Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Possible Spectrum Scam

I received a call this morning from 916-578-963‬ shortly after I woke up. The number only came through as nine digits, instead of ten.

A man with an Indian accent told me that he was calling from Spectrum. After all the India-based scams where people were posing as IRS agents, I was immediately distrustful. I told him that I was on my way to work and he hung-up. 

Later, I tried calling back and the number wouldn't connect, which makes me suspect that the number was spoofed.

I called Spectrum Technical Support and informed them about the phone call. As of the time I had called, no one else had reported being contacted by apparent scammers. It's possible that people have been contacted and either didn't answer the call because the number looked suspicious or had been duped and won't realize it until a later date.

Time will tell.


Duane Browning

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Duralock Proline Disc Lock

I bought one of these to secure a storage locker I rent in which to stash extra tools for work.
It came with two keys. I kept one on my keychain and stashed the other at home. Everything was going fine until I accidentally bent the key I carried and it broke when I tried to straighten it. 

That left the spare. But, if something happened to the spare, I'd be screwed. So, remembering that there's supposed to be a warranty on my padlock, I tried to contact Duralock to order a replacement.

Unfortunately, that wasn't as easy as I hoped it would be. There is no contact information on the label in order to take advantage of the warranty and an Internet search for the actual owners of the brand proved fruitless. It turns out that the locks are made in China and India, with no offices in the USA. So, I had hit a dead end.

But, all was not lost. I contacted Aloha Keys Awards & Gifts here in Honolulu and they were able to make me a new key in only a few minutes for a little over three dollars. They are a key distributor, which means that they have access to all key blanks, including those for Duralock. Their locksmith told me that thousands of people have already come to their shop to have new keys made for their Duralock padlocks, so I wasn't the first and I won't be the last.

I'll grant that Duralock isn't an expensive lock to buy, but it does the job well enough. So. if you need a replacement key, just go to your nearest locksmith company which stocks key blanks and have new key made.

In case you haven't guessed: that warranty is basically worthless.


Duane Browning

Friday, December 29, 2017

An Open Letter to James Cawley & Vic Mignogna

Dear James and Vic,

I felt that I owe both of you and all the people who have worked with you over the years an apology.

First, a little background:

Like both of you, I have been a fan of Star Trek from my childhood. I was a fan of all the Star Trek series and I’ve seen all he films featuring the original cast. I even had a collection of Star Trek books when I was growing-up, because I always wanted more Star Trek.

One evening, I discovered Star Trek: New Voyages and I was instantly in love! Sure, it wasn’t the same as the TV series and movies, but it was like a glass of cold water after a long walk in the desert. I watched every episode several times and eagerly awaited the next.

Then, Star Trek Continues arrived and though it took some adjusting because of having James Kirk portrayed by two different people, it was more Star Trek, which is what I wanted.

Then, I did what I am apologizing for: I became a donor for Star Trek Axanar.

I was introduced to Axanar via a Facebook post by James Heltzer, who was advocating that people should support it and become backers. Further encouraged by the advocacy of George Takei, I contributed $65 to help fund what I hoped to be an awesome Star Trek fan film. I didn’t have the opportunity to back either of your projects, so I wanted to be one of those who supported a professionally-made fan film whose trailer and Prelude to Axanar inspired me to part with some of my own money. I hoped to watch this film and see my name listed as one of the people who helped it become a reality.

I made my contribution and eagerly awaited the airing of the film and the arrival of my perks, both promised by December 2014, only a few months after I had sent in my money. I Liked the Axanar page on Facebook and joined the Fan Group, in order to keep up with the progress of the film.

It was shortly after I joined the fan group that I began to suspect that I had made a mistake. Alec Peters seemed to have an extremely thin skin when it came to criticism, even from people who had made contributions far larger than my own. Rather than simply start making the film, Peters was talking about renting a warehouse and setting-up his own for-profit studio, even though that plan hadn't been previously mentioned on the Kickstarter page. I had erroneously assumed that Axanar would be filmed using the Star Trek Phase 2 sets, since he had appeared in the Going Boldly short and someone from New Voyages had posted positive comments on an Axanar video. I had wrongly assumed that the two were somehow connected. After all, why reinvent the wheel? Why build your own studio when a studio and experienced staff were already available and supporting your work?

Taking a fresh look at the Kickstarter page, I realized that my earlier assumptions were incorrect. There were announced plans to rent a warehouse - for one year, not the three years Peters ended-up paying the rent on - and build a studio from scratch. Over the eighteen months from the end of the Axanar Kickstarter campaign until the lawsuit, there was more than enough time to get the whole thing accomplished. Axanar had met both its $275,000 and $400,00 stretch goals, but very little was done of what they said they were going to do once those stretch goals were met. Like many others, I began to wonder what was being done with our money, but asking those types of questions often elicited a hostile response from Peters and resulted in people getting kicked-out of the Donor Group.

I also noticed a post on Mr Cawley’s Facebook page that mentioned that someone he had helped in the past had betrayed him, somehow. James didn’t mention any names, but I suspected that the alleged betrayer was none other than Alec Peters.

My discomfiture grew as Peters’ behavior in the fan group became often hostile to even the slightest hint of impatience from donors or supporters. Things were being pushed back and the date for the expected arrival of Axanar and my perks, December 2014, came and went without the slightest hint of when the project would be completed. It was always “Back to making Axanar!”, without mentioning exactly how much progress, if any, had been made. An online store was opened and pictures of patches were posted in the fan group, but none were ever shipped. It was like they kept dangling a carrot for us, expecting donors to giggle with glee at all the cool stuff that would soon be ours.

In December 2015, about eighteen months after I had made my contribution and a year after my perk were supposed to have already arrived at my door, Axanar got sued. As a result of the discovery phase of the trial, I learned about how Peters had used donor funds, including mine, to pay for lavish meals, new tires for his car, his insurance, phone bills, travel expenses and much more. The biggest expense was for the much-vaunted studio in which not a single inch of film had been shot for Axanar or anything else.

All that money was gone forever and Axanar was no closer to completion than it had been on the day I had first heard about it.

I felt like a fool. But, the worst was still to come.

When Paramount released its fan film guidelines, I instantly realized that not only was Axanar doomed to either be a short film under thirty minutes, which was not what we had been promised and the reason we had all given Peters our money, or that Axanar would never be released and our money had simply been wasted.

But, worse than that was the fact that Star Trek Phase 2 and Star Trek Continues weren’t going be able to keep producing films anymore. So, the two fan film productions that I had enjoyed were about to fade away…

and I was partly responsible.

Certainly, others had contributed more than I did, some in the thousands of dollars. My $65 was a drop in the ocean of the over one million dollars raised to support Axanar. But, however small my part had been, I did have a part in helping it along. By supporting Axanar, I had contributed to the outright demise of Star Trek: Phase 2 and the early conclusion of Star Trek Continues, both projects for which many people had contributed their time, hard work and money to produce labors of love that I was lucky enough to have discovered and enjoyed for many hours of repeatedly watching episodes back-to-back.

I wish that I could take it back. I wish that I could take back my $65 and delete every post I made that supported Axanar and feel like my hands were clean of this awful trainwreck. But, I did what I did and it came back to bite me. Worse than my own sense of being suckered by Peters is the fact that I had inadvertently contributed to destroying two fan film productions that I loved as much as the TV series that I’ve watched over the years.

Alec Peters recently sent out another email announcing the establishment of his new studio in Georgia. As if the donors hadn’t been exploited enough, he stated that another $150,000 would be needed to finally make Axanar and to send out the three-years-late perks.

Don’t worry, gentlemen. I won’t be repeating my earlier mistake and send him any more money. I’ve learned my lesson.

I just wish that the lesson I learned hadn’t come at your expense and the expense of your teams.

Again, I sincerely apologize for the part, however small, I played in all this. I wish there was a way I could help undo the damage I helped cause.

Live long and prosper.


Duane Browning

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Silence Complete

What's old is new, again.

At least, that's how it seems with companies selling "cures" or "treatments" for tinnitus.

I swear, these guys seem to be deliberately trying to get me to click on their ads so that I can write about them here and they're not even coming up with a new way of doing it, just rehashing old methods. I guess if it worked before, why not do it again, right?

Here We Go

I recently discovered a new product called "The Silence Complete", which is a rather odd-sounding name. Whatever.

They have three websites: thesilencecomplete.org and silencecomplete.com and silencecomplete.net. Going to any site lands you on a page where a video begins playing automatically. A man's voice begins telling you his Tale of Woe where he was about to kill himself because tinnitus was making Life unbearable. I immediately recognized this tactic from researching my blog post for NoiseAway. In the NoiseAway recording, the man was going to shoot himself while he was alone in his basement; in the Silence Complete story, he was about to kill himself in front of his family.

Okay, I've heard of people driven to extremes because of the stress of living with tinnitus, but what are the odds of two such people developing a treatment for tinnitus? Amazing, isn't it?

Like every other tinnitus "cure", they claim that their product is natural and inexpensive, which would make it more appealing to people who are short of cash and also don't want to put what they fear to be harmful chemicals into their bodies. This is an old tactic that is based on the false belief that Big Pharma is making big bucks from selling ineffective drugs to people living with tinnitus and doctors are financing their next mansion by performing expensive and risky surgeries. I must mention again that no drugs or surgeries are prescribed to treat or cure tinnitus, though there are some therapies and medications used to help people handle the stress. For some people, like myself, it isn't too bad and they can get accustomed to it. For others, it can be debilitating and these are the people being targeted by these snake oil salesmen.

Who Are These People?

On the Silence Complete website, at the very bottom, it says:
The website is property of Guerra Capital, Inc
11504 County Road 71 Lexington, AL 35648, USA
A Google search of that address reveals nothing but an empty field. So, I Googled the name "Guerra Capital" and also found nothing. Finally, I tried "Guerra Lexington Alabama" and discovered that Silence Complete had put the wrong address on their site (it's 11054 County Road 71 Lexington, Alabama) and the company listed at that address is Guerra Holdings, of which Guerra Capital is a subsidiary. Guerra Capital describes itself thusly:
Guerra Capital Asset Management is a boutique wealth management firm that crafts customized investment solutions for high net worth individuals, families, and institutions. Beyond stewardship, Guerra Capital’s aim is to grow wealth by selecting the right balance of asset classes tailored to reflect each of our clients’ investment aspirations.
So, why would an investment company have anything to do with a tinnitus treatment? I don't know. But, other things I've discovered make me doubt if Guerra Capital has anything to do with Silence Complete. Keep reading.

Doing a WhoIs search on the website thesilencecomplete.org reveals that it is registered to Functional and Restorative Medicine LLC, the same people who brought us Silencis Pro.

However, both silencecomplete.net and silencecomplete.com are registered to John Curly of Guerra Global Management Services. I noticed that the WhoIs listings give the correct address, unlike the website, though they spelled "management" wrong, and the organization is "Guerra Global Management Services", not "Guerra Capital, Inc", which is on the website. These are rather minor differences, but you'd think that a professional would do a better job of it when they registered a website.
Registrant Name: John Curly
Registrant Organization: Guerra Global Managment Services
Registrant Street: Inc 11054 Country Road 71 
Registrant City: Lexington
Registrant State/Province: AL
Registrant Postal Code: 35648
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.0000000000
Registrant Phone Ext: 
Registrant Fax: +1.0000000000
Registrant Fax Ext: 
Registrant Email: tech@lionpublishinglimited.com

"But, wait!" you say, "Who or what is lionpublishing.com?". I'm glad you asked, dear reader.

LionPublishing.com is an e-commerce site that's behind HealthPlusLabs, a naturopathic supplement company that also sells Silencis Pro. What an amazing coincidence!

Lion Publishing claims to have offices in Gibraltar and Bucharest, both of which are far outside the jurisdiction of the United States. It's hard to verify anything about these people, especially since their website is registered anonymously and while the registrant's email address is given as tech@lionpublishinglimited.com, lionpublishing.com's website gives it as curly@lionpublishing.com and we're left to wonder if John Curly is really the person who registered those two sites for Silence Complete.

If you're wondering if Lion Publishing is also the registrant for any other Guerra websites, they're not. Both guerraholdings.com (WhoIs) and guerracapital.com (WhoIs) are registered to Francisco Guerra, through GoDaddy. His companies, his websites.

Why does it look like the same people behind Silencis Pro are now marketing Silence Complete, but seem to be trying to give themselves legitimacy by claiming to be affiliated with Guerra Capital, a company that doesn't have any obvious links to naturopathic supplement companies?

Wow. This smells so fake!

Update for 7 February 2018

Two of the above websites have changed the address listed at the bottom of their respective pages and a third has corrected the erroneous address that had been posted.

Both thesilencecomplete.org and silencecomplete.net now have this address posted at the bottom of their homepages:
Functional and Restorative Medicine LIMITED
7/10 Chandos Street, 4th Floor
Cavendish Square W1G 9DQ
London, England

That address is apparently shared with other companies, so I'm assuming that it could just be a mail drop.

There has been a slight revision of the address posted at the bottom of the homepage of silencecomplete.com which makes me wonder if someone had forwarded to them a link to this blog post. The address mentioned above has been changed to

The website is property of Guerra Global Management Services, Inc

11054 Country Road 71 Lexington, AL 35648, USA

The Pwnage Continues

Just like Silencis Pro using a stock photo and passing it off as one of their staff, Silence Complete does the same thing with this picture.
This is supposed to be Lloyd Greenfield, the man speaking in the video and who is supposed to be
A skilled academic profesional with over 10 years of in-depth expertise in the field of breakthrough medical and alternative tinnitus research.
Funny, how they can't correctly spell "professional". It's actually a stock photo that has been used many times by others. You can find it on ShutterStock and it's called "Portrait of confident senior man with mug".

But, the use of such photos doesn't end with "Lloyd", it even includes all three pictures The Silence Complete claims to be of satisfied customers:
The picture of "Catherine M from New York" turned-out to actually come from a Polish website related to cosmetics and is probably itself lifted from Shutterstock.
This photo supposedly of "David R from North Dakota" is widely used across many sites under various names across the Internet including a guy named Tom who works at a mortgage company in Florida. This picture was also used for a supposed "review" on another site under the name Tim Pollard-Smith of Camberley, Surrey. I didn't have the time to track it down to its original source, but that doesn't matter anyway.
Like David above, the picture of "Melinda V from San Francisco" is also commonly found being used across various sites, including a YouTube channel under the name Ansel Grady.  This picture was also used for a supposed "review" on another site under the name Claudia Treforde of Marlow, Berkshire.


It Keeps Getting Better

The address where you are directed to send unused product for a refund is the same as Silencis Pro: 37 Inverness Drive East, Suite 100, Englewood, Colorado, 80112 and the people on the receiving end is ShipOffers, just like Silencis Pro.

Ordering a bottle of snake oil Silence Complete comes with a disclaimer that is repeated several times across the website
The products and claims made about specific products on or through this Site have not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.
This Site is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Products, services, information and other content provided on this Site, including information that may be provided on this Site directly or by linking to third-party websites are provided for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.
So, they demonize doctors and the pharmaceutical industry out of one side of their mouths, yet admit out of the other side that doctors are the only real authorities for diagnosing or treating disease.

Oh, and the statements made on the site are for "information purposes only". Way to stick to your guns, boys!

Their "Money Back Guarantee"

Some people may be thinking about ordering this product, despite everything I've stated in this post. After all, they promise to refund your money if you're not satisfied, right?

Don't be too sure about that. I found this "review", which is more like an advertisement and scrolled down to the Comments section, in which several people who ordered the product and still had no relief tried to get their money back. Some did, while others weren't so lucky. You can read them for yourself.

A Final Word or Two

I'm going to contact Guerra Capital to see if they know anything about Silence Complete claiming that Guerra owns the website. It would be interesting to see how they react if don't and I'm the first person to inform them.

UPDATE: I contacted them via email and have not received a response.

I'm not sure how sales of Silencis Pro have been doing, but I find it interesting how the people behind this felt the need to also market a second product. It's almost like Silencis Pro wasn't selling well enough, so they're trying something else.

Either way, you can ignore these fakes.


Duane Browning

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Empower Network Went Down In Flames

Back in 2012, I posted a blog entry titled Are Empower Network Members Hiding Something? and it got hundreds of views. In fact, for awhile, it was in the top of Google search results for Empower Network. Because of this, it attracted the attention of Mr Mike Moffitt, a then-member of EN who posted a rather lengthy reply/rebuttal of my blog.

Aside from Mr Moffitt, no other EN members posted any comments to that entry. Due to the lack of activity, I moved on to other topics, aside from an update that I posted in 2014.

I had almost completely forgotten about that post by 2017 because Empower Network wasn't as widely-advertised among the multi level marketing crowd by then and EN members weren't as prolific with their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activities.

In August 2017, it was reported that Empower Network had shut down and declared bankruptcy. Their leader, David Wood, even posted this rather odd video where he explains what happened

Empower Network's Facebook and Twitter pages haven't seen any new postings since January 2017, months before the shutdown actually occurred. I have seen replies posted on the Facebook page where members had tried to contact EN before the shutdown and received no reply. Other comments came from former members who had asked for refunds and never got them.

When a ship is sinking like the Titanic, it shouldn't surprise anyone if the captain is unavailable.

About two months before the shutdown actually happened, another video was posted by Demetris D-Papa where he voiced his concerns about what had been going-on at EN, including David Wood reportedly behaving very strangely.
I visited David Wood's Facebook page to see how he's doing since Empower Network died a grisly death and he seems to be back to his old games. He's posting about what he calls the "Billion Dollar Come Back" and telling people how to make money. I guess we should take him seriously, considering how he was so good at driving Empower Network into the ground. At least he was Man enough to admit his own shortcomings.

When I tried to see if my earlier blog post still showed-up in Internet searches, I discovered that it did not. In fact, even entering the complete title with my name into a Google search revealed nothing. I even tried doing a Google search for the URL and again found nothing. So, unless someone actually visited my blog and scrolled through every entry until they got to 2012, no one would ever find it.


It's almost as if someone decided to knock my blog entry off the Internet so that no one else would be able to read it. There are companies out there who will work to remove negative content for their customers. I've dealt with some of them in the past while blogging about ExposingJohns.com, but I never thought I'd be on the receiving end of such a treatment. On their now-defunct website, under Terms and Conditions, Empower Network members were required to prevent anyone from speaking negatively about EN (see below) and it's possible that one of them decided that I needed to be silenced.

Out of sheer spite, I am reposting the original blog entry below, in its entirety. The original post is still up, though.

Original Blog Post

(originally posted on Tuesday, July 31, 2012)

While looking for Work From Home scams being advertised on Hawaii Craigslist, I answered an ad that was posted through one of my throwaway accounts and received a reply a couple of days later that told me about the "Empower Network".

As far as I can tell, the Empower Network is another multilevel marketing operation where people buy memberships of different levels and price-ranges and then recruit more people to buy memberships. They aren't selling anything, aside from memberships. Your "opportunity" is the chance to make money by selling memberships to other people so that they can go out and sell memberships to other people, who will then do the same and so on. Aside from membership, there is nothing else being bought or sold, aside from training courses on how to sell more memberships.

Doing any kind of impartial research on Empower Network is hard, mostly due to the flood of websites and blogs set-up by members trying to recruit more people into their network. All these sites tell readers how great Empower Network is and I have to admit that it was very difficult trying to find any sort of review posted about it from a neutral or critical standpoint.

I cannot fully explain how the system works, because it gets rather complicated and that's not the purpose of this post.

What does concern me is the near impossibility of finding reviews of the Empower Network from either a neutral or critical standpoint. No business can have 100% satisfaction from its customers. There will always be someone with something negative to say about it, no matter how good the service or product might be.

It may be possible that Empower Network has not have been around long enough to attract the attention of impartial reviewers. But, given its current Internet presence - including blogs, websites and YouTube videos - an impartial review will be needed. Current websites that claim to offer reviews of Empower Network have every appearance of advertising it and trying to get more people to sign-up.

What really made me think that something was not quite right was how certain websearch terms appear to have been hijacked by people attempting to recruit members. Search terms like "Empower Network scam", "Empower Network review", "Empower Network fraud" and "Empower Network ripoff" have been included in websites that advertise for Empower Network, most likely by recruiters looking to sign-up more people. I have to admit that this is a good way - though I believe it to be more than a little underhanded - to get people to find your site. After all, a prospective member will use those search terms in an attempt to do their own research before they sign-up. I must have run across over a dozen members' sites that, at first glance, seemed to be offering some sort of critique of Empower Network only to discover that it was really someone looking to sign-up new members.

If people can't find anything bad being said about Empower Network, they're more likely to sign-up. If they find a critic that gives them second thoughts, they'll either take longer to sign on the dotted line or they may decide that it's not for them and try to find something else. For every monthly membership payment delayed or denied, there's somebody who's unhappy about not getting their commission.

Remember that anyone who is trying to recruit you into a multilevel marketing system isn't doing it for your benefit, they are doing it for the sake of making a commission from your signing-up under them. They'll tell you about how great it is, how you can make a lot of money, take care of your family and live the life of your dreams. But, ultimately it's really all about how much money they can make off of you and the people you sign-up.

So, my question is: why are so many Empower Network members co-opting the above-mentioned search terms? Are they trying, even inadvertently, to prevent potential recruits from learning anything negative about it?

While doing further research, I discovered the Terms and Conditions (inactive link) members agree to when they sign-up. Under the agreement, not only are members forbidden from criticizing the Empower Network themselves, they must actively prevent others from doing so. Under the legal protection of the Fair Use Doctrine, I will quote directly from section C, paragraph g:

You agree that you will not make any derogatory statements, either oral or written, or otherwise disparage us, our products, employees, services, work or employment, and will take all reasonable steps to prevent others from making derogatory or disparaging statements. You agree that it would be impossible, impractical, or extremely difficult to fix the actual damages suffered by reason of a breach of this paragraph, and accordingly hereby agree that Company may determine recover five thousand dollars ($5,000) as the amount of damages sustained by reason of each such breach, without prejudice to Company's right to also seek injunctive or other equitable relief. 
It is perfectly legal to prohibit members from criticizing the product. However, telling them that they must actively try to prevent others from doing so makes me think that Empower Network does, in fact, have something to hide. The use of the word "others" can be taken in different ways. It can mean that you try to prevent current or former members from disparaging Empower Network, or (more dangerously) to prevent people who have never been members, like myself, from criticizing it.

This could explain why members have been co-opting the search terms I cited above: flood the Internet with positive reviews and try to drown-out the naysayers.


Noteworthy is the coincidental similarity that Empower Network's Terms and Conditions are almost word-for-word similar to the members' agreement from another get rich quick offer, called Simple Make Money Formula and you can read it here. Look at section 5g.

I found three videos posted on YouTube by mikewellwood that offered a decidedly negative opinion of Empower Network. Sadly, his videos were all removed from Youtube when his channel was closed-down and his blog is also gone. I have no idea what caused his channel to close.

However, NoMoreBSReviews posted this video and I think he gives a very detailed explanation regarding his problems with Empower Network.

If you prefer to read, here are some websites that give reviews of Empower Network. I had listed some others, but they have been removed since this blog was last edited:
I remember when people were out there trying to sell the latest fad in health food products. There were hundreds of websites advertising Noni juice, Alaskan blueberry products, colloidal silver, etc and all these websites extolled the virtues of their respective product and they all reacted with great hostility to anyone who said anything negative about the products they were selling. But, those people never tried to co-opt search terms to either actively or inadvertently prevent people from reading that the products weren't as healthy or beneficial as advertised. It seems that some Empower Network members were blazing a new trail with this tactic, which is one reason why I personally had no interest in becoming a member myself.

For the sake of honesty on my part:
 the Better Business Bureau, even though EN is not a BBB-accredited company, had given Empower Network LLC a B rating at the time this post was first written, but is now labelled as NR, which I assume means "no rating". You can read the complaints at this link.

It is possible that Empower Network is everything its websites claim and that it is an exceptional way for people to work from home to make a lot of money for themselves. But, as with every multilevel marketing system, there comes a saturation point where the influx of new members slows to a trickle, either by disaffected former members speaking-out, a new system coming out and becoming popular or when so many people have heard about it that sales pitches become white noise and fade into the background. If/when these things happen, the people who got in early will have made their money while the newer members will feel ripped-off because the fad has run its course and there is no real money to be had for them.

I think that Empower Network has been around since 2011 and - judging by how previous multilevel marketing systems have fared over the years - I give them another couple of years before Empower Network reaches its own saturation point and fades into history.

2014 Edit: Apparently, that day has come right on time. I haven't seen a new pro-EN YouTube video in a long time from the once-enthusiastic evangelists for this company. In the Comments section below, I received a very polite detailed rebuttal from Mike Moffitt, who was at the time an active member of Empower Network. He included a link to a webpage where he had to write his complete response, due to lack of space in the Comment box. I allowed the link to be posted because he wasn't selling anything and - as I said - he was very polite. I checked the link today and it is no longer active. Neither is the URL on Mike's name in his comment and his EN website hasn't been updated in almost two years.

Furthermore, I checked on Facebook to see if any of the Empower Network groups were still active. I didn't see any recent posts for EN, but I did notice numerous posts for other MLM schemes in their news feeds. So, it looks like Empower Network is no longer the Big Guy on The Block anymore.

So, if anyone wants to comment on this post, feel free. However, I will not allow anyone to advertise themselves in comments. Empower Network members get their own blogs with their memberships and I will not allow you to extend your reach into my blog. This extends to anyone who is engaged in any sort of multi level marketing system, not just Empower Network's members.



Duane Browning

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tinnitus 911 and PhytAge Labs

Yet another All Natural Cure for Tinnitus. This one is called "Tinnitus 911".

Before I go any further, I absolutely must admit that another blogger has beaten me to the punch on this one by about three weeks. So, you're The Man, Obinna Ossai!


In the Beginning

Today, I found an email sitting in my spam folder titled 

"Ringing Ears? Eat THIS for Breakfast & Destroy Tinnitus Fast?"

Unable to resist temptation, I opened the message and began reading. Clicking on a link sent me to a  page with a video that started immediately. The video is embedded in the website and doesn't appear to be linked to a YouTube account. 

A man who was not shown speaking on camera, but a picture supposedly of him was displayed, identified himself as "Charlie Gaines" and he rehashed the same old "tinnitus ruined my life" speech that I've heard from so many others before. Blah, blah, blah.

The appearance of the supposed picture of Charlie and of all the other people on the sites look like stock photos, though I didn't feel inclined to hunt them all down to their sources. After all this time blogging about fake tinnitus cures and treatments, I know a stock photo when I see one.

In a nutshell, Tinnitus 911 makes the claim that tinnitus has nothing to do with your ears, but is an alarm going-off in your head warning you of very serious health problems that your brain is dealing with, a claim that Silencis Pro and Tinnitus Miracle had also previously made without evidence. Tinnitus 911 also makes the claim that Big Pharma is getting rich off of drugs used to treat tinnitus - even though there are no drugs prescribed to treat it - and so have no reason to provide an outright cure.

Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut that it often seems cares more about money than health. But, the "Big Supplement" industry is no less concerned about enriching themselves at your expense. They fight tooth and nail to prevent government oversight and they've often made claims that are not backed by hard medical research. If you seriously think that the Supplement Industry really cares about you, you're pitifully naive.

So, Tinnitus 911 is pretty much doing everything others have done before them. However, he did make an improvement on his own by mentioning a mysterious Dr Edmond Healy, who Charlie claims to have worked on a secret government project that not only cured tinnitus in astronauts, but also increased their intelligence! 

Of course, I couldn't find anything about a Dr Edmond Healy having anything to do with tinnitus, though I did find a person by that name (his name is Edmund, not Edmond) and that Dr Edmund "Ed" G Healy works in the wireless industry.

Charlie's description of his initial meeting with Dr Edmond Healy reads like something out of a cheap spy novel and not a very good one.

Still, I give them credit for originality. Not much credit, but it's there.


The Web Presence

The people behind this scheme have set-up several websites to sell their product in the same way that Tinnitus Terminator did. The sites I have identified, so far:
  • tinnitus911.com WhoIs
  • tinnitus-911.com WhoIs
  • mywarwithtinnitus.com WhoIs
  • fighttinnitusnow.com WhoIs
  • tinnitus911review.com WhoIs
If you've checked on the WhoIs links above, you'll notice that all of their sites are registered anonymously.

I have found only one YouTube video posted about Tinnitus 911, titled "Tinnitus 911 Review - MUST WATCH THIS BEFORE BUYING!" it includes a link in the video description providing a "discount" for people purchasing the product. I checked the price of the product versus the regular listed price on the sites and they are exactly the same. So, it's a discount of $0. Thanks, literally, for nothing!

There have been several Twitter posts advertising Tinnitus 911 since late November 2017, but they all appear to simply be advertisements for it.

Who Is Selling This Crap?

PhytAge Labs is the company actually selling Tinnitus 911, not "Charlie Gaines". On their homepage, their main focus is on an anti-aging supplement. I need to mention that PhytAge Labs is not associated with the product "Phyt-Age", which is made by Phytogenics. They all seem to use that truly original play on words: PhytAge. Phyt-Age. Fight Age

Pretty crafty, huh? Okay, not really. 

Moving on.

PhytAge Labs not only sells Tinnitus 911 and their anti-aging supplement, but also supplements to fight fungushelp with your prostate, increase bowel movements and many other thing you didn't know you needed. So, from one end of your body to the other, they've got you covered.

At the time this post was first written, PhytAge Labs had an F rating from the Better Business Bureau, but that has since been upgraded to a B- rating. The name of the business manger is Mr John Paul and the given mailing address is 1732 1st Avenue #28568, New York, NY 10128 which a simple Google search reveals it to be a UPS Store mail drop

Their former return address, which was curiously in Colorado, is 7308 S. Alton Way. #2A, Centennial, CO 80112 and that address is associated with a company called Supplement Support, which has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau and is also not accredited by the BBB. Supplement Support has 
Terry Crolius listed as their Business Management on their BBB profile. A quick search reveals a Terry Crolius associated with a company called ShipOffers, out of Englewood, CO and they are in
the business of shipping products for supplement companies. As ShipOffers says on their Facebook page
BE FULFILLED : ShipOffers is the most trusted source for elite marketers of health and beauty products. We offer product sourcing, label design and printing, customized fulfillment, return processing, marketing, upsells and more. We are the #1 vital partner for direct response marketers.
PhytAge promises a money back guarantee, provided that you use the product faithfully for 90 days. But, I wouldn't be too quick to trust them with my money, considering the layers of secrecy they've put up between themselves and the public. Doing a bit more of a background check revealed that PhytAge Labs is actually registered as a corporation. But, it's not registered as such in either New York or in Colorado, but in Florida.

Yes, dear reader, it's registered in Florida and the registrant is a man named George Rivera. But, George doesn't provide a Florida address on his business registration because that would make too much sense. No, the address he provides is at 1108 Lavaca St, Austin, TX 78701, which looks like a UPS Store.

So, we've gone from New York, then to Colorado, on to Florida and finally to Texas. It seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through if your product is legitimate, doesn't it?

UPDATE: On their website, PhytAge Labs has a new return address and it's also apparently the address for ShipOffers:
PhytAge Laboratories
37 Inverness Drive East, Suite 100
Englewood, CO 80112

The former return address at 7308 S. Alton Way was in Centennial, CO and the 37 Inverness Drive East in Englewood are about 10 miles apart, which made me wonder why the change was necessary.

They Won't Let You Go

I've noticed two specific complaints about PhytAge Labs regarding their apparent unwillingness or inability to cancel an order. One complaint I found is found on the BBB listing for the company, posted by David M. R. on January 5, 2018:
"I have been taking this product since October. I didn't realize they had put me on auto ship and received another shipment. I continued taking the the so called Urgent Fungus Destroyer capsules as directed but called to cancel auto ship. In December, i got another shipment and called to cancel again. I have had no success with the product. DO NOT DO BUSINESS WITH THIS COMPANY! It is a SHAM! They say they're in CO, but the contact person is FOREIGN."
The second such complaint was found in the Comments section of this post, written by Bob Lang:
"I have an order from these people and when I tried to return it the Post Office returned it stating wrong address, yet is was one that you mentioned, When I looked it up on the internet and sent it to the second address as you mentioned ,it was sent back again. I have sent it to the third address but I doubt it will ever reach the real company. Today I received a box with a whole new order, that I did not order and with a different return address. Got any ideas on what I should do now?? I am  retired Marine and I would go to CO if I thought they would be there and explain MY WAY why I should get my money back but if they were there and said no I would probably go to jail. But thanks for your research and ANY info you can give me."
Since ShipOffers is the fulfillment company for companies like PhytAge, it is only natural for people to try to post complaints on their review page. However, ShipOffers rightly points-out that they aren't actually the company billing you for the product and only handle the shipping. They suggest contacting the product's company directly or contacting your bank or credit card company through which you are being charged. I think ShipOffers goes a bit overboard when they ask people to delete the negative review and in one case, threatened legal action against the reviewer.

Financial transactions for PhytAge Labs are handled through Trust Guard. If contacting PhytAge, your bank or credit card company doesn't work out, you can try to go through Trust Guard via their website's Live Chat, by calling them at 877-848-2731 or through their Facebook page.


But, does Tinnitus 911 work, Duane?

For the answer to that, you only need to read what PhytAge Labs says on their own website about Tinnitus 911
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary.
I don't think I need to say any more about it.


What You Should Do Next

If you haven't already, sign-up on the Tinnitus Talk forums. It's free and you can ask your questions about living with tinnitus, as well as keeping up with the latest research toward finding treatments and an eventual cure.



Duane Browning 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Kangen Water: Why the Secrecy?

When I see a Help Wanted ad in the newspaper or online, I want to know the name and type of company whose ad I am reading. I really don't think it's too much to ask, do you? Apparently, some companies don't want you to know who they really are and what their company is about until they feel they've got you hooked.

One group like this are the people selling Kangen Water ionizers, made by Enagic.

Enagic jumped on the "ionized water" fad that actually got started in Japan and spread over to the United States some years ago. For whatever reason, some people simply don't believe that ordinary water is enough and they want that glass with a little something extra. In this case, they want their body to be more alkaline than acidic, in the erroneous belief that they will prevent or cure numerous illnesses - including cancer - by keeping their body's PH on a more alkaline side.

For one thing, your body has its own internal mechanism for maintaining a healthy balance between acidic and alkaline in your bloodstream and tissues. Furthermore, none of the claims made by the people and companies advocating an alkaline diet or the consumption of alkaline water have been substantiated by science. In fact, this pseudoscience - sometimes referred to as the "Acid-Ash Hypothesis"- has its roots in the works of French physiologist, Claude Bernard, who lived almost 200 years ago. I'm no doctor, but I think it's a safe bet that medical science has improved quite a bit since Doctor Bernard's day.

I'm not going to dig into exactly why this whole thing is bullshit, since others have already taken care of that far better than I could. When the only people advocating drinking ionized water are the people selling you water ionizers, a wise person should be able to connect the dots for themselves.

No, what this blog is about are the extraordinary lengths people are going through in order to lure others into joining in on a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme to sell Kangen water ionizers. Enagic itself touts the benefits of becoming a distributor very openly on their website. But, there's somebody or a few sombodies out there making it rather difficult for you to figure our who they are and what they're about until you've given them a chance to make their sales pitch.

Here's how these people are working this:
1) start with an ad on Craigslist that makes gigantic promises regarding how much money you can make without mentioning either the name of the company or what kind of product it sells;
2) the ad provides readers with a phone number to call;
3) you call the number and listen to a recorded message which, again, doesn't mention either the name of the company or the type of product. Instead, the company is referred to as "our firm" or "the firm";
4) the recording directs you to a website on which a YouTube-linked video plays in which, after several minutes, you finally learn the name of the company and product.

I found several ads posted on Craigslist in Honolulu in an attempt to recruit Kangen distributors, each with a different script, a different phone number and each of their recordings pointing you to a different website. This is an awful lot of trouble to go through, unless you have something to hide.

Seriously, Craigslist ads looking for Herbalife distributors are pretty upfront about it. Not so much with Kangen distributors.

The ads are posted on Craigslist sites all across the United States, with such headlines as:
  • WORK FROM HOME & RETIRE IN 3 YEARS AT OVER $40,000/MONTH FOR LIFE!
  • WORK FROM HOME & RETIRE IN 3 YEARS AT OVER $60,000/MONTH FOR LIFE! ($0 OUT OF POCKET TO START + $2,700/SALE)
  • ONLY INBOUND CALLS - WORK AT HOME - NO OUT OF POCKET COST TO START (TO $2,700/SALE + LIFETIME PROFIT SHARING)
  • WORK FROM HOME-EAGER PROSPECTS CALL YOU- EARN UP TO $2700 PER SALE (NO COLD CALLING, CUSTOMERS CALL YOU)
Here is a partial list of the phone numbers given in the ads posted that I have seen. You may notice that there are almost as many websites listed as there are phone numbers. That isn't quite true, since there are a few that repeat. But, an exhaustive list of phone numbers and websites would take a great deal of time to compile and make this list very long. I present this list of what I have found to date, the phone numbers posted in the Craigslist ads and the websites which the recorded messages tell callers to visit:

(202) 540-1918  theanswertosucceed.us
(215) 234-1001 asecureretirement.us
(215) 240-7494 theplantosucceed.biz
(215) 305-8909 planactsucceed.info
(303) 351-0567 theanswertosucceed.us
(312) 436-1463 thewinningplan.us
(313) 243-1121 apathtosucceed.us
(321) 203-1833 thiswaytosuccess.us
(360) 215-7340 yourwaytoretire.us
(602) 734-4424 yourwaytoprosper.us
(615) 212-6911 thewinningformula.us
(617) 209-4897 yourfreedomformula.us
(617) 245-0655 realfinancialsecurity.us
(626) 200-1845 wantsuccesswatchthis.us
(646) 217-4249 asecureretirement.us
(720) 263-5770 realsecurityishere.us
(727) 288-2427 yourwaytowin.us
(800) 470-4876 thiswaytosuccess.biz
(800) 691-3977 winninggameplan.biz
(800) 844-3290 thewinningsystem.biz
(800) 995-0785 yourway2succeed.com
(913) 232-2608 theroadtosuccess.biz
(916) 209-4326 theanswertosucceed.us
(919) 241-3132 thewinningformula.us
(949) 202-5606 successishere.us
(972) 338-9736 thestrategytosucceed.us

I have reason to believe that there are over 300 separate phone numbers, with over 300 separate websites. That reason is explained next.

All of the above-mentioned websites serve as redirects to a YouTube video on this channel: A Lucrative Income & Real Long Term Security, which does not show-up in a search of the site. The majority of the videos are simply copies of this one, though another video also has a few copies of itself on the channel.

It doesn't say much for the channel's confidence in his product that he disabled comments on any of his videos. Typically, people who do this have a rather thin skin when it comes to criticism. By comparison, I allow most comments to post on this blog, with the exception of posts in which someone is either advertising a product or posting racist commentary.

I believe that each of these phone numbers and their accompanying website are the work of one person: Donald Gillete. Mr Gillette owns Innovative Marketing Systems, Inc which is based in New Jersey. Mr Gillette has been quite the busy beaver, setting-up all these phone numbers and websites, as well as posting over 300 videos on a YouTube channel. In addition to posting Craigslist ads in just about every US city I can even think about, Donald has posted ads in just about every other forum he could get his greedy, little hands into. Mr Gillette actually does this sort of thing for a living and if he isn't doing this for himself, he's likely doing it on someone else's behalf.

Don't get me wrong: Donald Gillette hasn't done anything wrong or illegal. It's not against the law to litter the Internet with crap. If it were, the Internet wouldn't be the swinging place we all know and love. My only problem is that, aside from the non-existent scientific backup for water ionizers in general and Kangen Water in particular, I just find it rather dishonest not to come right out and say it plainly. After all, if Kangen were the cat's pajamas, like their hordes of loyal devotees claim it is, why would you need over 300 phone numbers and websites in order to sell it?

If someone is telling you that the best way for you to avoid dying of cancer is to use a product that they are selling, understand that they aren't doing it to help you, they are doing it to line their pockets with your money.


Duane Browning