July 11, 2010

Extortionists hit home embroidery users via eBay

If you have ever bought a CD with digital embroidery designs off of eBay, beware of the extortion plot to scare you into giving the con artists $400 or more dollars to as much a $30,000.

It all started in 2006 when a group called the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition started sending out letters to people that had bought embroidery designs on CD on eBay. The letters were thinly disguised threats of lawsuits to innocent victims that supposedly purchased pirated designs. The eBay message board lit up like a Christmas tree with complaints and questions about the letters. You can read that here and it is 33 pages of messages. The letters were still being sent out as of late 2009. Other than the fact that the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition has a website and a mail drop in Texas, they have no real business. Law enforcement has warned people that this is a con job and not to contact them in any way. Since eBay has claimed not to have given anyone's home address out to these people, one can only assume that they were either the original sellers of the CD's in question (but they never tell people which CD it is) or got the information from a stolen or hacked data base. Incidentally eBay has been hacked several times.

Not only has eBay's message board seen this type of consumer panic but this legal message board has questions and some people have filed reports with their state law enforcement agencies. This scandal has even gotten the attention of a website devoted to exposing fraud and they have an in-depth section all about it, you can read that here. That website names, names and goes into detail of what has been going on.

The Embroidery Software Protection Coalition is not the only con artists out to extort money from embroidery hobbists. There is another jerk who seems to be having a go at it. This time it is someone claiming to hold the copyrights for clip art that he claims people are using for embroidery. Not only does this person not know what the copyright law states but he is openly posting on message boards about it. You can read more about that right here at the Extortion Letter Info website.

I did a bit of digging around and Googled the Coalitions PO Box address that they had in PA (they are now listed in TX, I wonder why they moved?) and the good old "way back" machine was of great help.They use to be at PO Box 1312 Monroeville, PA and apparently 2 other organizations claim the same address. One is AIPPI and the other is the Home Sewing Association (HSA). A Joyce Perhac is head of both organizations and I Googled her name and she has pages of stuff. I found out that she was mentioned in a lawsuit as a defendant at HSA and she is president of the Philadelphia-based Sewing and Craft Alliance. Her name does not come up in any of the other websites with the letters being sent out. I don't know if that was an oversight or not. Update: You can read Joyce's response to this here, where she clears up her involvement.

It goes to show you that if someone can figure out a way to scare people into giving them money under the threat of a law suit or making them feel guilty of something - they will. My only question is, why can't I find any evidence of these people being charged with anything? Is it because people are not aware that they are being extorted? Or do they feel stupid for falling for the scam and will not report it? Since these people have sent letters through the mail to extort people, they have committed a federal offense and should be reported to the Post Office where the Attorney General can investigate them. The clip art guy only makes threats via email so he flies under the wire with the feds.

Please don't let yourself or anyone you know be scammed by these people. Spread the word that these people are committing extortion on innocent embroiders who just wanted to make a few items for their families.

1 comment:

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