I just learned that I have been a victim of a 3rd Party Leasing Sales scam involving the slick sales department of Startup Essentials, based in Dallas Texas and A-1 Leasing, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I received an unsolicited call from Startup Essentials sales department responding to a generic request I had posted about wanting a legitimate homebased business. I don't have the salesman's name but he was slick and had an answer for everything.
Yes, I felt like I was put under pressure to "respond now or forever lose this opportunity." He was very clear on that fact and mentioned supporting references from JP Morgan and another investment firm. I was skeptical and flagged him off due to time restraints and he offered to call me back the next day at 4pm EST.
On the second call he continued with his spiel and pitch about what a successful and great homebased business opportunity this is and offered me the choice of an ATM credit card sales business or an Internet online webstore of my choice. There is NO upfront money involved only a short 48 month lease of $140 per month and included all of the services and support of Startup Essentials and a new laptop computer.
I'm not a stupid or gullible person and he seemed to have good answers for all of my probing questions. No red flags were coming up during our conversation albeit the pressure to act "now" and complete the lease agreement online, "if I was approved." I do not have good credit and even had claimed bankruptcy back in 1999. He checked with his supervisor, supposedly to run a credit bureau report. It didn't strike me then but I had given them NO information to be able to run a credit bureau report. He came back on the line and said my credit was great and I was approved for the lease.
He did not allow me the time to read the online lease agreement telling me it was just a "standard" closed-end lease and had me initialling and signing blanks throughout the document. He then turned me over to Shannon Ward, a representative of A-1 Leasing, who confirmed the information and advised me this was a non-cancelable lease. I really didn't know at the time what that meant and what it entailed. They told me not to worry about it that I would get a hardcopy in the mail within a week.
I asked how this would affect the state of Virginia's three day free look policy and again they said that it wouldn't affect it at all that the time wouldn't start until the day I received the hardcopy in the mail.
I received the "free" laptop in the mail about three days later. A very cheap one at that and very slow. I could have bought the same make and model on the Internet for under $500. As it ended up I didn't and don't even use it as it is too slow. I called them back and couldn't reach my original salesman, as I wanted to return it to them and use my own computer as everything is done on the Internet. They would not accept it and said I was bound by the lease agreement for the 48 month duration even it I did return it to them. So it sits on the side of my bookcase unused.
On 5/15/07 I received an email from a well intentioned friend who is also looking for a legitimate homebased business advising me that what I had gotten into was a scam. Commonly referred to in legal circles as a "3rd Party Leasing Sales Scam." He directed me to ripoffreports.com and it was at that time I learned the truth of my situation. I had been scammed big time!
I contacted a local attorney, who I was referred to me by a friend who has a successful homebased business, and on his advice I am closing out my bank account and protecting any further access by A-1 Leasing by giving the bank specific instructions and securing my financial information as password protected. I will also be sending, certified mail return receipt requested, to the BBB in Virginia, Michigan, and Texas as well as the involved Attorneys Generals Department of Consumer Affairs requesting a full investigation.
To cover myself I will also be launching a pre-emptive attack by notifying all three of the credit bureau companies of what this situation is and that it is a verifiable fraudulent scam. At the same time, my attorney will be sending a cease and desist letter to A-1 Leasing to head off any attempts by them to attach any other financial assets, derogitory statements on my credit bureau reports, and demanding release from the lease agreement or face legal repercussions.
I have since learned that there have been 678 other people who have been in the same situation as I and have had their leases terminated while at the same time, a class action suit is pending against both A-1 Leasing, LLC and Startup Essentials. 992 people have also canceled their relationship with Startup Essentials and returning their equipment to them as the vendor in this case. Startup Essentials is also facing a pending class action law suit for its participation in the fraudulent scam and the "non-cancelable lease" tactics of their sales.
I hope placing this report on Ripoff Reports lets other people know what is happening and can happen to them if they get involved with either of these two companies.