“A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity” - Baltasar Gracian
Before you start reading this (hopefully) fascinating story, let’s conduct a little experiment. Try typing something like “remove review”, “remove content” or “content removal” in Google search bar. What did you get? We think same as everybody would – the Internet is full of all kinds of recommendations on what you “can”, “should”, “must” and “need” to do if you want to remove content from a review platform like PissedConsumer.com.
Interestingly enough, it will not be so easy for you to find a decent piece of advice on what NOT to do in such situations.
We at PissedConsumer.com, being a well-known open, publicly available forum that allows consumers sharing their thoughts and experiences about companies with other potential or current consumers of those companies’ goods and services, can certainly offer you plenty of useful tips and suggestions on what you should not do to remove reviews and complaints from our website.
But for the sake of this article we will say one thing and one thing only: please, do not lie. Why? – Here is another story and one of our recent investigations.
Once upon a time, namely in May of 2015, a new review and a new company appeared on our website: Luxsport Motor Group.
For the record, Luxury Motor Group, LLC is a New York limited liability company with its principal place of business in Nassau County, New York. It is a division of LMG that sells automobiles, finances the sale of automobiles, and stores automobiles.
Everything was going well. Every once in a while, people would post a review or a comment here and there about Luxsport Motor Group. From time to time we received notarized letters from the posters who wanted to remove their reviews posted by mistake. Nothing suspicious. Until fraud was discovered.
Fraud involving notarized letters is the subject of this article.
Hereby, please keep in mind that our requirements for a notarized letter to be accepted are very simple. You can find them in paragraph 8 of Pissed Consumer FAQ here:
As stated above, we accepted several notarized letters from the authors of the reviews about Luxsport Motor Group. They looked legitimate at first glance as they were handled separately at different times and by different managers of our company. We had no issues with them – until March 2018.
About that time we received yet another notarized letter from a poster regarding a review about Luxsport Motor Group. The letter did not meet our requirements in full. So, our Customer Support representative contacted the poster and asked him to revise the notarized letter accordingly.
Here is the message we received in response: “…I did reach an agreement with Lux but never had my signature notarized for any document…”. We sent the poster a copy of the notarized letter we received so that he could check it and got the following response: “…I am not the author of this letter and it is fraudulent…”. The poster stated further that “… [he has] forwarded this fraudulent document to the proper authorities…”. We offered the poster other content removal options but did not receive a response. The review is still on the site.
Interestingly enough, in January of this year we received another notarized letter about the same review and, allegedly, by the same author. But now it is dated November 2018 instead of March 2018. Moreover, the notary public who signed the letter is located in Washington as opposed to New York as it was stated in the previous notarized letter.
Between the above-mentioned letters, we had another incident of suspicious activity. In October 2018 we received a notarized letter regarding a review about Luxsport Motor Group. The letter did meet our requirements and the review in question was unpublished.
After the review had been unpublished, we received an email from the author of the review asking “…It appears that my negative comment on LUXSPORT was removed? Can you fill me in?...” When we asked the person if he sent the notarized letter in question, he responded with “…no letter sent…” and added “…but this is an opportunity for me to "test" the honesty of Lance & Co…” (Lance Yudkin is the owner of Luxsport Motor Group).
Over the course of Luxsport Motor Group’s profile existence on our website, we have received a total of about 10 notarized letters from posters asking us to remove their reviews about this company. 7 reviews have been unpublished based on the notarized letters.
And so we started digging and investigating further. We found out that:
- 4 notarized letters according to which we removed the reviews about Luxsport Motor Group were notarized by one and the same notary public from New York – Stephanie Chrysten Lynch
- coincidentally, Luxsport Motor Group is headquartered in New York
- interestingly, the posters whose letters were notarized by the same New York notary public, Stephanie Chrysten Lynch, posted their reviews not just from different parts of the US but from different continents
- when we checked correspondence we received from, allegedly, the authors of the above-mentioned 4 notarized letters – it turns out that it was their 2nd notarized letter that was accepted in 3 cases; we did not accept the initial notarized letters and wrote them about it, they did not respond and then some time later the second “good” notarized letter came in.
We confronted Luxsport Motor Group about them deceiving Pissed Consumer into removing content on the basis of fake notarized letters. We let them know that such unlawful and deceptive actions constitute fraud and abuse of process. Here are just some statements that we received in response:
- “… Pissed Consumer has wrongly claimed that reviews were improperly removed…”
- “… [the owner] feels [Pissed Consumer] is pursuing meritless claims…”
- “…Pissed Consumer is actively trying to damage LuxSport’s reputation and negatively affect its business by trying to facilitate disparaging comments about LuxSport..”, etc.
So, now we find ourselves in one fine predicament.
On the one hand, we have statements sent to us by the authors of the review about Luxsport Motor Group saying that they have no idea about any notarized letters regarding reviews about Luxsport Motor Group published on our site, they have never signed any such letters and their signatures have never been attested to by any notaries.
On the other hand, we have these notarized letters on record that somebody prepared, signed, notarized and sent to us all the while impersonating those very people who are telling us that they are blissfully unaware of those letters.
There is fraud and falsification going on somewhere in here. Maybe notary’s signature is a fake? Maybe the company, Luxsport Motor Group, is hiding something? Maybe these notarized letters are fabricated altogether?
Now, this is not the first instance of fraud uncovered by Pissed Consumer. In the course of our 10-plus-year journey as an online review platform, we have caught and exposed all kinds of schemes and scams. Below you can find examples of a few of them:
I think, dear readers, that now it would be appropriate to give you a bit more explanation as to how reviews appear on our site and how they may disappear from it.
We at Pissed Consumer are firm believers in the freedom of speech concept. The First Amendment in the US Constitution famously guarantees US citizens the right to free speech. People exercise the same right when using our website. Our mission is to collect people's opinions about products, services, and companies.
Our platform allows everyone, not only customers of a company but also employees, ex-employees, people who never used the services/ products of a company leave their reviews on PissedConsumer.com. For example, someone does not like this or that commercial or heard from a neighbor that this or that company is not good – they can share this information with others.
Freedom of speech has long been regarded as one of the fundamental principles of modern democracies.
With that said, please note, dear readers, that we do receive quite a few content removal requests. Valid and invalid, legitimate and not so legitimate. Contrary to the popular belief and to what some sources may say about us on the Internet, it is possible to remove content from our website if one follows our rules. The rules are pretty simple and straightforward. We have them listed in:
- PissedConsumer.com FAQ for Consumers and FAQ for Companies,
- our Legal Information section,
- an article on how not to remove a complaint from Pissed Consumer in our Help Center section, and
- a video on how to remove a complaint from Pissed Consumer on our YouTube channel.
Somebody might say that because of our removal policies we are such a “big bad wolf”. All online review platforms have more or less similar complaint removal regulations.
We value the content posted on our site. We value our users. We value their right to freedom of speech and expression. That is why we do not take removal requests lightly.
After all, what if you are the person who had, for example, a preposterous situation with some business and wrote a review on our site to at least warn everybody about the potential risks of dealing with this business, and the next day – poof! your “gained through suffering” experience and opinion, your work product, so to speak, is gone from the site, vanished forever. How would that make you feel?
We hope you see our point.
So, let’s go back to the notorious Luxsport Motor Group folks and our predicament. Here is the action plan:
We at Pissed Consumer decided not to accept any more notarized letter from Luxsport Motor Group and place a warning message at the top of their profile: “PissedConsumer believes that this company commits fraudulent acts towards our website by providing false information”.
We suggest you do not take the Luxsport Motor Group’s path and refrain from actions similar to theirs.
If you are a news media representative or any other interested party and would like to learn more information on this subject, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org