Investigator Warns Consumers on Lookup Scams

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PI warns web surfers to avoid fraudulent database and subscription-based skip tracing companies. Ads claiming the ability to locate information via database or subscription service are misleading at best, says CEO Mark McAlpin.

Web scams and gimmicks aren’t just reserved to the popular Nigerian Bank account grift, according to investigative company CEO. executive Mark McAlpin issued a warning to consumers Wednesday stating that the bulk of CPC advertisers were not being forthright with the information they were promising consumers.

“When searching the web for a reverse lookup, phone search or email address trace, people are inundated with ads promising such services via database or subscription. In reality they are paying money to search an outdated collectioin of info or purchase a subscription to these "data-less bases." It is fraud of the highest order. People are being led to believe they are getting current information when they are really getting nothing useful at all.” McAlpin stated on the company’s website.

After the media buzz surrounding call records earlier this year, McAlpin says scores of companies or, as he suspects, “the same few companies” replicated with new names wanted to cash in on the popularity of investigative web services. While his attitude seems easy to dismiss as simply opposing the competition, he insists that has nothing to do with it.

“I’m the biggest free-market supporter you’ll find. I welcome competition. If someone thinks they can offer accurate phone searches for less than we can, go ahead—let the market decide. But promising someone a reverse lookup search, taking their money and offering them database rubbish or linking them to another pay site isn’t competitive commerce, it’s fraud.”

He also noted that several companies claiming to perform the type of skip tracing phone search services his company does actually link back to the website after the customer has entered the phone number and paid, creating the illusion that they are somehow affiliated with his site.

McAlpin has a valid point. When we Googled reverse lookup, five of the six sponsored ads were to companies offering database-style searches. As there is no cellular phone number directory, it is difficult to imagine the legitimacy of such offerings. Still, in the interest of fairness we tried three of them.

The first took presented us with an input box, where the number to be searched was entered. After a dramatic pause we were told the info was found. To see it, we had to pay—fair enough. $49 later we were redirected to the reverse lookup searches page of McAlpin’s website.

McAlpin just shook his head. “That’s what these people do. They take your money and pawn you off on someone else. We get a few cancellation requests a day from these company’s customers as they think we have some affiliation with these grifters.”

The other two services also claimed to have found info on the number entered. This time, a subscription for “unlimited” searches had to be purchased. After the money changed hads and the “account” opened, there was suddenly no record of the number. We tried another and another—same result. Finally we entered a few business numbers which the database had. In fact the only numbers the reverse lookup service had seemed to be listed numbers available for free on any number of websites like or AT&T’s

“We’d love to have people’s business,” McAlpin admitted. “But more important to the industry and the web is that people are careful not to be taken by cheap promises and empty wording. People need to remember, there is no database for cell numbers or unpublished numbers. Anyone claiming otherwise should be assumed a hustler.”

McAlpin says it is important to realize that there are several legitimate databases available to investigators and such companies are not the target of his ire. His warnings only apply to companies advertising to the public and not selling what they claim.

The website, which offers phone number searches on cellular numbers only, has a series of articles on the fraudulent nature of many cost-per-click advertisers. The series is to conclude with a final piece on 6/21/06.


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Mike Castle
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