Cambridge Who’s Who: Is it a Scam? My Story on Video.

The other day I had the funniest adventure dealing with Cambridge’s Who’s Who. I chronicled it in this absurdly long (10 minute) video. I really thought this video would die a quick death even though I had terrific fun making it (and I watched it four times, giggling like a grade child in Church).

Much to my surprise, it’s now the second highest rated comedy video of the day on YouTube. I imagine that rating is from sympathy votes because people like a “scam” exposed. Certainly it’s not the production quality, as I shot it in one take using a cheap camera with horrible pixelation.

Here’s a nice blog post that explores the validity of the Cambridge “Who’s Who” offering, which boasts a free listing. After a lengthy interview, the “mark” is told they “rank,” and asked if they want the $600 or $800 package. It’s a rather bazaar experience. Here’s the official site of Cambridge, which according to the telemarketer has 25 million visits and 250,000 “members.” Hmm.

The kicker is that my credit card had maxed out (as I chronicle in this follow-up video) so I was spared the charge. But I can’t help but wonder if other people have had positive experiences with Cambridge, or if people feel as suckered as I would have felt had my Mastercard not exceeded its balance.

One of my favorite things about online video is the accountability it can provide consumers. Can scams continue if people are brave enough to admit to being duped, and broadcast it to others?

19 Replies to “Cambridge Who’s Who: Is it a Scam? My Story on Video.”

  1. This is definitely the only upshot to being in debt.

    Here’s a few little tips for anyone talking to these kind of high pressure sales people:

    Ask, politely, for the caller’s full name, their employee ID, what city they are calling from and a return phone number. Then ask them if they would mind you taping the conversation, if they hesitate to any of the above hang up.

    You can go one better and say you would also like to send the taped conversation to your local newspaper and television station. If they are a reputable company they will see this as free advertisement, if they are shady or a scam they will hang up on you pretty quick.

    No mater what, before you give them any credit card numbers, tell them you need at least 24 hours to consider what they are offering. If they turn on the screws by saying, “but this deal won’t be here tomorrow,: reply, “I guess neither will my money.” Then ask the person who has just wasted your good time to hold on; go to the bathroom, take a shower, wash the dishes, play with the kids or put one of the more talkative ones on the phone.

    Another handy thing to do, if possible, while they are giving you the loadown on what they are trying to sell, google the company.
    Mention that you have just googled them and if it looks like page after page of bad news, start reading what people said about this company. This wastes a bit of your time, hanging up is much easier at this point, but it brings to the employees mind that perhaps this isn’t the best company to work for and you have just done your good deed for the day 🙂

  2. I still don’t get it. If you don’t want a product, how do you get “suckered” into buying it? These “Whos Whos” all seem to play into one thing: people’s self-esteems. Just say no, for God’s sake!

  3. You people make this all seem so complicated!! First, if it’s an “unknown” or “private” call, I just don’t answer. That’s what answering machines are for. If it’s somebody who actually has something important to say to me, they’ll leave a message. Believe me, they NEVER do.

    Second, if I do answer, the minute somebody starts giving me a sales pitch I say “I’m not interested” and I hang up. I don’t wait for them to say good bye, I don’t say good bye myself, I don’t give them a chance to get another word in. I say “I’m not interested” and I hang up. I don’t care how rude it is. They are wasting my time and invading my privacy.

    Screw em. Hang up the phone. Hang up. Hang up. I didn’t sleep again last night. Can you tell?

  4. Revver Gets $35 Per Thousand Views:Revver, the Los Angeles-based video sharing/advertising network, is charging advertisers as much as $35 per thousand views of certain videos.

    While some videos get just a $3 CPM, this higher number is a very positive indication of a advertisers willing to pay high rates surrounding quality, independently produced video. Revver, splits the revenue 50/50 with the content creator?????

  5. I really enjoyed these two most recent videos immensely. One thing though.. You need storage.. for all of those file boxes you have stacked in your office. Also, do you have a window?

  6. “Can scams continue if people are brave enough to admit to being duped, and broadcast it to others?”

    Sadly, they can. The existence of Writer Beware (the publishing industry watchdog group that maintains the blog you kindly linked to above–I’m the author of the Who’s Who post) is a testament to that. Over our nearly ten years in operation, we’ve played a major part in publicizing the issue of literary scams, and in convincing writers to share their stories. Yet the scams only continue to grow.

    We get enormously more complaints now than we did when we started up in 1998. The two most active scams we’re tracking have warnings all over the Internet, not just from people like us but from writers who’ve been duped. Yet those scams are thriving.

    Is Cambridge a scam? Not exactly–just as the International Library of Poetry (a.k.a. is not exactly a scam. You do get something for your money. But what you get is of extremely dubious value, and deceptively presented. Basically, it’s a complete waste of money–and the high-pressure sales tactics make it extra sleazy.

    Still, I don’t doubt there are plenty of people who are happy with Cambridge–otherwise, it would go out of business. Lots of people are happy with the International Library of Poetry, too. But there are also a lot of pissed off people, and I’ve heard from a bunch of them as a result of my post (my blog traffic also went up by at least 25% after I put that post online).

  7. Great thread here. I think the trick is some widely publicized “scam accountability” content. Let’s make it entertaining to bust scammers. Like Nightline meets Consumerist meets YouTube videos. Yey!

  8. I’m ashamed to say I got deceived into Cambridge’s Who’s Who a few days ago. I didn’t realize it was bogus until I found you all on this site. The sales rep called me at a hectic day, pressured me by saying that they had to have payment right then and there for membership, and being inexperienced as I was at all this kind of stuff, I actually said yes.
    I tried to get my money back but they would only credit me $200. I need to find out how to get all my money refunded. Is there anyone with any advice?

  9. Lucky you got some money back. i got scammed by them the same way you did. I was called fairly early on a Saturday while getting ready, cooking breakfast, getting the kid ready, etc. and got suckered in. Being inexperienced with this stuff, I gave into the pressure thinking that their networking thing might help my site but I was wrong. i disputed with the credit card company, only to have them reverse the conditional credit. When you call the membership services, you get transferred multiple times and then you got to some executive director who circumvents and never answers your questions. I’m in the process of reporting them to every agency on earth and I have a plan in mind to get my money back. Nothing has ever been delivered to me even if I requested it, and they tell me I gave them the wrong address, yada, yada, yada. They also accuse me of not notifying them that I didn’t get anything, yet I figured that the conditional credit was the reason things were sent. They bend things in their favor and they get real nasty on the phone when pressed. I say, fight them to the end!!!

  10. Well, I fell for it also. The call came while I was in my car on my way to walk and before I knew it I had given my credit/debit card info for an over $300 charge. I knew there was no backing out since he had said since it was personalized, it was non refundable. I really felt stupid, not to mention that I really didn’t have the money, I had to draw from my savings.

    If that wasnt bad enough, I received another call just the other day. They wanted to go over my biography and made it sound I was very important, then came the hit. He says to me something about, again, an over $300 charge. I thought it was for what I had paid before, but no, this was for some plaque and directory, both which were worth, supposedly, somewhere over 700-800 dollars. I told him no, then he said he would only send the directory and that’s when the $300 came in. I very quickly said, NO, and he just wouldnt let up. I had to repeat”no” many times until he finally, basically hung up on me. I have monitored my account and no charges so far, thank God.

    Thanks Nalts, for being brave to post this on line. I had trouble even telling a few people I had done this, since I felt so stupid.

  11. Advice on getting your money back from these buggers:

    1) Report them to the BBB of Metropolitan NY. Follow up with them also or your info goes into a black hole. They will follow up if you push them some with emails.

    2) File a report with the NY Attorney General’s Office in the Consumer Complaint section. Do a Google search and you’ll get to the page. This has to be done via snail mail but you will get a confirmation.

    3) Email them at their customer service address and print out the sent emails as proof of your contacting them.

    4) Follow up with your requests on refunds with the original rep you spoke with. He/she will try to avoid your questions but push them and also, ask to record them. Hit them with some hard questions like what is the relationship of Empire Who’s Who and Manchester Who’s Who and why does the CWW page come up when these domains are typed in? Ask them, how are they related? You’ll get some funny answers. Never let them put you on hold, or let the call you back as they don’t.

    5) When you send in your complaints, send it registered mail and send the tracking info to them to really show them that you are wanting a refund.

    6) Don’t let Beth Johnston win an argument on a refund with you. She’ll go round and round and avoid every question. Record your messages from her. Her direct extension is 1275.

    I hope that everyone who gets scammed by them fights back and takes the time to complain so we don’t have to have these blogs against this company!

  12. My wife did fall to this same preditor. However, she sent a list of all of the negative blogs to the credit card company and after review by them, all charges were stricken from her bill. This was in June of 08.
    Be firm and don’t take it. Even if it went to collection you can beat them with the logic of all of these blogs as support of their low life stature. Be firm and be relentless and they will leave you alone. They simply try and use bully approach. Not.

  13. Hello Chace — I also got taken by this company. I am disputing it with my credit card company, but they are telling me it is quite possible that they can not do anything because the words “all sales are final” are printed in the packet of information that was sent to me. How did you and your wife get around this?

  14. I also got roped into this Whose Who thing and they did send me a very nice cherrywood plaque. They said the book will come later and want to charge more money on my credit card. Since they already have my credit card #, how can I keep them from charging more???? Incidently the lady was very nice on the phone & even gave me her phone #. This is why I did not suspect it could be a scam. I am retired and really cannot afford all this money! Guess I just needed a boost in my self esteem. Stupid huh?

  15. I was pretty upset up until a minute ago when I received a confirmation of my money being credited back to my card. I also fell for this scam and instead of doing my research before purchasing, I did it after. Almost cost me $200. I was pressured into the charges and after reading these blogs I thought, the sooner I act, the better. I called right away and explained that the rep. I spoke to indicated that because they had to customize the plaques or awards or whatever the heck they were sending me that sales were final, but I have not received anything yet and I just got off the phone with that rep. They couldn’t have custom published anything that quick; therefore, I want a refund. Surprisingly, the rep. I spoke with was friendly and “checked” to see if the custom publishing of these items had started yet. Wow, they had indeed started on my items already (yeah right) and for this reason they had to charge a certain amount, which meant I could only get $100 back. Taking into consideration the worst experience others have had with these people, I was tempted to take the money and run. I then thought, why not turn the tables. I’d like to play actress for a few minutes….they do. I started to get frantic on the phone, I told them my husband was not too fond of their organization and was extremely upset at the charges (I’m not married and don’t even have a boyfriend…lol). I then said, “My sister lives in New York and she knows people in the attorney general’s office. I know you can refund the money back. I sniffled a little and complained about how I would have to deal with my husband. She thought I was crying, said she did not want to upset anyone and refunded my money. Now, I know this was a little over the top, but I got my money back without having to go in circles with these people….to each it’s own.

  16. I forgot to do this. I told the rep. my husband thought the whole thing was a scam-had heard it from friends who had experienced this. The rep. gave me her name and number and said that if anyone was unhappy with their membership, to call her to see what could be done about it. I don’t know if it will help but it is worth a try:

    Tricha Dehayef
    EXT 1212

    I don’t know if she was truly sincere (may not know it is a scam her self) or if she did it because I mentioned the attorney generals office. Either way, be creative when asking/demanding your money back!

  17. All Who’s Who are scam company’s seeking the credit card numbers of victims. They will steal your money and also call repeatedly to get a type of payment from you.
    Don’t believe their sales pitch!

    Check out these official documents (from them) to see the result of their supposedly “honorary membership” if you’re close to believing a word they have said or have been scammed

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