone call from someone purporting to be from "Directory Service". The caller requested that my contractor (Brian Sweeney) confirm our address and listing in a directory. My contractor did so, but emphatically did not authorize any sort of purchase. Nor was any cost for this listing ever mentioned by the caller. The caller indicated that the listing was a renewal, though in fact we had never been contacted by this organization before, and of course nor had we ever had any business dealings with them. My contractor thought nothing of the call and went on about his business.
Then around February of this year I received a call from a woman identifying herself as Sylvia from "Ameri Source". She informed me that we had an overdue invoice with their company. I explained that I handled all the bills for my company and was not aware of any overdue invoices. Further, since I personally authorize all purchasing decisions and did not recall purchasing anything from a company called Ameri Source, I said I was skeptical that we had actually purchased anything from them, and I did not even know what service they claimed to have provided me. Sylvia said that Ameri Source was a business to business directory service company, or words to that effect. She said that she had spoken with Brian, my contractor, and that Brian had authorized the purchase. I explained that Brian was not authorized to make purchasing decisions without my consultation, and that I very much doubted he had done so but that I would speak with him to figure out what had happened. I spoke to Brian a few days later, and Brian said that he recalled the conversation but that he had made no purchase.
Several days later, Sylvia called back and I related to her my conversation with Brian and explained that we had made no purchase from them. Sylvia then claimed that the conversation with the purchase request was recorded. I asked her to play the tape for me or send a copy of the tape to me, because I didn't believe her claim. She would not do so. This was when my suspicions began that she was engaged in directory service fraud similar to what I had seen described on TV on Dateline or 20/20. I explained that Brian does not make purchasing decisions and neither he nor I would--or did--order such a listing under any circumstances since it would not be of value to my company. Sylvia would not end the conversation, and I had no choice but to hang up on her in order to continue with my work. Then began a period of phone harassment that continued for several weeks. Some days Sylvia or her cohorts would call dozens and dozens of times in a single day.
At one point in a later conversation Sylvia threatened to send my 'account' to 'collections'. I said, by all means, please go right ahead! But she did not. Later she threatened to send my 'account' to their 'lawyer'. I said, please do, but stop harassing me! Nevertheless, I continued to receive harassing phone calls first from Sylvia, and then from a person identifying himself as 'Jay Turner'. I repeatedly explained that 1) I personally authorize all purchasing decisions, and would never authorize any listing in any such directory that required payment since such a listing had no value to me, and 2) I had spoken to Brian Sweeney (the only other person besides me who even had the responsibility to answer the phones in the past year) and he recalled a conversation with someone from a directory listing service, but he absolutely did not authorize any sort of purchase. In several subsequent conversations with my contractor Brian, he has repeatedly confirmed that he did not authorize any purchase (and in fact he knew he was not authorized to do so without talking to me) and that he merely confirmed our address and type of business to someone who asked for a confirmation of a claimed existing listing, but no purchase or cost was ever discussed or authorized.
Still the harassing phone calls from 'Sylvia' and 'Jay' continued, often dozens of calls in a row, forcing me to forward the phone to voicemail in order to avoid the barrage. Needless to say this had a significant effect on my business, since my customers were unable to reach me directly when I was forced to send all calls to voicemail.
Finally I collected my wits and figured out that this was a high-pressure fraud, and I began asking the harassers probing questions about their "Ameri Source" organization whenever they called. The answers I received were vague, confirming my suspicions that something untoward was going on. At my insistence, they did finally claim that they were a corporation incorporated in New York as "Ameri Source Inc." However, my investigation with the Secretary of State of New York shows only one listing for a company named "Ameri Source" and it is listed as a "Health Services Corporation" whose primary incorporation is in another state. The callers would not provide a street address for Ameri Source, instead, they would only provide this PO Box in your jurisdiction:
PO Box 2661
Champlain, NY 12919
Furthermore, whenever I received a call from 'Sylvia' or 'Jay', my caller ID would indicate an origin phone number of (514) 279-1388. According to my research, this area code is in Canada (Montreal). I believe that to make themselves more difficult to track them down they have their offices in Canada and their 'payment' address is a PO box in your jurisdiction. I hope that this does not make them immune to investigation or, ultimately, prosecution.
At one point, Sylvia did supply me with an 800 number: (800) 717-9999. When I called that number today (4/13/99) the receptionist answered "ASI". I explained that I have a couple of questions about their company. The receptionist asked, "What is the invoice number?" as if that is the only thing I might be calling about--no doubt they get plenty of people calling wondering who they are and why they have received an invoice from them! I then repeated that I simply have some questions about their company. The receptionist transferred me to another person. I then asked several questions such as: "What is your product?" "Where are you located?" and so on. The person would answer none of my questions and would not supply his name.
My conclusion that this organization is attempting to fraudulently obtain money from me is based on the following:
Their "recorded purchase confirmation" ruse. No doubt they did record the conversation with my contractor where he confirmed our business address. They attempted to use the mere existence of this recording to convince me that my contractor had authorized a purchase, which he emphatically did not. This explains their refusal to actually play back the recording for me: it contained no evidence of a purchase on our part. However, if our organization were larger, or if my contractor Brian were no longer in contact with me, it would have been quite possible that I would have been unsure about what was said in the past and would have paid the invoice out of confusion. This was Ameri Source's true objective, I have little doubt.
Ameri Source's evasiveness in identifying their own organization in detail, and the fact that much of the (little) information they did give me (like the incorporation information) appears to have been outright false.
Their extremely aggressive phone harassment tactics, often calling dozens of times a day.
I would appreciate a response from you indicating whether or not you intend to investigate this incident. I am willing to help in any reasonable manner to assist in your investigation. If you have a suggestion of another agency that I should should contact to pursue this matter, please advise.
President, Interstice Inc.
PO Box XXXX
drewes at interstice dot com