If you own or operate a small business, you might get frequent calls from companies trying to get you to switch over to their credit card processing services. They'll promise lower rates, no obligation, all sorts of services ("You'll never even have to buy paper rolls for the printer!") and on and on. If you've been saddled with high rates, or aren't happy with the rates -- or image -- of using PayPal, 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 be business owners or entrepreneurs in the first place! But what if the con man is standing right in front of you, in a nice suit and waving a laptop with great looking numbers? 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.
Some years ago, I took the bait; this company had everything I wanted. They offered a dazzlingly low percentage rate, plus they had the cool wireless credit card terminal that I needed for my mobile DJ business. Doing bridal shows and taking payoffs on-site, a terminal like that solved a lot of problems. (NOTE: This was long before things like "The Square" or other solutions. This was the cutting edge.) Again, the agent promised me the moon: worry-free service, free repairs or replacement for the life of the contract, never even need to buy paper and on and on. The monthly fee would be a bit hefty, 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.
Before long, 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 such repairs were 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. Then shortly after that, the terminal wouldn't connect with the network. In short, it was useless. I called 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 package. So the equipment was returned and the contract canceled... so I thought.
WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?
Three months later, a check bounced. I was surprised; while my account was low, I knew I had several hundred dollars left. So I went and spoke with my branch manager. It seems that the company had still been taking it's $110.00+ fee for the past three months, leaving me short. He was able to not only lock the company out of my account, but managed to get the three months worth of charges reversed. Oh, and cool guy that he is, my branch manager also reversed my overdraft fees. Satisfied, I thought I was done.
Days later, I get a call from the most abrasive woman I've ever spoken to 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 over $1,000.00... for nothing. When 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. I was having none of it and hung up on her.
For weeks going on into months, threatening phone calls and letters came in. They threatened a lawsuit. Given the paltry amount, I never once took them seriously. I've had some disputes with 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 a LeaseSource envelope! But it looked fairly official, so I thought I'd follow the instructions that came with it, one of which said that I could submit a letter with all of the pertinent information. I sent it well ahead of the hearing date.
After the hearing, 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 up and fly to New York, they handed a judgment to the crooks at LeaseSource.
Again, this wasn't passing the sniff test. All materials came from LeaseSource. It had all the earmarks of being bogus. 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. Determined not to send them money for nothing, I set the whole thing aside and forgot about it. Then my bank called.
THE DEEP FREEZE
Now, I also want to say that, since the days when I first signed-up for the credit card deal, business has not been good. I live in a suburb of Detroit, which has been economic "ground zero." My job rate has dropped by 2/3rds and income even more, so for the past few months I'd had very little in my account, often less than $100.00. This had remained the case until very recently, when I received my tax return. More than half of the return belongs to my wife, who I file jointly with, and the other half was earmarked for some vital things needed to keep my business going. But that was all moot: 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 Sussmen, PC, on the internet. And there they were: story after story on Ripoff Report, Scam Watch and the Better Business Bureau of other companies that had the same, or even worse, experience. Many also reported the abusive woman, Julissa Gomez. Not only were there complaints, but 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. In the meantime, I wanted to pass this along to other unsuspecting 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 medical devices. They've made a cottage industry of bilking businesses and their owners out of money in exchange for 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 complaintwire, complaintboard, scambook, ripoff report (several complaints here), worldlawdirect, and even yahoo news.