Tag Archives: scam

Lured into Subscription by buying a Sample – Beware

I just got this in my mailbox from Desjardins Visa, read it and be careful!


“We are writing to let you know about an issue involving the purchase of online product samples that has caused unwanted surprises for some of our clients.

When requesting a product sample, clients sometimes forget to review the terms and conditions of their purchase and do not realize they’re actually also agreeing to a subscription. As a result of the subscription, additional products are delivered and billed to the client. If you recently requested a sample online, you can check the sales conditions on the merchant’s website to see whether you have actually taken out a subscription. You can then contact the merchant if necessary.”

I’ve heard of Costco doing this kind of sneaky stuff, they sell a certain luxury cream very cheap, but then that cosmetic company starts billing you monthly.

I’ve looked into it online and turns out it was some survey on Costco’s site that offered you free samples given that you pay the shipping, but then billing you the full cost if you wouldn’t return those back.

Of course Costco will deny any relation to this, they say that those are scammers who pretend to be them and there is even a fraud note on Costco’s site.

Remember, there is no free lunch and always read the small print.

What happened to the stock generation game by Mavrodi?

I was listening to the interview with Sergey Mavrodi, a Russian entrepreneur, or criminal, depends on who you ask.

He created one of his money schemes in 1998, it was a virtual stock market game called “Stock Generation”. It was registered offshore, somewhere in the Caribbean, with a proper gaming licence.

There were tens of millions of users, but only 3 users disliked something and complained. That triggered a court case in Boston, which Mavrodi won, but then lost at the appeal stage of the case.  He was accused of fraud.



Karatbars International – Is it a Scam? (IMS & Associates, Offshore Credit Cards, Gold)

Today some girl I barely know called me all bubbly, saying something like “I just found out about a wonderful business, I don’t even understand it myself, but it is so profitable that there are not enough chairs to seat all the attendees.”

Whenever someone says that it is wonderful, but they are reluctant to explain anything because someone else can explain it better, a red flag goes off for me. In my opinion a beautiful business idea should be simple enough to get across without a big presentation.

I doubt I’ll even attend that presentation, but I can tell you right away that there is something strange going on. Any reputable credit card provider has a polished website, but these guys seem to have it quite mediocre, with little formatting mishaps here and there and Wikipedia is indicated as a source for some information. Even the video looks somehow familiar since all of those images are taken from stock photo sites.

I found the following online from the AMF Bureau:

Montréal – On April 17, 2014, at the request of the Autorité des marchés financiers (“AMF”), the Bureau de décision et de révision (“Bureau”) issued prohibition orders relating to certain activities of Karatbars International Gmbh (“Karatbars”), Robert La Rivière, Michel Desroches and Anthoni Snopek involving Karatbars’ affiliate and referral program.

More specifically, the Bureau has prohibited them from directly or indirectly trading in securities under any form of investment covered by the Securities Act issued by Karatbars, whether via the Internet or otherwise. It has also prohibited them from acting as a securities adviser. The Bureau is concerned that, without these orders, the respondents will continue to solicit investors.”

As you see, the company is already in trouble in Quebec and I imagine that other provinces will catch on to this soon too. This is just another pyramid scheme according to the critics and some information provided is actually false (ex. Prosegur does not store gold on their behalf).

Deloitte email is hacked again! Sending out Prize Spam.

Just got an e-mail on Jan 12 2015 from a man in Deloitte (with official company address) telling me that I won a prize.

You have been awarded a personal donation through your E-mail ID . To claim prize get back for more info.

This message (including any attachments) contains confidential information intended for a specific individual and purpose, and is protected by law. If you are not the intended recipient, you should delete this message and any disclosure, copying, or distribution of this message, or the taking of any action based on it, by you is strictly prohibited.


Yes, I applied there a long time ago, but I`ve never been in correspondence with anyone under that name.

Hardy, Jim (US – Seattle) <jihardy@deloitte.com>

Looks like their database got hacked into again.

There are reports of hacking Deloitte in December, but I guess it`s still going on.

Don`t they hire good programmers and engineers to keep them safe? After all, they do handle a lot of sensitive financial information.

airline Westjet

Westjet scam is just a random phone call in Canada – Privacy Breach?

I got a call from 604 564 4463 and told me that I won a $999 credit because of my recent flight with the airline. Yes, in fact I just returned from a vacation. So I asked what was my destination and they told me they don’t know and then hung up.

Is it random or not? Many people online are wondering if WestJet database got hacked or if there is a privacy breach and their information was given away to a third party.

Yes, random! Considering that our information is available in phone books and Canada only has 2 airlines – WestJet and Air Canada, these scammers assume that probability of any Canadian resident booking with WestJet is almost certain. It’s just a numbers game.

“This phone scam and other, similar versions continue to be a source of great frustration for our guests as well as for us,” said Richard Bartrem, WestJet Vice-President

One thing that you may notice right away is that whoever talks to you speaks with an accent and asks you if you are over 30 and have a credit card. If it would be really WestJet, they would probably only care that you are 18+ and would be able to offer you flexible payment methods.

Didn’t sign up for 411.ca program with EVO? Getting unauthorized charges?

I used to be a customer with Global Payment Solutions and they gave away my information to a telemarketer who called me on behalf of EVO Canada, another merchant provider. My account with Global Payments (also known as Federated Payments) has been officially closed since 2012.

I had no idea that listening to the offer meant that this is a binding contract, they used the negative option acceptance tactic that is illegal in Canada. During the call I asked why I am contacted and it was explained that it is because I am a former customer with Global Payment solutions.

I only found out later when I saw the charges in my account since I’ve never even been sent a statement or a receipt. I tried to talk to EVO about this and they are completely unhelpful. Even worse, without my permission they put up my personal information on 411.ca search engine.

There is absolutely nothing in writing from my behalf accepting the offer or authorizing the charge.

At the moment I am looking into this. 411.ca is not helpful at all, they just direct me to EVO. Luckily my bank reversed the charges.  Global Payments refuse that they have anything to do with it. They all refuse to give their last names or e-mail, including the manager.

Please leave a comment if you are in the same boat. Let’s stop this business directory scam.

coctail drink Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacation

Melias Las Dunas Review in Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

crab eating grass after rain Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationSo I went to Melias Las Dunas with my parents, April 22-29th 2014. It is located in Cayo Santa Clara, a city that has a big crab symbol because they actually come out after rain. Lucky for me, I even got to see such one big crab eating grass after rain in our hotel. I never knew that they even come out of the water and somehow I began to consider them more as animals as compare to just fish after this experience.

Mixed emotions about this trip though. It was great to spend time with my parents and to enjoy the beach and warm weather. However, some things are just not acceptable considering that this was supposed to be a relatively high end hotel (4.5 stars). Please let me remind you that I’ve been to Cuba prior to that 3 times.

airplane at the airport Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationCan you imagine, we were victim of one of the most common tourists scams? My father went to change some money and got tricked at the currency exchange that was located in the hotel. Actually even though it is not part of the hotel officially, the Sunwing representative recommended to change money there.  So he exchanged over $200 Canadian dollars there as soon as they arrived. Perhaps he though this was normal, but they didn’t give him a receipt. I guess that should’ve been the first warning.

However, only when we went shopping 10 days later we had another not so nice surprise. Turns out that instead of $50 Cuban peso the staff person substituted a $50 Mexican peso, thus ripping us off in the difference of the exchange rate. He didn’t notice among the other bills that one of them was not Cuban since all the currency was foreign to him anyway. We reported it only when we found, but there was nothing they could do because there was no receipt, even though we spent a good portion of the day explaining and writing reports. My dad, as a matter of principle, would go as far as filing a police report, but they said that police will not come to the hotel and we’d actually have to go to Santa Clara for this.

Currency exchange scams are common in Cuba. Actually there are many cases on the internet where they will give “Cuban peso” instead of “Convertible peso”. However, I have not come across a scam where they’d substitute it for another currency all together.

street tabby cat in Cuba relaxing in the hotel Cuba Melias Las Dunas Cayo Santa ClaraLike any tropical country, Cuba is full of all sorts of critters, some pleasant and some not. I am somewhat phobic of spiders and cockroaches I must admit and I had a selection of all sorts of things in my room – small ants, big ants, a couple of roaches, moths, mosquitoes, a spider and a gecko lizard climbing on the wall. I love the lizards, so I had no problem with those, but the other insects I wasn’t so keen on having there. Perhaps a better solution would be to ask for a room on the 2nd floor.

Outdoors, where they belong, there were many cute lizards and chameleons. One review on trip adviser claims that they had a toad jump out of their toilet. There were also some street cats that seemed to be quite happy, I even saw one playing with its kitten.

OK, so insects maybe manage to get in somehow, but how do you explain the basic negligence like not doing laundry properly? At first I saw that the linen wasn’t flawless and thought that probably it’s just an odd case. My pillow had black marks on it and some of my towels too, I also saw some yellow stains on the bed sheets. There was some kind of a musty smell from the linen. Usually I am not picky about beds, but the beds there in Las Dunas were not as comfortable like in other hotels. I kept on missing my bed at home that is so comfortable to sleep on.

city square Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationSo later on I made friends with some Polish women and they were quite upset about the same thing. Turns out that one of them marked her towel with some nail polish and threw it on the floor. When she returned, it was neatly folded, with that same mark. What made her do that was that she had a suspicion of her towels not being chanced since she felt that the “new” ones were somewhat damp to touch.

Turns out to they don’t wash your towels that you use, they just fold it. That Polish lady brought it up and got an answer that there is a problem with the laundry. Well, she had to throw a real fit to ensure that her towels would be changed daily. Lucky for her, she spoke Spanish fluently, so they couldn’t pretend like they don’t understand.

May be some people notice, maybe some people don’t, but sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference. We had no facial tissue paper there in the room. Even cheap motels offer a box of Kleenex in their rooms. Another thing that was quite crucial in my opinion that was missing was a an alarm clock or at least some kind of a clock to tell the time. Even in buffets there was no time anywhere.

exotic fruit selection Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationIn every room there is a mini bar and it was constantly refilled. That was a pleasant surprise and something to enjoy in front of television in the evening. Beer, pop drinks, water. If I would have a “don’t disturb” sign, they’d leave a bottle of water by the door.

Food selection was alright, but could be better if compared to hotels in Mexico let’s say or in Punta Cana. I really enjoyed freshly cooked seafood and meat. However, some tourists mentioned that squid was undercooked frequently. Exotic fruits were always a nice touch, but of course I must admit that mangos could be cleaned better and at least peeled. Every morning there were freshly squeezed juices.

fresh fried fish at the buffet in Cuba Melias Las Dunas Cayo Santa ClaraOn one of the reviews I saw a person writing about seeing roaches at the buffet and the manager said that it is an isolated incident. I’d like to confirm that it happens because I had a shocking story to share. I saw a cockroach on top of the cheese plate at the buffet and asked the waitress to come, hoping that she’ll change that plate and get rid of the pest. To my surprise she simply chased off the roach without harming it, put the plate black, smiled at me and laughed that the roach was hungry. Then she walked off to do her work and that plate, sampled by the roach earlier, was still there for customers to enjoy. On another recent review I saw a person mention that there were cockroaches in the bread basket on daily basis.

In customer service employees learn that to the customer they are the brand, they represent the brand. Maybe hotel management at Melias didn’t get that training. I was surprised to see so many students with no English in customer service positions. I am all for training and so on, but these students should’t actually do the job, simply observe it and learn first. I asked twice for something at front desk and the young girl didn’t understand me at all. One of the questions was quite simple – “can I go see another hotel?”.  Only later another one there told me that she is a student, otherwise I wouldn’t know. I wonder how this is OK, especially in front desk where visitors get their first impression and last impression.

Same story happened at the snack bar when I went there with my mom to get a pizza. Whoever came up to our table didn’t understand anything at all and said something in Spanish, then walked off, came back, and said “NO”. My mom asked why, since she got pizza there before, and then finally someone emerged who spoke some English and said that pizza is only for lunch. Why do students approach customers when they can’t even talk about the menu?

fashion show models posing Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationOtherwise staff are friendly. We went to the same waiter / waitress on daily basis and they gave good service and were really nice. Of course, we left them gratuity and even some of our used clothing for their families. People in Cuba don’t have much, they appreciate whatever clothing they can get.

I gave away most of my used clothing to girls who did the fashion show there, they were skinny, my size, so it would work for them. They were so happy to get it and thanked me so much. Here is a photo of them all posing together.

At some point my parents decided that I went dancing and didn’t come back, they were freaked because they couldn’t get a hold of me. Turns it that calls didn’t go through. Actually I was in the room, waiting for my guy to call me from Canada all evening and in the morning surprised that my parents didn’t call. So for whatever reason the phone half the time would not ring. I missed many calls and that drove me crazy and my parents too. I reported the problem with my phone to front desk and to the phone service room, but it was not fixed. Later on other reviews I saw that some people complained about the phone service too.
coctail drink Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationThere are some stores in the hotel (even though they officially don’t belong to the hotel) that sell rum, cigars, and other items. Demand receipts at all times because otherwise they don’t give it to you and make up other prices. My dad at first was surprised that on some items there were no price tags, so he right away suspected something dirty there. If you ask for a receipt, you will see that the price they charge you is lower than what they told you. Once I even demanded a receipt for 3 cigars, and the staff was refusing to give, saying that I don’t need it for Canada, but I still insisted to have it.

One night there was a man in the lobby with a whole set up, he was making fancy cocktails like you see here, but I don’t remember the name of them. It had liquor, whipped cream, coffee beans, and chocolate. These were delicious! I think I even got a little buzz after. That was quite an experience just to observe how it was made and many people were making videos.

sandy beach in Cuba Melias Las Dunas hotel Cayo Santa Clara vacationThere is a craft market walking distance from the hotel and another market that is accessible by a bus or by cab. I saw many cool things there and bought some leather flip flops for myself and leather slippers for my guy. Well, that was basically the memorable visit when we found out that we had Mexican currency instead of Cuban currency.

OK, finally let’s get to some good things. Very good beach there, one of the best ones I’ve seen! I enjoyed beach aqua fitness, it was so much fun to do exercise in the water. The water was warm, the beach was clean, and there was no rocks or sea urchins there. I had a really good time at the beach and in the water. My parents would have to wake up early though, at 7 a.m. in the morning, to reserve a spot in the shade.

kids little mermaid ariel show hotel Cuba Melias Las Dunas Cayo Santa ClaraThere was also a live band playing every evening and lots of shows on stage like contests, acrobatics, and so on. I even got to dance a little. As far as I know, there was a disco there too, but I never went there and drinks there are not inclusive as it turns out. One of the big entertainment high lights for me were the fashion shows and the magician.

I already knew that I’ll have no chance to go on the internet, so I delegated it to my assistant to do herself while I’m away. But in case you want to know, there is no Wi-Fi and the only computers provided by the hotel have very slow internet.

Overall it wasn’t so bad because I enjoyed spending time with my parents, but this is not a 4.5 star hotel. It’s more like 3 star hotel. Actually, maybe in some cases even less, because according to some recent reviews I see that the laundry problem and the roach problem didn’t disappear.

It was under different management before and this hotel was recommend to us by our travel agent and her daughter, both of them went there and loved it. So it had good reviews over a year ago, but it went downhill. But now it looks like they cut a lot of costs and the service goes with it.

Some videos from Melias Las Dunas in Cayo Santa Clara:


eBay sellers, what if someone asks to ship the item to a different address?

If you are selling online, keep your eyes open for potential red flags. It may happen that you go the extra mile to satisfy your customer and ship an item to a third party address, but later you’ll find out that you are no longer protected by eBay or Paypal for doing so.

Let’s say you get approached by a woman in USA asking if you could ship the item to her sister in China. Would you do that? It’s potentially a bad sign, but what if you really want that sale?

One tip on how to get around that is to ask the buyer to add their sister’s address as a verified address on their paypal. This way you are granted the seller’s protection if you ship to that address! Also, resolution centre would help to o if there is a problem.



Offshore Tax Havens and IRS Investigations

Lecture by Daniel Reeves: Offshore tax havens and the financial community


Daniel Reeves, he worked for 35 years at the IRS (United States Internal Revenue Service), guided the development of offshore compliance initiative program and higher profile tax investigations into cross border banking practices of UBS, HSBC, and Standford Financial Group among others.  He recently retired from his position as an offshore adviser for senior matters.

However, this lecture will be slightly different.  In this lecture Daniel talks not about the big corporations, but about extremely wealthy individuals – people who enjoy the best that this world has to provide and they live in multiple homes with servants and yachts and planes.  But yet despite all of these luxuries that they have, they don’t think that they have to pay tax.  They think that all of you should pay tax!

There was a very wealthy woman in New York City named Leonna Helsmley.  She was a nurse and she ran a chain of high luxury hotels and she got famous for having once said – “Only the little people pay tax.”

But as Bob Dylan said, the times are changing, and he was right.  Complete lecture below: