Many Americans dream of owning their own business or working from home. It’s an ideal position. Small online business owners set their own hours, choose their workload and spend plenty of time with their families doing what they want to do in life. Working from home is also an excellent way to generate a passive income stream. Seniors in particular often need this supplemental income.
Unfortunately, this leads to a number of issues. Many people look for easy routes to online business success, and some companies attempt to provide them. Two such companies have recently become the target of a lawsuit because of this. They offered to provide a quick, previously created website built as an Amazon affiliate storefront. With all the hard work done, all a person needs to do is maintain it and cash the checks. It sounds too good to be true, and as many have recently discovered, it was.
Both of these companies worked on the same business model. They worked together, sharing clientele and offering the same service. These companies are Superior Marketing Group, LLC and Streamline Online, LLC.
These two companies are the targets of the current lawsuit, though by many accounts there are other companies — subsidiaries and affiliates of the primary two — who are involved. Superior Marketing Group and Streamline Online work together to pretend to provide certain services while charging their clients exorbitant fees.
Typically, Superior Marketing Group will gather the victims and get them to sign contracts they don’t read. They will refer the victims to Streamline Online, supposedly a website maker, for further information. This is where the victim learns they have bought essentially nothing for their money and will be seeing no returns.
Superior Marketing Group and Streamline Online are owned and operated by Sean Burnett and Jethro Becker, the primary targets of the lawsuit. The settlement of the lawsuit is taking place in Arizona, where the companies are based. Superior Marketing Group has an F rating with 54 complaints with the Better Business Bureau, several complaints through Ripoff Reports and half a dozen complaints through Scambook.
The Promises and Scam
Superior Marketing Group begins the process by calling potentially interested people. These people are typically senior citizens with an incomplete understanding of the Internet, a fixed income pension and a desire for more flexible income. They begin by offering to set the victim up as an affiliate storefront of Amazon.com, presumably lending themselves credibility. Amazon is a large, trustworthy business, and by association, Superior Marketing Group attempts to ride on the implied business connection. In reality there is no connection between Sean Burnett of Phoenix or Jethro Becker of Phoenix and Amazon.com.
Once the victim has been selected and has shown interest, Superior Marketing informs them that for a small fee they will be given an Amazon storefront that is already set up and ready to make money. This storefront costs around $150. When the victim agrees and pays, they are given a subdomain of a single website with a generic name. These websites have virtually no benefit above a free Amazon Affiliate account and are only created to lend the company more seeming legitimacy. Though they are told that they can receive a full refund if they are not satisfied, the victims who attempt to get this refund find it is denied.
After some time, Superior Marketing Group or Streamline Online will call the victim again, explaining that their site is not doing very well and that they have a potential solution. This solution is to run a television advertisement. For a single up-front fee around $9,000, they have a guaranteed TV commercial time slot with a well-recognized and trusted voice-over. Once again, the victim is fast-talked into signing the contract and paying without reading any terms and conditions. They are promised anything over the phone, but nothing is ever promised in writing.
At this point, if the victim asks for a copy of the commercial, or if they ask to know when the time slot is or what channel it airs on, no information is provided. The company claims they need special signatures and permission to release any of that information, and no amount of repeated phone calls will get them to hand it over. In fact, no such commercial is aired.
At this point, no amount of communication will convince the company of a refund. The storefront will continue not performing, no television commercial is produced and the victim is out nearly $10,000 or more.
The Arizona Attorney General, Tom Horne, has filed a legal settlement against Superior Media Group, LLC and Streamline Online, LLC for telemarketing fraud. The owners of the companies, Jethro Becker of Phoenix and Sean Burnett of Phoenix, have agreed to the legal settlement.
The defendants have had their assets frozen and seized as restitution for the victims who have filed complaints with the Arizona office of the Attorney General. The amount of assets roughly totals $400,000. In addition, the defendants are required to maintain the confidentiality of all personal information acquired in the course of their scam. This means that the victims are safe from identity theft or having their personal information sold to other telemarketers.
Both Sean Burnett and Jethro Becker are also prohibited from selling or advertising business opportunities — such as their Amazon Affiliates scam — to Arizona residents or to anyone in the state of Arizona. This does not necessarily protect citizens of other states or countries, but it does establish a history of legal action against the two men.
If the defendants do not comply with the terms of the settlement, they can be found in contempt of the court and held incarcerated until they do comply with the terms.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of Superior Marketing Group or Streamline Online, they are advised to contact the Arizona office of the Attorney General. This can be done through the Consumer Information and Complaints unit, via the phone numbers (602) 542-5763 or (520) 628-6504. Additionally, they can be reached on the Internet through the Consumer Complaint Form, found here.
Avoiding Future Scams
Telemarketing scams are not new, and the tactics telemarketers use to push their products are well known. If you are called by a telemarketer and are concerned about their legitimacy, here are some warning signs. A now-or-never approach with high pressure to decide immediately A product or business opportunity that sounds too good to be true, such as starting a business with minimal or no investment or a no-risk investment Requesting your personal financial information. In general, never give out bank account numbers, social security numbers or other personal information over the phone Asking for immediate payment, often through a wire service or overnight delivery Inability to provide promotional information to look over at your leisure — again, most scammers will not want to wait for a decision
If you believe a telemarketing call is fraudulent, hang up. You can also report the company name and phone number to the office of the Attorney General using the complaint form listed above.
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