Category Archives: Bad Businesses

Exposing shady business through free background checks so that you or others can shut them down.

Exposing the Great InvisaLIE: Vivera Retainers Last Only a Few Months and Your Dentist Wants To Keep It a Secret!

Ever wonder why your teeth shift when you’re wearing your retainers 20 plus hours a day? Or why it is that when you change to your second or third set, the new retainer is surprisingly tight? Weren’t these all supposed to be made to the same spec?

The reason for this is crystal clear: Your Vivera retainers have worn out and are no longer retaining properly. Your dentist or orthodontist knows all about these limitations. They’ve read the studies. They’ve heard these complaints from other patients. And they’ve received personalized training from Invisalign on what this product can do. So why do they claim these retainers can last for years? (When yours lasted only for a few months!)

Welcome to the Great InvisaLIE

For how I was a victim see my story below.1 But first, here are the facts supported by Invisalign’s own press releases!

Yes, Invisalign aligners can straighten your teeth. But don’t count on their Vivera retainers to keep them that way. Whether you maintain these retainers perfectly, or just like the average person, your teeth could start shifting in less than 3 months!

Why The Lie?
Last year, Invisalign made $3.9 billion in annual sales.1 And their 256 thousand doctor customers have made billions more selling Invisalign to almost 17 million patients.1 2 So it’s all about the money.

The big draw to both Invisalign aligners and retainers, is that you can fix your teeth fairly quickly and not need braces or visible retainers to keep them that way. Indeed, the Invisalign website boasts that “Invisalign aligners are customized for each patient and are virtually invisible, making them a desirable option when compared to other teeth straightening methods such as braces.”1

This near invisibility is a key Invisalign selling point. And it resonates with the patients who were never told that after aligners, they must still wear their Vivera retainers, full time, both day and night, for 3-9 months!1 2 So the lifespan of Vivera retainers is crucial. If it’s too short to keep your teeth straight, why bother with Invisalign? And if it costs extra but requires huge, clunky non-clear retainers, then you’ve paid a fortune for invisible treatment that is no longer invisible.

Your doctor knows exactly what’s at stake. Invisalign is their bread and butter.1 So if you complain that your Vivera retainers aren’t working, they’ll claim your case is unique and offer you other money draining options, such as fixed retainers. Or they may say it’s your own fault because you didn’t maintain your retainer to some exacting impossible standard.

But don’t you believe them! Their claims of how long these retainers last are outrageously exaggerated. Just compare these to what Invisalign says about their own product. With such a vast disconnect, someone here has got to be lying!

Claims on Vivera Lifespan Range from 10 Years to 3 Months!
Just how do Invisalign providers determine how long Vivera retainers last? Is it by voodoo? Is it astrology? Or do they predict these things by Tarot cards? Just check out the divergent claims below! Where exactly do they get their data from?

  • 10 years but can be less1 2
  • 4 years with proper care1
  • 2 years but sometimes sooner1 2
  • Several years if cared for1
  • 3 years for a set of 41
  • 5 years with proper care1
  • 3 months to 2+ years1
  • 3-9 months with proper care1
  • 3 months if worn full time, 9 months if at night1
    (most accurate but the least common response)

The Actual Claims Made by Invisalign
Invisalign never states an exact time when their Vivera retainers stop retaining. But if you can do 4th grade math, you’ll find that they do refer to their retainer lifespan. (It’s buried in their ancient press releases.)

Turns our that Invisalign retainers last about 2.6 months (assuming your retainers don’t crack or break before then).

Retainer Durability v. Strength (Strength Is Key!)
The Invisalign website says “BUILT TO LAST LONGER Vivera retainer material is also at least 30% stronger and twice as durable as other leading clear retainer materials.1 In footnote 3, at the bottom of the page, they explain that Durability means “The ability to withstand cracking and breakage of the retainer.1

Strength is verified by retention force, the ability of the retainer to provide sufficient corrective mechanical loads to retain teeth in their defined positions.1

So durability is how long these retainers stay intact if you drop them or expose them to stress. While strength, is how long these retainers will keep your teeth from shifting.

So strength is key here. But what does this mean in terms of Vivera retainer shelf life? We still need to know just how long these retainers last. But fear not! This mystery is revealed in an Invisalign Jan 8, 2008 press release.1 Here, in paragraph 4, we learn that Vivera retainers are made to last for about 2.6 months! After that, Invisalign is unwilling to publicly attest to their strength in keeping your teeth aligned.

The Smoking Gun
Back in 2008, the Invisalign parent company, Align Technology, Inc., boasted that “Align’s lab tests show that Vivera’s proprietary thermoplastic material is more than 30 percent stronger than the clear retainers used by their competitors” and that “strength is a key quality for retaining teeth in their final position.” At this point, Align tells us that the leading retainers being referred to “begin to deform after as little as two months of simulated daytime wear, impacting their ability to maintain teeth in their final retained position.”1

Conclusion about Vivera Retainer Lifespan
In a perfect world where your Vivera retainers remain whole and strength is the only factor, such will retain teeth in their defined positions for 30% longer than those leading retainers that last for 2 months. This means the expected lifespan of Vivera retainers is 2.6 months! But to be fair, let’s agree that more than 30% strength=3 months. 

And what do you know! Invisalign agrees with this. In the same paragraph of the Jan 8, 2008 press release, just after boasting about their retainer strength, they then roll out an exciting new Vivera retainer subscription plan: a plan which offers a new retainer every three months!1

But thanks to the Way Back Machine, it gets better than that! In a long defunct website specifically for Vivera Retainers, they admit these retainers last for only 3 months and that if you wear them longer than that “your teeth may not be in “working retention.” So “this is why we’re delivering Vivera retainers every three months.” 1

This is the smoking gun. Here, Invisalign confirms that these retainers don’t last much longer than that.

With Invisalign, Patients Are Promised a Square Circle
From the outset, these patients are never told the true cost and commitment of using Invisalign. They don’t even know the right questions to ask, and the doctor providers seem to take full advantage of that.

On Reddit, Invisalign patients will often complain they must wear their Vivera retainers day and night (and well beyond the 3 month limit these were tested for).1 Some, were quite surprised because they were never told that this extended full-time wear was common and to be expected.1 This omission is also part of the Great InvisaLIE.

So patients are promised a square circle. In order to keep their teeth straight, they must now keep wearing worn out retainers which can no longer keep their teeth straight!

But you may ask, what happens next when their teeth inevitably start to shift? Well, at that point, the helpful doctor can suggests costly alternatives such as lingual braces, or more robust retainers. It’s a fantastic win-win for the orthodontist; but an abysmal lose-lose for the patient.

Does Invisalign Protect the False Claims of Their Providers by Almost Never Referring to How Long These Retainers Last?
Of interest, is that Invisalign has long since discontinued their 3 month retainer replacement program. If they offer something similar, it never hints about a short retainer lifespan.

They’ve even discontinued their website-the one where they reveal directly that Vivera retainers last for 3 months, hence the replacement plan.1 See below how in 2011, Invisalign glibly edges away from their statements made in 2008. Keep in mind it’s the same retainer replacement program!

In 2008, they said “This is why we’re delivering Vivera retainers every three months – keeping your patients in working retention.”1 But in 2011, they try to obfuscate the three month lifespan through misdirection. Instead, it’s a bundle of 4 which is shipped over time. Where in 2008, the purpose was to keep patients’ teeth in working retention, a fancy term for keeping their teeth straight, now, the purpose is to accommodate each patients unique retention needs.” Very slick: But misleading as these retainers degrade after 3 months regardless.

But tricks aside, is Invisalign still keeping their retainer lifespan on the quiet?

Amidst all their current promotions, almost none tell you how long these retainers last. For example: a Google search for the word “Vivera” returns hundreds of hits from the Align Tech website.1 But when you search for terms on retainer lifespan you find only three!1 These references are all buried in their old company press releases from 2007, 2008 and 2018.

In the first two from 2007 and 2008, both say that “strength is a key quality for retaining teeth in their final position.” But not so in the later 2018 press release, which focused on retainer duration. Here, strength is downplayed and this exact phrase has been removed.1 Of interest, is that I could find no modern references to retainer lifespan after 2018. Why is this?

Does Invisalign’s Webpage Assist Providers with False Advertising by Deliberately Diverting Attention Away from Retainer Lifespan?
Invisalign’s current webpage looks much like their Jan 2008 Press release. It too talks about strength and durability. It too boasts that Vivera retainers last 30% more than leading retainers. But unlike their early press releases, they no longer refer to the two month lifespan of their competitors. Nor do they explain what 30% more means in terms of months or years. Instead, they slyly divert attention elsewhere to the brand names of their competition, all the while, skirting the real issue of just how long these retainers actually last.1

So why would Invisalign do this? What good is it to intentionally keep patients in the dark? Could it be they know their provider doctors are lying about Vivera retainer lifespan? Could it be that an ignorant public would be less apt to sue Invisalign’s customers for false advertising? If true, this sounds a lot like aiding and abetting.

Indeed, Invisalign has the best of both worlds. They make billions off their provider dentists and orthodontists. And if any of these providers lie about their product, Invisalign can always claim they had no part in it-they never knew of it, or if they did know, it’s still not their fault.

But is that really the case? Their clever gimmicks aside, could they be at fault anyway? Could it be that Invisalign is so enmeshed in training, marketing, and distributing that they are legally complicit as well?

Shouldn’t We Believe Invisalign When They Tell Their Providers “Invis Is by Your Side” “Align has you covered” and is “Supporting Your Practice at Every Stage?”
The message here is clear. Sell more Invisalign and you’ll do just fine! We’ll help you in every way, including how to market to consumers. And so Invisalign paves the way for their providers to keep on lying. They either approve of their false advertising, or imply they will eagerly look the other way.

Indeed, on their provider resource page, they even pitch to their doctor customers that “Clear aligners gross revenue per visit is 46.8% higher than braces.1 (An obvious incentive for dentists to offer patients even more Invisalign.)

Elsewhere, they boast that “We’ve invested $150M in marketing programs designed to drive patients to your office.1 And in large print up top, they assure providers that:

But it doesn’t stop there. In the screenshot below, Invisalign promises them “From expanding your practice to creating efficiencies that further patient care, Align has you covered. Our patient concierge team, direct-to-consumer marketing programs, and in-office marketing materials help you set the stage for success.” Invisalign then offers to support their practice “at every stage through Practice Mentoring & Training” and through numerous marketing programs.

When It Comes to Training & Marketing, Their Eye Is on the Sparrow: Invisalign Leaves Nothing to Chance, which Means They Know Exactly What Their Providers Claim about Retainer Lifespan
Invisalign is like the helicopter mom who sorts their child’s laundry, cleans their bedroom and writes all their book reports. Nothing escapes her notice. Everything is tightly controlled. Nothing happens without at least her tacit consent. So when the police come to find the child’s bedroom cluttered with stolen merchandise, can momma really claim she never knew? If not legally complicit, she certainly is morally so!

Likewise, as shown in their own public documents, Invisalign zealously protects their image. And they control virtually every aspect of their product marketing. This extends well beyond training and marketing to their provider doctors. They even induce US consumers to hype up their own product demand.1 This includes their Invisalign patient referral program, a program which rewards existing patients with a $100 gift certificate if they can convince their friends and family to get treated with Invisalign!1

To show you just how hands on they are with their training and marketing plans, take a look at this public recap of their Q3 2021 financial results. Here Invisalign admits:

  • Their share of the retainer market is significantly underpenetrated;
  • They have a robust retainer strategy with a separate marketing team;
  • This marketing team is devoted to driving adoption and increasing Vivera market share in the US;
  • This includes engaging doctors through clinical education and sales initiatives, engaging consumers through social media, and by making
  • Demand creation programs that direct consumers to their provider doctors who sell Invisalign.1 2

So Invisalign has a special marketing team devoted to selling Vivera retainers. Further, this team directly engages both doctors and consumers. For doctors, it provides clinical hands on training and sales initiatives.

For consumers, it creates a patient to patient referral program and engages them through social media. In short, Invisalign does whatever it can to penetrate the US market to sell more Vivera retainers. You’d figure this means checking out not just their competitors but also the claims from their own provider doctors.

At the very least, their marketing team would want to harmonize any provider ads that were off script or contradictory. But this seems exactly the reverse of what they’re doing! Instead of policing their providers to tell the truth, Invisalign allows them to keep on lying. They then submerge the truth in just three documents, which sink beneath a flurry of their new ads and more recent press releases.1 So finding the truth is like looking for the needle in a haystack. Except the needle is extra tiny, and someone keeps adding more haystacks!

When It Comes To Exposing the Lies of Their Competitors, Invisalign Actively Combs Reddit, YouTube and Other Websites To Remove Promotions that are Incorrect or Misleading
Court documents show that Invisalign is selectively passive about which lies they are willing to contest. They seem just fine with lies that promote their sales. But are fiercely against lies that aid their competition.

In their lawsuit against SmileDirectClub, Invisalign shows how eagerly they scour the Internet for lies that threaten their own revenue stream.1 And yet they become aloof and nonchalant when these lies come from their own doctor providers. Lies that dupe millions into falling for the Great InvisaLIE.

When It Comes To Exposing Lies on Their Website and Social Media Page, Invisalign Says They’re Legally Obligated To Remove or Correct ALL Promotions that are Incorrect or Misleading

Check out their rules of social media engagement made for their Singapore market. Here they note that:

Invisalign is a Class II medical device that is strictly regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which requires that all promotion of Invisalign (including those on our Facebook page) be truthful, non-misleading, and fairly balanced. Furthermore, like other device manufacturers, Align is obligated to provide clarification or remove any posts from our Facebook pages that we deem inconsistent with Invisalign’s intended use or are otherwise incorrect or misleading.1

Here, they must have put up this disclaimer because they wanted to remove claims they thought were false or misleading. Indeed, if ALL promotion of Invisalign, (a Class II medical device) must be truthful and non misleading, why would Invisalign apply this standard selectively?

It seems they have one standard when it comes to removing misleading comments on their Facebook page or a page of their competitor’s, but an entirely different standard for removing misleading statements that their own providers use to sell more Invisalign. Could it be they think this duty applies only to their aligners, but not to their retainers-a Class I medical device? 1 If so, the spate of recent lawsuits would suggest otherwise.1

But it gets better.

Invisalign Now Partners with Their Providers To Home Deliver Retainers To The Patient’s Doorstep. The Product Manufacturer Has Also Become the Product Marketer and Product Distributor -with Near Absolute Control over Their Product.
Yes! Through their newly developed Direct Ship To Patient feature, Invisalign actively ships Vivera to patients directly!

In this recent press release from Align Technology, they tout that

With the direct ship to patient feature, doctors can arrange to have subsequent retainers sent to their patients directly, reducing the need for doctors to store the retainers in their office or for patients to make a trip to their doctor’s office simply to pick up their replacement retainers. …”All shipping costs, logistics, and facilitation of tracking information are managed directly in the Align VRS platform.1

And their program seems to be a success. In their publicly posted 10Q filing they announced that:

For the three months ended March 31, 2023, non-case net revenues increased by $12.0 million as compared to the same period in 2022 mainly due to increased volumes from the Doctor Subscription program and retention products across all regions primarily driven by Vivera retainers.

The Bottom Line: Invisalign Markets, Micromanages, and Monitors Their Medical Products Which They Ship Directly to the Consumer’s Doorstep: They Profit from the Great InvisaLIE, Pretend to Ignore It and then Keep Consumers in the Dark So No One Can Expose It.

As the manufacturer, marketer and distributor of Vivera retainers, Invisalign is now involved in every phase of product deployment. And they are too involved to not be legally liable for the false claims of their provider doctors, which they monitor and supervise through their numerous training and marketing programs.

Indeed, shouldn’t we believe Invisalign who tells their doctors “Invis Is by Your Side” “Align has you covered” and we’re “Supporting Your Practice at Every Stage?”

And they’ve proven this every step of the way! Invisalign injects their Class I and Class II medical products into the stream of commerce. First, by actively pitching these products to their 256 thousand doctors. Then, by training these doctors exactly how to sell such to their patients.

Second, in order to create a higher demand for their aligners and retainers, Invisalign then reaches out to consumers directly through their social media page and through their consumer to consumer referral programs. This is followed by direct shipments of Vivera retainers to the patient’s doorstep.

Finally, Invisalign conceals the true lifespan of Vivera retainers, so their providers can keep lying on how long these retainers last. Their current webpage ignores this information and attempts to divert the consumer from asking about such. And the only references to an actual time limit are found in just three old press releases which will soon be forgotten. Indeed, any promotions that even hint at a short retainer lifespan have been discontinued or cleverly reworded.

To add to this hypocrisy, Invisalign then selectively combs social media to stamp out the lies of their competitors. All the while, blithely ignoring the false marketing done by their own doctors. (Doctors closely monitored by Invisalign in virtually every respect.) Indeed, how can Invisalign disregard all those lying advertisements!1 Their silence here is deafening.

A Call to Action for Align Technology, Inc. (The Owner of Invisalign!)
Stop being passive. Do the right thing and rein in your providers! You know consumers are being deceived. You know your dentists and orthodontists are lying. And you know you profit from it! A simple word from you and it all stops! You are clearly in the best position to take action. Now tell us what you plan to do about it!

What Victims Can Do.

1. Help Clean Up The Internet! 
Report all false or misleading medical device ads on Vivera retainers to the Federal Trade Commission. For serious adverse reactions and events, safety related product quality problems, and product use errors, also report such to the US Food & Drug Administration. Be sure to send a copy of your complaint to your dentist’s or orthodontist’s state medical licensing board with the name of the person or website with the misleading ad.

2. Demand that Align Technology (who owns Invisalign) police their 256 thousand Dr. customers so they will now tell the truth about how long Vivera retainers really last.

For Align Technology, this means:

A. Require your doctor customers to pull all their false online ads that imply Vivera retainers last for years instead of months. Any claim they last for years is misleading and deceptive. Consumers want to know their retainer will work for years, not just stay nice and shiny without cracks. Saying they “last for years” implies the retainers will continue to retain their teeth in their final position for years. This is inherently misleading and unsupported by your test studies.   

B. Require your doctor customers to publish on their websites only the claims on Vivera retainer lifespan found in the Jan 8, 2008 Align press release. And to provide hardcopy brochures of such to any consumer seriously considering Invisalign. This means to say outright that the lifespan of Vivera retainers (which is how well they keep teeth in their final positions) is more than 30% longer than the leading retainers which in tests start to degrade within 2 months.

C. Require your doctor customers to publish on their websites and in hardcopy brochures the average expected time that patients will need to wear their Vivera retainers both day and night. This includes the number of hours per day and for how many months. Many of your doctors conveniently omit these statements to lull patients into buying Invisalign. Patients are told simply that once done with their aligners, they will need to wear their retainers at night. This is deceptive. These patients must be fully informed before they purchase Invisalign aligners. It is inherently deceptive and misleading to not disclose this information until much later when the patient complains their teeth are shifting or that each night their retainer fits tighter and tighter.

D. To protect against future false or misleading ads on your Class I and Class II medical products, assign a compliance team to routinely search the web for misstatements made by your providers and demand that these be corrected or removed. Warn them in your training and marketing programs that gross infractions could result in being barred from selling Invisalign.

E. Send These Demands To The Key Align Technology Contacts Below:

  • Simon Beard, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Americas, EMEA
  • Madelyn Valente, Director of Corporate Communications
    cc: Shirley Stacy,
  • Melinda Walker, Director of Global Marketing @ Align Technology
  • Management Team (Names but no phone numbers, emails may be first initial last name like the ones above)
  • Press Contacts Email:

Final Word for Victims of the Great InvisaLie
So think again if you thought your teeth would stay straight with Vivera retainers. Get a more robust, thicker retainer before it’s too late! And here’s a final word for those considering Invisalign: Don’t believe the hype! The doctors want you to think the experience is relatively quick, easy and won’t involve extra expenses, such as getting new, costly retainers, or having to buy even more Vivera retainers. But often this is not the case.

Read below about the definitions and drawbacks to both the Invisalign aligners and Vivera retainers. This is followed by my personal account of how I discovered the Great InvisaLIE. Finally, see the list of questions to ask your dentist or orthodontist so you know the full scope of what you’re committing to!

For Blogs on Other Subjects See

Part II For Those Who Are Considering Invisalign Clear Aligners

Below are definitions and descriptions including comments from my own experience. And below this is my own story (How I fell victim to the Great InvisaLIE.)

What Are Invisalign Aligners?
Invisalign offers dentists and orthodontists a method to straighten teeth with clear removable aligners instead of with traditional wires and brackets. These aligners or “trays” are detachable plastic like mouthpieces that fit directly over each tooth. They must be removed when eating, and worn 20-22 hours a day. Studies show that Invisalign can straighten teeth within 12–18 months. 

The costs for Invisalign can vary dramatically depending on the dentist and the complexity of the treatment. I paid $4.4K but others paid as much as $9K. Patients receive anywhere from 10 to 39 of these Invisalign aligner trays, each of which should be worn 1-3 weeks before being replaced with the next one.

Invisalign aligners are quite fragile and require lots of care. Also, it’s not uncommon for your dentist to later add more trays to your correction plan, such as when your teeth are not aligning properly. This can drastically change the time you will be stuck wearing Invisalign. In my case, I initially had 15 trays but ended up wearing 29.

To make these Invisalign trays move your teeth faster, “attachments” or “buttons” are often glued to the teeth that need to be “rotated” or moved more than other teeth. Patients can expect as many as 22 or more of these attachments and maybe even 2 on one tooth. These “buttons” are colored like your teeth and made of a glass-like substance that can sometimes fall off while you’re eating, drinking, chewing or swallowing. If the buttons don’t fall off, such will be removed when you get your retainers.

What Are Invisalign Retainers?
Invisalign “Vivera” retainers are simply meant to keep your teeth in place. Like the aligners, these are composed of a similar clear material but supposedly much more sturdy. You will be instructed to wear them forever at night, once you have finished with your aligners. There is often contradictory advice on whether you can clean them with toothpaste, denture solution or clear mouthwash. Normally, you’ll receive 1-4 of these retainers and they’re supposed to last “a long time.” Many dentists actually claim they last for years. But I have evidence these retainers last just a few months and then stop retaining.

The medical community is extremely vague on the lifespan of Vivera retainers. There is also competing, and contradictory advice on how to care for them. It’s not even clear how long you should wear one before switching to the next one. Nor is there good guidance on how many hours each day you should wear them aside from at night. Your doctor may choose not to disclose that after aligners, many patients still must wear their Vivera retainers, full time, both day and night, for up to 3 to 6 months or even longer!1

So What’s the Scoop on Invisalign?
Invisalign is great for getting your teeth straight for that one time promotional headshot-the one where the dentist uses your smile to promote even more sales of Invisalign! But don’t count on your teeth staying that straight. At least not with the Vivera retainers! If you’re going to be smart about this, jump straight from the aligners to a hard, more robust retainer that will actually work. (The kind that most people get when they’re finished with braces. Some of these retainers are surprisingly clear.)

Indeed, if you stick to the Vivera retainers, your dentist, who already got your money, can now suggest exciting new ways to thin out your wallet. If the Invisalign retainers let you down, well how about more robust mouth guards?  Or maybe you can buy special lingual braces that are permanent fixtures. These stay hidden in your mouth, sometimes forever, but on the side of your teeth where no one can see them but you and your significant other.

Of course, if you knew in advance that you’d need permanent fixtures from the get go, why would you even bother with Invisalign? So for the dentist or orthodontist, it’s a fun filled spree of how to get even more of your money. But pity the poor patient snookered into thinking that Invisalign could actually help them!

My Story (Mostly Written Two Days Before I Found the Smoking Guns Above!)
I was on Invisalign from June 2021 though December 2022 and I paid about $4400 for my treatment. I was quite OK with how Invisalign initially straightened my teeth. Sure, I was surprised at the 22 plastic like buttons they attached, the fact that they kept falling off and that I must have swallowed quite a few. And that while initially told I only needed 15 aligner trays, I wound up with 29 instead.

But in the end, my teeth were straight enough so that I left semi-satisfied. I was willing to endure the unexpected 18 month process, and I could see the difference especially in how straight my bottom teeth had become.

My Experience with Invisalign Retainers
At the end of my treatment, I was then given 4 Invisalign Vivera retainers. I was a bit put off because these retainers seemed quite loose. The dentist never told me anything but that I should wear them at night, and if they were tight, to begin wearing them a full 12 hours a day and then ease off to 8 hours. Puzzling was that I never heard anything about the complexities of wearing these retainers until after I completed all my aligners.

But sure enough, within a few days the retainers went from loose to very tight, and so I switched to 12 hours a day for one month. I then called the dentist as they kept on being tight, which no one ever told me would happen. At that point, I was then instructed to wear them for at least 12 hours a day for the next 4 months! I did so and within another month or two, the retainers started to fit again without being tight.

But later as I looked in the mirror, I noticed both my top and bottom teeth seemed to be shifting. My top front teeth began to look buck again, and a similar thing was happening with the bottom. Was my retainer no longer retaining?

To test this, I decided to switch to my second retainer, which was supposed to be identical to the first one. But to my horror, this retainer was extremely tight, even though it was made to the exact specifications as the first one.

I wore this 2nd retainer for at least a month or two  and then switched to the 3rd retainer, which now was also tight on me! By then, I realized these retainers weren’t doing their job. My teeth were moving anyway in spite of such. After a few months on retainer #3, I got to my 4th retainer, and it too was tight! But I knew this would happen simply because it was obvious now my teeth were shifting. I was losing all that I paid for!

Finally, in January 2024, after wearing each retainer an average of just 3 months, I sought out my dentist for another set of 4. However by this time, he had moved to another location even though there was still a dental office at his old address. When I called his new office, I was told that I would have to come in for new dental impressions. In other words, in spite of telling them I was regularly wearing my retainers and just needed new ones of the same mold, they insisted instead they must take new measurements of my teeth.

At first, I thought they were just being extra greedy. After all, they could charge double the price and such would include the new molding. But when I called the former place where he used to work, they said the exact same thing! Worse, they told me it was because they didn’t expect the new retainers would fit me anymore! This was baffling. If the Invisalign retainers actually retain, why would two separate dentist want to measure my teeth for movement?

Eventually, I convinced the new dentist to simply give me the 4 retainers as I didn’t want my teeth to become even more crooked. The specs for such were still in their system and probably could be made with a 3D printer and a few dollars in raw materials. But grudgingly, I forked over the $450 for a new set of 4, which was still better than paying twice that for new moldings, which would only preserve my teeth in their new crooked position. All this time, I continued to wear my last retainer for at least 15 or more hours a day.

On February 21, 2024 , I picked up my second set of the four retainers as the dental assistant hovered around me expecting that they wouldn’t fit! Turns out she was almost right! My top retainer was very tight. My bottom one I practically had to force onto my lower teeth! The specs on these retainers hadn’t changed a bit. But my teeth had! And this was all within just a year, where I had worn my prior retainers for months, day and night.

So why did two separate dentists think these retainers wouldn’t retain? Could it be that the dental community knows all about this defect but refuses to warn the general public?

Testing If The Retainers Failed for Lack of Proper Care on My Part
To be fair, for my first set of original retainers back in 2023, I got lazy and used Efferdent to clean them. This is something that some dental websites said was perfectly fine. But others recommended against it. So you might think that perhaps I am to blame here.

However, I was determined to do better this round. I wanted to know for sure if these retainers truly retain. So for two weeks, I wore my 2nd set (retainer #1) and made sure to clean it with only a toothbrush, cold water and clear liquid soft soap, something recommended on various medical websites. During this time, I wore these full time, and was relieved as I saw my teeth move mostly back into place. However, I grimly wondered if the retainer was still weakening like the last ones did.

To test this, after wearing this new retainer from 2/21 through 3/5. I jumped straight to my new retainer #2. And guess what? It was a lot tighter than retainer #1, even though #1 was kept in perfect condition and had been worn for just two weeks!

This is the big InvisaLIE! The medical community must know these retainers don’t retain! So why is no one talking about it? You’d figure there’d be a lot more of this on the Internet. The answer, no doubt, is that there’s just too much money in this. Most of the online information comes directly from the very dentists and orthodontist who sell Invisalign! So why tell on themselves? It’s like the farmer asking the hungry fox how many chickens are left in the hen house. The fox will say whatever number the farmer wants to hear. But you can never trust a fox!

So ask around to your friends who’ve had Invisalign and are now at least a year into their retainers. Are they happy?  Did their teeth shift? Have they had to make new moldings even when they wore their retainers? To keep their teeth straight, did they wind up buying a mouth guard or a more robust non Invisalign retainer? Or did they finally give up because they found Invisalign was such a colossal letdown?

Questions To Ask Your Dentist or Orthodontist Before Committing To Invisalign (Both the Aligners and Vivera Retainers)
If your doctor doesn’t have statistics, they should at least be able to provide ballpark estimates. After all, they’re seeing Invisalign patients all the time. And these things are bound to come up. If they still don’t know, ask if they can point you to unbiased medical journals that can answer these questions. Best you find out now before you cut the check!

Questions on the Aligners

  • How many trays does the average patient need? (Yes, I know everyone is different, but have them give you a range.)
  • How long is a typical plan with someone who has my degree of correction? (They will often give you a free scan so they should know this.) If I choose Invisalign when is the expected date I will be done with my aligners and ready for retainers?
  • How often are initial estimates revised to add on more trays? (10%, 30% 50%? 75%) (Note I was initially told it would be 15 trays but I wound up with 29, which means everything took much longer than expected.)
  • How much time should I wear these before moving to the next aligner? Some dentists and orthodontists are more conservative than others, so one may say two weeks while another says three.

Questions on the Vivera Retainers

  • Do most patients have to wear the retainer more than at night? For how many months and for how many hours a day? Do you get a lot of calls from patients who were wearing it for 8 hours at night but the retainer became too tight so they had to wear it in the daytime as well?
  • How long should each of these retainers last, and when should I be concerned that they may not be retaining correctly? Is it true from Invisalign’s Jan 8, 2008 press release that these last only three months?
  • Any idea why Invisalign used to offer a program that would replace these retainers just every three months? Do they still have that program? If I keep using Vivera retainers, how much will it cost me per year to keep these teeth straight?
  • Do any patients complain that the retainers don’t retain? For example, the retainers seem too loose or their teeth shift?
  • What are the best ways to maintain Vivera retainers?
  • How often do you have to take additional impressions of their teeth after a patient has worn their retainers? (assuming they never lost them or stopped using them.)
  • How often do patients ask for a second set of retainers when they haven’t lost them. What reasons do they give?
  • How often do patients need or request for other ways of keeping their teeth straight after wearing Invisalign retainers?
  • Do you ever recommend a fixed retainer or some other way of keeping teeth straight after that person has already been though Invisalign retainers? Why? How often?
  • What percentage of patients do you recommend wear a fixed retainer on the inside of their teeth? Why do you recommend such?
  • Is there any reliable research on these subjects that you can point me to?

    Key Newsworthy Stats About Align Technology and the Clear Retainer Market
    In 2023, Align Technology, the parent company of Invisalign grossed an annual revenue of $3.862B, a 3.42% increase from 2022.1 2They are also #1 in the market with 80-85% market share globally.1 The global clear aligners market size was valued at USD 5.13 billion in 2023 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30.7% from 2024 to 2030.1 By 2030 sales are anticipated to exceed $28.6 Billion.1

    Other Fun Facts About Invisalign
  • Better Business Bureau Complaints Re Invisalign
  • Complaints on Reddit that Vivera retainers last for only two or three months! (site monitored by dentists, orthodontists and maybe Invisalign lawyers)
  • Lawsuits with Invisalign
  • Gross Revenue of Invisalign Parent Company (Align Technology)
  • Search Align Technology Website for Literature on Invisalign Retainers
  • Invisalign Annual Reports & SEC Filings
  • Wiki Facts about Align Technology
  • Dentists and Orthodontists Disagree on How Long Vivera Retainers Last (3 months to 10 years)

    For Blogs on Other Subjects See
  • Sleuth For The Truth (Free Background Checks)
  • Christian-SOS (Just Jesus!)

Outsmarting Rocketreach To Get Business Emails (And Some Personal Emails) All For Free

I just signed up for RocketReach and was sorely disappointed. The free version allows you to search for business emails, and it gives you all sorts of nifty ways to find people.

So what’s the catch?

The catch is that yes, you can get their business email address, but only if you can find their name within the first two pages of your search. And for reasons most mysterious, this doesn’t happen much, if at all.

Now maybe I was just too dumb to figure it all out. Or maybe, just maybe, RocketReach was hoping to make it complicated so I’d sign up for their premium services.

I tried about 6 searches, but the first two pages gave me irrelevant names, often without the last name of the person I was looking for! And when I tried to search the third page, I was led to spine-chilling messages about RocketReach pricing.

Yep. It seems that if you want to routinely find people through their “free” service, you’re out of luck unless you pay them. And who but Arab oil sheiks can afford these prices?

This is slick marketing on their part. During the sign up, they coax you to divulge your business email address for free. It’s then added or updated in their premium database which they then turn around and charge you $49 a month for! WOW. It would seem then that signing up for their free tool is just a waste of time.

The good news is that it ain’t so! Turns out that Google does a far better job of searching Rocketreach than Rocketreach does! But for this to work, you still have to use their free signup just like I did. Don’t worry, it’s not painful. And you can always give them one of your crappy email addresses, or set up a disposable one for them to send their confirmation to.

After my free signup, I was able to Google for emails within the RocketReach website like this: Graham Firestone solvay

Simply click on the link above, and replace my name with your subject’s, along with the company they work for. Be sure to leave the rest alone. You could also try with quotes like this “Graham Firestone” solvay

This pulled up my name and my company name. To find both my business and personal email address, simply click on VIEW GRAHAM’S CONTACT INFO. Be sure to click further if it says there are other emails.

In my case, it gave out a lot of good information. It pulled up my current business email, and an email from a law firm I used to work for, and a rarely used personal email of mine (scraped from LinkedIn no doubt).

What If My Subject’s Name Doesn’t Appear But I know He Works There?
Don’t be a crybaby. No database is perfect. If the person isn’t listed, do the same Google search above but without the person’s name. This should pull up lots of other people from the same company and allow you to guess the email format.

What if I Don’t Know the Name of Their Employer or Company?
This won’t work well for common names, but with a rare name like mine, try a search like this: “Graham Firestone”

Note: It’s a lot easier to search for people, places or things if you get Google to display 100 searches at once instead of 10. For an easy way to do this, see Google search 100 hits per page instead of 10 per page.

For more see Cell Phone #s, Emails & Physical Addresses

The End

Find Company Emails of The Top Decision Makers

Let’s not kid ourselves. Finding a company email address is rarely easy. Sure, if you’re lucky enough, you can get to their customer service department. But what if you want to write to the top decision makers?

How can you reach the vice president you charmed at the coffee shop? Yes, the one who’s desperate for your resume, even though she doesn’t know it yet.

Or what about the home improvement contractor who never repaired your leaky basement? You paid their outrageous bill for $3,200, dutifully screamed at their voicemail, and then followed up with frantic texts for them to finish the job . But for reasons most mysterious, they can never find the time to return your calls. Or for that matter, to return your money.

Don’t let a mean ole website keep you from the big shots. And don’t waste your time yelling at a company voicemail. Here are the tricks to find company emails. Now you can send the VP at Starbucks your stellar resume.

Or if you like, you can email your home repair guy about the terrible dream you just had. Yes, the one where you take him to court, ruin his reputation, and then revoke his contractor’s license.

Live Search in Action! Contacting the Top Decision Makers in AquaGuard

AquaGuard is a midsized to large roofing and waterproofing company in Georgia, also known as AquaGuard Foundation Solutions. According to, it has about 243 employees.

Now suppose you wanted to email the owners of AquaGuard but couldn’t find their contact info on the AquaGuard website. For the moment, I will assume you knew that the owner of AquaGuard is Thomas DiGregorio (Tom DiGregorio). And that unlike me, you found him simply by scrolling down their homepage or looking at their “contact us” page.

Or perhaps you couldn’t find his name there so you got it through the free corporate filings at the GA Secretary of State. Indeed, it was here I learned that Thomas DiGregorio also owns AquaGuard Properties, LLC, AquaGuard Water Proofing Contractors, Inc. and probably even AquaGuard Roofing Solutions, LLC.

Note that while the AquaGuard website also lists Joe Rusk as a co-owner, I was unable to confirm such through official government records.

The Low Hanging Fruit (Free Email Extractors)
There are two types of free email extractors. First there’s the typical free people searches that pull up emails along with other data. I recommend or using as a backup.

Just enter the person’s name and state and scroll down for emails. Some sites, even allow you to search by a person’s cell phone number or old email address for similar results.

Second, there’s the websites where you type in a web address to see a collection of company emails.

For smaller companies like AquaGuard, it could mean you find the email address of the owner, vice president, or talent recruiter. But for big companies like Microsoft or Amazon, there’s much less a chance of that.

But don’t fret on this. If you know the name of your contact, you can guess their email address simply by looking at the format of all the other email addresses on the list.

Note, each site may require you type in the address in a different format. So with AquaGuard as an example, you may need to enter it as: or

Using To Hunt for Business Emails
With CyberbackgroundChecks, you simply search for the owner’s name along with their state. When I did this for “Tom Digregorio” and Georgia, I found the emails of two of his active businesses below.

Using To Get Emails from the AquaGuard Website
My next step was to use to search for other emails associated with AquaGuard.

When I typed in I found these additional emails below. People come and go in large companies, so look for the newest confirmed email addresses. (See those I highlighted in yellow.)

Be sure to Google these to see if you can get their full names as well. To see if they’re still any good, you can also plug these into an email verifier. But always Google them as well. Email verifiers aren’t perfect.

Another way to find the names of key players is to do a Google search within See below. Note: You must replace Aquaguard and Georgia with the specifics for your company, but leave all else the same. As noted below, be sure to ignore all the Google ads.

The great thing about the Signal Hire website is that it lists the names of employees along with their job titles! It won’t reveal their email addresses, but you can always find these through Google and the other sites already mentioned.

Sending the Email When You Don’t Know Which Address Is Valid
Sometimes, such as when lodging a serious complaint, you don’t want them to know you’re just guessing at their contact information. To hide this fact, simply email yourself and put all the numerous other email addresses in the “bcc” box. So, if the recipient gets your email, they’ll only see your address and assume you knew theirs all along. And once they respond, you certainly will!

Still Can’t Find Their Email? Then Get Them To Contact You!
Many businesses enjoy top ratings with the Better Business Bureau. And even those that don’t will often hate to see bad reviews posted online.

So if you can’t reach them directly, simply look up the company by name or phone number in the Better Business Bureau Complaint Database. After you lodge a complaint, the BBB will contact the business and encourage the business to get in touch with you. Often this works far better than simply suing them in court.

Note that if you can’t find a business using the BBB Complaint Database, try Googling the business with “BBB.” Sometimes Google works better at finding BBB complaints than even the Better Business Bureau! And once you see the write up, look for how you can file your own complaint.

Free Resources

For free links to find corporate and personal emails check out
Find Email Addresses (Consumer-SOS)

Related Blogs

Car Dealers & Illegal Dealer Fees (Georgia)

So you really dig the Honda Civic you saw advertised for $7100 online. But at the dealership you suddenly learn its take home price is now $8100. This really happened to me and I was furious. Turns out, the sales guy wanted to charge me an additional $599 “dealer fee” along with the taxes and title fees.

So what are dealer fees?  Can car dealers legally tack them on to the price they advertised?  The answer to the last question is NO. This practice is totally illegal in Georgia (See dealer fee restrictions in GA and other states).

A dealer’s fee is nothing more than a clever way for a car salesman to grab your money. Dealer fees may show up as “administrative fees,” “document fees,” “processing fees,” or “customer service fees,. They could also be called reconditioning or “recon fees”, or “protection fees” etc.  It’s all left to the car dealer’s imagination.  Bottom Line: A dealer fee is any non-governmental fee a car dealer tacks on.

Dealer fees are not per se illegal. Georgia law allows car dealers to charge whatever they like for these fees. But here’s the catch! It’s TOTALLY ILLEGAL to advertise a price and then tack these fees on later. THAT’S RIGHT! The price they show you must include any and all dealer fees or they’re ripping you off! This pricing requirement extends to any advertised price in any medium. So if they advertised the car for $7100, the law says this price must include all dealer fees. The car dealer can’t slip them in later. Even if their website disclaimer says “price does not include dealer fees.”

So if Stone Mountain Toyota decides to show you a computer screen showing the car’s price, they’ve published it! The only fees they can add to this price are the fees they must pay the government.

Other types of charges that MUST be included in the vehicle’s advertised price include “freight charges”, “transportation charges”, “destination charges”, “dealer preparation charges”, “overhead charges”, and any other terms of similar import.

Fees New and Used Car Dealers Don’t Have To Include In The Price
The only fees dealers DON’T have to list in the advertised price are government fees, which include tax, tag, title, Georgia Lemon Law, and Warranty Rights Act (“WRA”) fees. The GA Lemon Law fee is just $3 and applies only to new vehicles.

So be sure to ask the car salesman “What’s the full price when I walk out the door.” And don’t let them get away with tacking on dealer fees not already included in the advertised price.

How To Verify You’re Not Being Overcharged For Government Fees
If government fees are being added to the price of the car, be sure to ask what each fee is for and how it was calculated. You can ask them “Is this the exact amount you pay the government or is it more than that?” If the dealer inflates the title fee or tax amount, it’s nothing but an illegal dealer fee in disguise.

Don’t confuse the government’s title fee of $18 with the more expensive “Titling Fee” often charged by new and used car dealers. The latter is often five times the amount charged by the state. So the dealer’s titling fee also needs to part of the published price of the car. It can’t be extra.

Government Fees The Dealer Can Add To The Price Of The Car

Government Title Fees=$18. See DOR Title/Tag Application
($50 titling Fee=Deceptive per GA. Gov Auto Informer 2020)

GA License Plate Fees= $20 (car or light pickup truck)

GA Lemon Law Fee=$3

Ad Valorem (Sales Tax): To know the exact taxes the dealer must pay,  simply enter the car’s vehicle identification number into the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Ad Valorem Calculator.

Examples of Legal And Illegal Dealer Fees

ILLEGAL The car is advertised for $7,100 with a $600 dealer fee not included.  But a big disclaimer says THIS PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE DEALER FEES”. Illegal (all dealer fees must be included in price).

LEGAL An old beat up car is advertised for $7,100. Price includes dealer service charge of $599 and “title service” fee of $198. Legal (both fees are steep but allowed because they are part of the car’s published price and not added as an extra fee).

ILLEGAL The car is advertised for $7,100. Price includes dealer service charge of $599 but not title service fee of $98. Illegal as the actual title fee charged by the government is less than $98 (dealer fee in disguise).

The Advertised Price Must Include  Options Already Installed or Those Things “You’re Required To Have” to  Buy The Vehicle

ILLEGAL “A dealer policy where all new vehicles must receive a paint protection package and vehicle floor mats for an additional $1,000. (illegally forces you to pay an extra  fee beyond the published price or you can’t buy the vehicle).

ILLEGAL A car dealership  website invites you to click a button on the website, and communicate with your dealership in order to receive a special “E-Price.” This “E-Price” does not include your mandatory dealership fee which is tacked on later.  The “E-Price” must include all required non-government charges, including your dealer fee, according to The Georgia Department of Law-Consumer Protection Unit (CPU).

ILLEGAL “This car has a GPS built in so you need to pay an additional $200 beyond what was advertised.”  Not by a long shot! Like any other dealer fee, if this option is  already installed,  this “dealer addendum charge” must be included in the advertised vehicle price.

So when the dealer gives you a line on how “the rules require” a particular option to be installed, or “it has already been installed”, you get to tell them, “Great! The rules also say it’s you who will eat the cost! Now remove the charge!”

Negotiating The Best Deal With Your Car Dealership
(and convincing them not to back out once you expose them)

If you tell the sales person upfront about the illegal dealer fees, two things may happen:

  1. The dealer may not sell you the car;
  2. The dealer may remove the illegal dealer fees but then jack the price up with other fees/offer you second rate discounts.
    For example: To recoup their losses, the dealer could decide to lower the price of your trade in,  give you a terrible deal on auto  financing and warranties, or jack up their insurance or other service products. 

To be safe, DO NOT OBJECT TO THEIR ILLEGAL FEES UNTIL THE END WHEN THE DEALER HAS PRESENTED YOU WITH THE PAPERWORK LISTING ALL THEIR DISCOUNTS AND CHARGES. Yes, ask to see their final paperwork so that you know your absolute takeaway costs.

This is the time to make sure the dealer won’t back out when you expose them. They may try to do so simply because the deal is no longer a moneymaker. To ensure the deal goes through:

  1. Circle the illegal dealer fees, illegal add ons, and anything else illegal;
  2. Quickly take a photo of the finance page with your circles: Make sure to get their logo or anything else that proves this is from their car dealership;
  3. Object to the fees, and give the dealer the 3 pre printed, highlighted copies of the GA Department of Law pamphlets found in this blog under the Georgia Law section (listed under YOUR TOOLBOX: Helpful Resources)
    Better yet: Use their business card to email or text them. Be sure to attach the snapshot of the illegal fees along with the links to the GA law brochures. (might get the sales person personally on the hook by proving they knew of the illegality.)
  4. If the dealer still won’t sell you the car, no need to raise your voice or make empty threats. Simply explain that they are all on legal notice. They have wasted your valuable time, padded the bill with almost a thousand dollars in illegal fees, and you need to warn the whole state of GA so they won’t become victims. IF YOU WON’T SELL ME THE CAR SANS THE ILLEGAL FEES, I’LL SIMPLY SPREAD THE WORD BY SENDING THIS TEXT/EMAIL TO THE GA DEPARTMENT OF LAW, THE BBB COMPLAINT DATABASE, FOX 5, and WSB  NEWS.  I’LL ALSO SEND IT TO THE VARIOUS AUTO FRAUD CLASS ACTION ATTORNEYS WHO WILL ADVERTISE THIS ONLINE  SO THEY CAN ROUND UP ALL THE OTHER VICTIMS  AND SUE YOU FOR MILLIONS.

Help For Victims Who Were Cheated with Illegal Dealer Fees

You’ve heard that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Well, mamma was right! Big companies including car dealerships are extremely sensitive to bad publicity.

But it’s best to use a flyswatter before you use dynamite. Your first step should be to contact the general manager and get them to fix the problem. After all, if you were in charge, wouldn’t you want people to come to you first, rather than go over your head?

But sometimes it’s necessary to go beyond the GM and even beyond the owner of the dealership.

For example: Say you were cheated by a dealership like
Nalley Infiniti or Stone Mountain Toyota, and the general manager doesn’t return your calls. These dealerships have to worry not only about their own reputation, but also about the reputation of Infiniti or Toyota (which allows them to sell their brand name cars).

So in the above example: if the franchise finds out the dealership is besmirching their good name, guess what happens? It means that the dealership could lose their right to sell Toyotas or Infinitis! That would cost them a lot more than a thousand dealer fees.

Keep that in mind if you think the dealership is not playing fair with you.  Your next step may be to call Toyota’s or Infiniti’s pubic relations department. You can bet they’ll be keenly interested in what the dealer is doing with their good name.
(In case you’re wondering, Infiniti is owned by Nissan; Toyota Stone Mountain is owned by Sonic Automotive.)

If this doesn’t work, try your local TV station for even more exposure. Be sure to Google if the car dealer has had prior complaints.  Reporters eat this up. You can also lodge a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  A little bad press can give your dealer a seven figure lesson on freakenomics.

And don’t forget our government friends. You can also contact the GA Department of Law (404-651-8600) regarding any Fair Business Practices Act violation of the above. The GA Department of Law is part of the GA Attorney General’s office. They have the power to fine a crooked dealer and shut them down.

Finally, if you’re really really mad, find a class action lawyer who will gather other angry plaintiffs who have also been cheated.

I’d do this last, because if it were me, I’d first sue in the court of public opinion so the dealership would immediately lose millions and millions. But if you simply want your money back, it may be worth your while to deal with them pesky lawyers.

Getting Proof They’re Cheating Others
It’s always good to have proof this is not an isolated incident. After all, repeat offenses could peak the interest of the media or your U.S. or  local representative. First try Googling  the name of the dealership with any of the following words:

For example, you could paste in Google all these terms in red: “Nalley Infiniti” complaint OR fraud OR BBB OR unfair OR deceptive. You could also do the same search of complaint OR fraud OR BBB OR unfair OR deceptive with “Stone Mountain Toyota” or  “Hodges Ford.”

Also, be sure to monitor your dealer for further wrongdoing through Google Alerts.  Yes, you can create a Google Alert with the same terms as above so future complaints appear in your email in box!

Next, fax an open records request to the Georgia Department of Law so they can email you a printout of any allegations of fraud against the dealership. You can fax (not email or text) these requests to 404-651-9018.  If the request is simple, they’ll email you the results in just 3 business days. (free of charge). I just verified this with a lawyer who works there!

Sample Open Records Requests To Fax The GA Dept. of Law
“In regards to Gravity Auto throughout the state of GA, please send me a list of all  complaints against them in the last three years (formal or informal, substantiated or merely alleged) that involved deceptive pricing.”

“In Regards To Nalley Infiniti, please list any fines or settlements in the last three years that relate to deceptive practices.”

Making The Story More Newsworthy

Aside from how you were cheated, your story will gain more traction if you can show reporters that virtually every driver has or will become a victim.

The facts and figures below show the number of people who buy new and used cars from dealerships, and how much $ the dealerships make from selling these cars. Dishonest dealerships are a problem for everyone. This issue affects the rich, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, immigrants, democrats, republicans, the black, the white, Latinos and anyone who buys a new or used car from a GA dealer.

New Cars Sales Statistics & Market Size By Model in The US

  • 6 million more new cars on the road each year (sold by a dealer who may be ripping off consumers)
  • Sales Broken down by type or MFG
  • US Auto Sales By Year (from 1999-2018)
  • Top Ten Cars bought in 2019
  • 281 million cars registered in the US (prediction for 2019)

Total # of Licensed Drivers By State (2017)
With 3.5 million annual registrations, Georgia ranks in the top 8 of all 50 states.

Sales of Used Cars By Dealers in GA (2014-2019)

Your Toolbox: Helpful Resources Below To Stop False or Misleading Car Dealers and Crooked Auto Dealerships

 Georgia Law

Georgia Consumer Protection Division (Formerly The GA Dept. of Law) 404-651-8600
Complaints filed with this office alleging fraud may form the basis for an investigation into a company’s business practices. A significant quantity of complaints about a business may give rise to legal action—not on behalf of the individual complainants, but to enforce state law.

Georgia Auto Informer Government Pamphlets Below
The Georgia Department of Law-Consumer Protection Unit enforces the Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act (FBPA) which prohibits unfair and deceptive acts or practices within the context of consumer transactions. These news letters are part of their efforts to raise awareness among auto dealers and advertisers regarding the FBPA, as well as the GA Government’s Auto Advertising and Sales Practices Enforcement Policies (AAEP).  Although the policies found in the AAEP are not actual law, they highlight those industry practices that the GA government considered to be unfair and deceptive, and thus violations of the FBPA.

What’s The Deal With Dealer Fees (Government Pamphlet Issue #12) Governor’s office of Consumer Protection newsletter: a dealer’s claim of ignorance or confusion regarding this matter will not mitigate OCP’s actions for noncompliance.  In 2013, Fox 5 Atlanta conducted numerous undercover visits to Atlanta area dealers in order to investigate dealer compliance with this policy. All of the dealers visited during these undercover shops were adding fees to advertised prices.

Pricing Representations: Dealer Fees, Options & Discounts  (Government Pamphlet issue #13) 1/22/16
Georgia Department of Law’s new bulletin: Advertised vehicle prices must include all non-government charges that a consumer is required to pay in order to purchase a vehicle, including but not limited to, dealer fees, previously installed dealer options, and electronic titling fees. Only taxes, tag, title, and Lemon Law fees may be added to this price. This pricing requirement extends to any advertised price in any medium, but most commonly becomes an issue on your dealer website or a third party site such as Autotrader.

Learn how the GA Dept of law determines what is deceptive and illegal in regard to automobile advertising and auto sales. This agency enforces the Fair Business Practice Act (FBPA) which protects consumers against tacking on to the sales price, things like illegal dealer fees, and dealer add ons, like “mandatory safety treatments”, etc.

GA Law On Mandatory Arbitration Clauses (Forum Selection Clauses)
In 2022 it’s still touch and go. The courts still have some leeway to decide that a clause forcing you to arbitrate (forbidding court or a class action law suit) are void.  And some dealerships do not have these clauses in their contract anyway.  Every case can turn on the facts, the judge or the jurisdiction. So consult an experienced GA class action attorney.

Select Dealerships: (Their Public Relations and Franchise Owners)

Stone Mountain Toyota is owned by Sonic Automotive. To report wrongdoing to Toyota Media Relations, contact Karen Nielsen, Corporate Communications (469) 292-2659. The General Manager of Stone Mountain Toyota is Steve Crane (or Steven Crane).
See also Reviews and Complaints against Stone Mountain Toyota.

TV Stations, Magazines, Blogs & Legal Help

FOX 5 Call For Action 404-879-4500
 Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m
Volunteers at Fox 5 Call for Action center try to resolve your problem by calling the bad auto dealer to work it out. Bad car dealers may want to respond to them, because if, not, their story could soon be on FOX news. Be sure to explain to the volunteer how many millions this affects so the story will interest a reporter, This will help the volunteer feel more confident to forward your story to a reporter if the car dealership remains uncooperative.

WSB News (Channel 2)
Nicole Carr (
(She’s done prior news stories on crooked car dealers)
See also (general inbox for WSB)

WXIA-11 Alive 404-892-1611
Call in or fill out their form.

FOX 5 Atlanta
News Crew
In 2013, Fox news did undercover sting operations exposing crooked car dealerships.

Find Your Local TV station
Here are links to the local TV stations near you!

AutoDealer (Publishes Deceptive Car Dealership Practices) Use them to give the dealer negative publicity, or to explain to the dealer what you will do if they don’t play fair.  

Top Ten Car Magazines
Perhaps they’ll do a story on your dealer’s misconduct.  

Top Auto Blogs
A post in the right place will spread the word to other car buyers.  

Better Business Bureau. (GA)
Warn other victims. Get the word out so car a dealer’s wrongdoing appears in Google searches.

GA Consumer Protection Division (Formerly The Ga Department of Law)
This is the enforcement division of the Georgia Attorney General’s office.

Federal Trade Commission
Regulates auto financing and false advertising.

GA Class Action Lawyers (Lawyers For Auto Fraud)
Even if you’ve been cheated only a little bit, the dollars add up when thousands like you have also been defrauded. Class action lawyers can file a mega lawsuit that punches the crooked dealer in the pocket book. Car dealers must learn that charging illegal doc fees, security fees and other illegal markups ain’t worth the trouble.

Georgia Auto Fraud Attorneys

Consumer Advocacy To Report Safety Issues Or Shady Dealings

Great resources for when you’ve been taken advantage of by your manufacturer or dealer, or if there’s a serious defect with your vehicle.

Other Blogs

Walking daily with Jesus, without all the churchy stuff.

Free legal help in all 50 states.

Blasting Bad Debt Collectors Out Of Business

Every superhero has a weakness. With Superman, it’s Kryptonite.  With Green lantern it’s the color yellow. And with Daredevil, it’s just a lot  of background noise. But what about the supervillains? Obviously they have weaknesses too. And it’s my pleasure and delight to talk about them.

In the world of supervillians, the worst of them is the big bad debt collector. And the badder the debt collector, the easier it is to find their Kryptonite!

This blog will talk about the really bad debt collectors. I won’t claim there are good debt collectors. But the bad ones are those that illegally ignore the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Sadly, the worst offenders are lawyers. Particularly, it’s the attorneys who think that because of their power and connections, they can trounce on the little people. So here’s a handy dandy road map to blast them out of business! I’ve even included scare letters which you can send to the state bar, their big bank employers and to all their trade associations (the pals they hang out with).

The Four Ways To Cripple A Bad Debt Collector (Like Cooling & Winter) 1. Drive up their cost of doing business (More Lawsuits & Publicity)
2. Scare away the companies that use them (Sample Letter)
3. Get them in trouble with their peer groups & licensing boards
4. Get the government to shut them down. (FTC & CFPB)

1. Drive Up Their Cost Of Doing Business

Debt collectors cut corners because it’s faster and cheaper than playing by the rules. So now is the time to punch them in the pocketbook.

Use public awareness so more debtors know their rights, fight harder, pay less on their debt and sue more under the FDCPA and state law. Remember that the FDCPA encourages consumers to sue and will even pay for your court costs if you win. You can also collect $1000  plus your attorney’s fees and even tack on state law claims to drive up the damages! In other words, you can make it so the debt collector is the one who owes you the money!

To spread the word, tell your story to the BBB and other Internet Complaint Websites. Make sure to mention key terms that other debtors will search for. Include the full name of the collection agency, the phone #, the name of the individual collector, FDCPA and what they did wrong. For example, “I asked them to validate the debt but against the law they sued me instead!”

You Will Need Publicity
Lawyers won’t go down without a fight. And they are experts at fighting in court. So you need to fight them where they’re at a disadvantage. And this means the court of public opinion.

Publicity is more than just the media. And it’s more than just the Better Business Bureau. It also includes reaching out to Consumer Advocates. It is through such means that you can force a debt collector to make nice, or drive it out of business.

For how to background your debt collector, don’t forget to look at Exposing A Debt Collector Who Won’t Follow The FDCPA.

2. Scare Away The Companies That Use Them

Big bad debt collectors often work for big global banks. These include the banks you know by name such as Capital One, Bank of America and Citibank. And the bigger the bank, the more sensitive they are to bad publicity.

Sometimes the collector works for a debt buyer such as Midland Funding. A scare letter is much less effective with Midland because they already have a bad reputation. However, you might want to send it to them anyway. Their lack of response can be used to draw in the media. And once the media is involved, you can lobby your government representative to saddle them with more fines and regulations.

To write a good scare letter, you will want to Google your bank with FDCPA or complaints. If the bank has had bad publicity with debt collection, you can mention it in your letter.

For the same reasons, you will also want to do a background check on your debt collector. For how to search, see the end of Exposing A Debt Collector Who Won’t Follow The FDCPA (Sleuth For The Truth).

Sample Letter To Capital One Public Relations Department

Capital One Rehires Debt Collection Firm Fined $3.1M for Robo-Lawsuits

Dear Capital One,

The above headline is almost a certainty. How you minimize the fallout is up to you.

You are using the law firm of Cooling & Winter to collect debts on your subprime credit card accounts. As you must know, Cooling & Winter is the successor to the notorious law firm of Frederick J. Hanna & Associates. You are no stranger to Hanna. Hanna is the same law firm you previously hired to collect on your credit card debts. It’s also the same firm that in January 2016, was fined $3.1 million and then shut down by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

The Hanna firm was shut down because it relied on deceptive court filings and faulty evidence to churn out over a hundred thousand debt collection lawsuits in violation of the FDCPA. To stop further action against it, Hanna signed a Consent Order with the federal government, which was made final on January 6, 2016.

As part of this Order, Hanna, agreed to pay $3.1 million in fines and acknowledged itself to be a debt collector subject to the FDCPA. The Order also prohibited Hanna and its partners and successors to engage in unfair debt collection practices. (see CFPB Complaint and Consent Order).

Out of the ashes of the Hanna firm, arose Cooling & Winter. Cooling & Winter was formed just three weeks before the Consent Order that forced Hanna out of business. And the new firm is strikingly similar to the old one. In fact, the named partners, Joseph C Cooling & Robert A Winter, belonged to the Hanna firm, and were specifically named in the government suit against Hannah. In addition to having virtually the same partners and many of the same attorneys, the new firm even uses the old firm’s prior phone number. (For National Headlines on Hanna partners Joseph Cooling & Robert Winter, click Here.)

Like its predecessor, Cooling & Winter has continued in the Hanna legacy. In 2017 alone, they’ve been sued 11 times for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Many of these cases touch on the same practices prohibited in the Consent Order.

To this day, Cooling & Winter lawyers are telling debtors that the FDCPA doesn’t apply to them. The reason they give is alarming. They say they’re exempt because they have a special relationship with Capital One. True or false, this puts Capital One in a bad light. And inquiring minds want to know what Capital One has to say about this.

Capital One is no stranger to publicity. According to the Wall Street, Journal, Capital One is the top lender to the working poor. (sub prime credit card accounts). In another article, Capital One was noted for “Easy Credit and Abundant Lawsuits.”

In that story, the Consumer Federation of America called for more government regulation against subprime credit card lenders. It found “disturbing” the volume of suits filed by Capital One, and it urged regulators “to investigate whether the perils of subprime credit cards outweigh the benefits.”

So these debt collectors are already in the federal spotlight. And they have already made national news. Using them against the working poor is an open invite for more government regulation.

Below, Are the 18 Lawsuits Where Your Debt Collector Was A Defendant.

The 11 lawsuits in 2017 were all for Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Note how quickly Cooling & Winter settles them-often within 1-3 months– to avoid a ruling that the FDCPA applies to them.

Bottom Line: A wolf in grandma’s clothing is still a wolf. You are using debt collectors who have hurt thousands of people. And they’re still at it but under a new name. So when the feds and media come knocking at your door, what will Capital One have to say for itself?

Very truly yours

Joe Debtor

 3a. Get them In Trouble With Their Licensing Boards

Publicity & The State Bar
As a lawyer myself, I know that attorneys fear bad publicity. And so does the state bar, which in GA, just happens to be run, not by the government, but by the lawyers and judges themselves!

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the websites for doctors vs. lawyers.  As you would expect, GA doctors are regulated at medicalboard.georgia.GOV.  But for some reason, GA lawyers are regulated by a non government organization at gabar.ORG.

This is your strength. The state bar is very much like the Motion Picture Association. Both are terrified that outsiders might make the rules for them. Both want to regulate themselves without government interference. With the MPAA it means they’re very aware of the public’s sensitivity to sexual acts, and will rate on this more aggressively than on violence.

But with the state bar, it’s less about sex and far more about client theft. If a lawyer is caught stealing a client’s funds, the bar is terrified they must act immediately lest the government step in to correct the matter. And so in these cases, the Bar is very tough on its own.

That said, most lawyer offenses are treated with far less punishment. Unless of course, you can convince the Bar that if they don’t act fast, their friends the government will…

So with debt  collector law firms, you must show how the individual lawyers are acting so badly that there needs to be immediate damage control. Otherwise, it will look like the state bar is a den of wolves and unwilling to police its own!

Show They Violated Ethics Rule 8.4 (Attorney Misconduct)
Your state bar is in charge of enforcing lawyer ethics violations. This includes whenever a lawyer engages in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. So don’t let a lawyer blow smoke in your face and say the FDCPA doesn’t apply to them.

Know deception when you see it. For example, when Cooling & Winter was told they must follow the FDCPA, one of their senior lawyers tried to mislead the debtor into thinking otherwise.

The lawyer starting saying something that was technically true: “We represent the creditor and the creditor is FDCPA exempt”.  But in context, it was said only to fool the debtor into thinking something false; i.e. that because the FDCPA doesn’t apply to the creditor it also won’t apply to the creditor’s 3rd party debt collector!

There was no other purpose for this response except to mislead and deceive the debtor, who had challenged them under the FDCPA! So they violated both the GA Bar rules on deception and misrepresentation, along with the the FDCPA rules against misleading the debtor.

In Cooling & Winter’s case, they know full well they are under the FDCPA. Take a look at the disclaimer they have on their website. It totally tracks the FDCPA disclaimer-the one where the law requires all 3rd party collectors to say This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

Now what debt collector would ever put this on their website unless they were forced to by law? It’s like the cop who reads you your Miranda rights and then claims it was just a courtesy. The police don’t do it as a courtesy. They only do it because they have to. So Cooling & Winter, a law firm, has committed a breach in lawyer ethics by lying to you.

For how to background your debt collector, don’t forget to look at Exposing A Debt Collector Who Won’t Follow The FDCPA.

Sample Letter To State Bar Ethics Commission
Dear state bar: I am not a lawyer but I do know how lawyers are seen by the general public. Sadly, most people are suspicious of lawyers until they need one. And even then, they assume that the state bar will protect its own at the expense of the people hurt by them.

That said, I hope the state bar will investigate the ethics lapse of lawyer x who works for the law firm of Cooling & Winter. This lawyer violated ethics rule 8.4 which requires they refrain from deceptive or misleading statements.

As you must know, Cooling & Winter is the successor to the notorious law firm of Frederick J. Hanna & Associates; the same firm that in January 2016, was fined $3.1 million and then shut down by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. The Hanna firm was shut down because it relied on deceptive court filings and faulty evidence to churn out over a hundred thousand debt collection lawsuits in violation of the FDCPA.

Cooling & Winter is much like the defunct Hanna firm. In addition to having virtually the same partners and many of the same attorneys, the new firm even uses the old firm’s prior phone number. To this day, Cooling lawyers are still telling debtors that the FDCPA doesn’t apply to them.

Now that you know the checkered past of this particular law firm, I will go into what they did wrong here. In my case, the misleading/deceptive statement was… I also have an email/recording  to back it up.

Worse, lawyer X is an expert on the FDCPA and a former employee of the defunct Hanna law firm. This lawyer knows better.

I am copying this email to Randy Travis at Fox 5 News. I am also copying (list one consumer advocate group)

Possible Headlines For Reporters include :
State Bar Protects Notorious Attorney Debt Collectors Shut Down By Feds
State Bar Won’t Police Its Lawyer Debt Collectors, Is This A National Trend?

Please respond in the next 7 days.

Best regards,

Joe Debtor

3b. Get Them In Trouble With Their Trade Groups
(Are You All A Den Of Thieves Argument)

Find the trade Associations the debt collectors belong to and scare them with unwanted media attention. Have I-team reporters place calls to the National Credit Association and other groups these lawyers mingle with, belong to, host seminars at, or are invited to speak at.

To find the groups they interact with, Google the name of the individual wrongdoer and the word association. Repeat with the name of the company. If the association has them as a key speaker or treasurer or president etc, make sure the media exposes these connections.

Also get the reporters to contact respectable trade groups for comment, even if the debt collector doesn’t belong to them. The goal is to get other groups to admit the debt collector is out of line and to publicly put distance between them and the big bad wolf. i.e. Big Bad Wolf is wrong and most of us debt collectors are not like that.

Enlist the Debt Collectors Who Play Fair Who Are Put At a disadvantage because the bad guys cut corners. If the bad guys always win then it’s just a race to the bottom of who can ignore the law the fastest. Contact Convergent Outsourcing, a debt collector who plays by the rules and will be at a competitive disadvantage with the bad guys.

Do the same with other respectable debt collection trade groups. Have reporters call them for an opinion on big bad wolf’s collection practices. Do they have any suggestions on how to stop crooked debt collectors? Watch your story gather momentum as respectable organizations chime in with their opinions.

Sample Letter To Trade Association About Cooling & Winter Debt Collector
Dear National Creditors Bar Association (NARCA)
I wish to inform you that one of your members is actively flouting the FDCPA.  The individual attorney is X and they work for the law firm of Cooling & Winter.

Specifically, they falsely claimed they were not FDCPA debt collectors, refused to validate the debt and also did … I also have an email/recording  to back it up.

This is in violation of Ethics Rule 8.4, and also the FDCPA which forbids deceptive or misleading communications. It also goes against your NARCA Code of Professional Conduct & Ethics. Specifically this attempt at deception causes disfavor with the public and a lack of public trust in violation of Article I, Section 1 and Section 2.

Please consider that your member law firm is the successor to the notorious law firm of Frederick J. Hanna & Associates. As you must know, in early 2016, this firm was fined 3.1 million dollars and shut down by the federal government. The new Cooling & Winter is much like the defunct Hanna firm. In addition to having virtually the same partners and many of the same attorneys, the new firm even uses the old firm’s phone number.

And it seems they are at it again with numerous FDCPA violations. Given your reputation in the community, I hope you will take action. The general public does not have much faith in a creditor’s group policing its own members. Please prove us wrong.

I am copying this email to Randy Travis at Fox 5 News. I am also copying (list one consumer advocate group)

Possible Headlines For Reporters include :
NARCA Shields Notorious Attorney Debt Collectors Shut Down By Feds
NARCA Won’t Police Its Lawyer Debt Collectors, Is This A National Trend?

Best regards,

Joe Debtor

4. Get the Government to Shut Them Down.

Like a slow languid beast, the government won’t act unless there’s  plenty of prodding. To get it moving on your behalf, you’ll need lots of help. Help can take the form of consumer action groups, the media and other debtors who’ve been victimized.

You’ll also want to know all about your debt collector. This includes , who they’ve hurt, and if they’ve ever been fined or investigated by a government agency. For how to background them see the end of Exposing A Debt Collector Who Won’t Follow The FDCPA.

Getting More Victims To Come Forward
The media love to talk to real live victims. And the government will need to know who else has been hurt. The best place to find other debtors are in Magistrate and Superior court where the cases are recent or still ongoing.

A court search does two things that should make you happy. First it will get you a  list of defendants (victims) involving Cooling & Winter or it’s attorneys. Second, you get to see the names of the big bad banks you’ll want to write scare letters to. To search court records, see Exposing A Debt Collector Who Won’t Follow The FDCPA

Exposing A Debt Collector Who Won’t Follow The FDCPA

To the non beer drinker, there’s only three types of beer in the world. There’s BAD beer. There’s VERY BAD beer. And there’s LESS BAD beer. And so it’s much the same with debt collectors.

This blog is all about the VERY BAD debt collectors. Here I will show you how to background the shady ones along with their company or law firm.

As an example, I will name real names. You will get to see an actual  background check on the notorious lawyers of Cooling &Winter. Cooling & Winter is a prime example because it’s been sued 12 times in 2017 alone. And virtually all the lawsuits against them concern bad debt collection practices. So you’re in for a real treat!

When we’re done you’ll be able to expose a debt collector’s lies, ferret out their half truths and expose their prior bad dealings. You can then use this information to negotiate your own settlement!

As a special bonus, I’ll even show you how to blast a crooked debt collector out of business. For believe it or not, you have powerful tools to make unscrupulous debt collectors play by the rules.

This includes enlisting the aid of honest debt collectors, the BBB, the media and even the debt collector’s own licensing board and trade associations. It could also mean getting help from consumer rights advocates and powerful government regulators.

Can I Enlist The Help Of A Plaintiff’s Attorney?
Most plaintiff attorneys won’t dare use these weapons of mass destruction. Because unlike you, they don’t really want to go nuclear. To them, it’s a big game of catch and release. They see the debt collector as a wild animal that should be caught, fined and let go again.

No attorney makes money off of destroying big bad debt collectors. They make money off of suing them and collecting their attorney’s fees. (again and again). So it’s not in their interest for you to blast them out of commission. It’s like asking the farmer to kill the goose that lays all the golden eggs. This is why the media, consumer advocates and government regulators are your best course of action.

3rd Party Debt Collectors Must Play By The Rules (The FDCPA)
When I say play by the rules, I mean that most debt collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA  is the golden rule that applies to all third party collectors. It even applies to collectors that work for the creditor but look like they’re an entirely different company.

If the collector violates these rules in the slightest, they could be sued for $1000, plus, your court costs and even your attorney’s legal fees. (And this doesn’t even include state law claims, which you can file too!) Yes, it’s all built into the Act to encourage attorneys to take your case. Free of charge!

Blog Roadmap

  • Spotting The Lies & Half Truths Collectors Say
  • How To Show They’re Still Bound By The FDCPA
  • Googling The Debt Collector and Their Company
  • Checking The State Courts & Complaint Databases
  • Checking For Other FDCPA Lawsuits Filed Against Them
  • What We Found on Cooling & Winter!

Spotting The Lies  & Half Truths Collectors Say

Lie/Half Truth #1

Since We’re Part of The Creditor, We’re Exempt From The FDCPA
Debt collectors love this one. Some of them even believe it. One of the real life exceptions to the FDCPA is that it usually won’t apply to creditors who collect on their own debts. Nor does it usually apply to the creditor’s employees.

For example, if you owe money to Bank Of America, they can collect on the debt with no fear of the FDCPA. The same goes if you receive a call from their accounting department or their in-house lawyers.

But even then, the FDCPA forbids them to collect under another name. OR in a manner which makes them appear to be a third party debt collector. If they do that, they will be stuck under the rigid rules that bind all third party debt collectors. Note that in Cooling & Winter’s case, they sometimes will insist the creditor is not subject to the FDCPA. But the status of the creditor is not the issue. It’s the law firm’s status as a 3rd party debt collector that counts. The FDCPA applies to law firms too!

And this is VERY important. The trend these days is for some collectors to falsely claim they are not a third party. Instead, with forked tongue, they’ll tell you they are somehow an “affiliate” or “employee” of the creditor.

The reason they do this is because if they can skirt the rules they can undercut their law abiding competitors. And by ignoring the law, they can collect their debts cheaper and faster than everyone else.

Honest debt collectors hate when their competitors try these stunts. For unlike the baddies, they’re the ones who get penalized for playing fair.

Lie/Half Truth #2

Since We’re Debt Buyers The FDCPA Won’t Apply To Us
Debt collectors will also try to avoid the Act by claiming they are debt buyers and therefore exempt. In other words, they will tell you that since they own the debt outright, they are now the creditor and can collect on it in any way they choose to.

This is a half truth based on the recent Supreme Court ruling in Henson. What they won’t tell you is that the FDCPA still applies to them when the principal purpose of their business is debt collection. See Henson v. Santander Consumer USA Inc., 137 S. Ct. 1718 (2017). And this is where the background check comes in.

How To Show That They’re Still Bound By The FDCPA
Under current case law there are 4 ways a debt collector can be bound under the Fair Debt Collections Practice Act. Since the collector may try to hide this information from you, it’s up to you to find public records that support your case!

Prove any one of the following and they’re still on the hook:

1. The debt collector is clearly a third party who is collecting the debt on behalf of someone else.


2. While the debt collector claims to be part of the creditor, they have the appearance of being an entirely different company. For example, a debt collector law firm may say they’re part of the creditor but they use a different name, incorporate as a separate entity, have a different website, use a different logo and have different stationary-all of which conveniently fails to list an affiliation with the creditor.


3. While the debt collector may own the debt and say’s they’re merely collecting on it, you have proof that debt collection is the principal purpose of their business or part of their regular activities; For example, their website says they’re debt collectors and all their lawsuits and articles involve debt collection.


4. Even if the debt collector is a debt buyer or part of the creditor, you can show they also act as a third party collector with respect to other debts.  For example, they say they’re an “affiliate” of Capital One but you discover they also collect debts for competing banks such as Bank of America or Midland Funding.

A General Background Check To Reveal The Facts Above
Each background check is different. And you never know the juicy facts that can help you until you find them!

So it’s important to do a background check on both the debt collector AND their company. If either one has a checkered past, all the better.

Googling Cooling & Winter
I Googled the law firm of Cooling & Winter with many or all of the terms below:

Cooling & Winter FDCPA
Cooling & Winter Complaint
Cooling & Winter fines
Cooling & Winter sanction
Cooling & Winter Capital One (To see if they are affiliated)

Googling Debt Collector Attorney Quinn M Kasper
I then did likewise with one of their attorneys,

Quinn M Kasper Georgia
Quinn Kasper Georgia attorney
Quinn Kasper Georgia complaints
Martha Quinn McGill (maiden name)
Quinn Kasper “Bank of America” (more connections to creditor? )
Quinn Kasper Cooling Winter
Martha McGill FDCPA
(for prior FDCPA violations)
Quinn M Kasper FDCPA

Other words to search for include their name along with
contempt, fined  and disciplined.

Googling Specific Newspapers For Stories On Your Collector or Their Big Bank Employers
You’re more likely to get the media to do a story if the collector was already in another story by them. And you can bet the collector’s bank employers will be more apt to drop them if you remind them about their prior bad press with debtors, or how the collector has damaged their rep in the past.

In the case of Cooling & Winter, a Google search revealed sordid facts about their past. It turns out that many of their top lawyers were from the notorious law firm of William J Hanna & Associates. Yes, the very same firm that in 2016 was fined $3.1 million and shut down by the federal government! (See more below)

Sample Google Search For Hanna & Associates in Media Articles

Hanna debt (collector in Atlanta Constitution)
Hanna debt (collector in Wall Street Journal)
Hanna debt (collector in New York Times)

Sample Google Search For Big Bank & Media Articles
(Getting Headlines to include in Scare Letters To Their Clients)

“Capital One” Hanna debt (collector & Capital One, AJC)
“Bank of America” FDCPA (FDCPA trouble)
“Midland Funding” debtors (general bad press)

Check The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s Complaint Database. The CFPB Complaint Database shows the type of complaints filed by others which the government already knows about. For Example, Cooling & Winter has had 75 complaints since 3/16/16 to the present. This information may be useful when contacting the media, writing scare letters to the big banks, or when negotiating with the collector. It’s also good to remind the government that the collector is still a menace.

Check Local and Federal Courts For Cases They’re Involved In
Search by the last name and maybe 1st name of their attorneys. Also search by their law firm. You’re looking for three things:

1. The names of the companies or banks they represent
The more competing banks they represent, the more obvious they’re a third party debt collector. Also, the cases will show you if there are any big banks involved, i.e. the ones most sensitive to bad press. You’ll want a list of these so you can write them scare letters or  get the consumer advocates and reporters to give them a happy phone call.

2. The names of the debtors that are being sued
If the debt collector is telling you lies, there may be other witnesses who can vouch for their bad conduct. Reporters also like talking to a other victims to make their story more sensational.

3. Other lawsuits that show dirt or bad conduct.
Has the law firm, collection agency or its attorneys been sued for malpractice? Are there any suits against them in federal court for violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act?  You’re looking for anything juicy and embarrassing they don’t want publicized.

Searching For Cooling & Winter in GA ( Fulton State & Magistrate Court)
In the link above, search for the word Cooling
and set your display to 200 records. You’ll want at least a dozen names and addresses of defendants in debt collector actions during 2017.  This will help when you or reporters reach out to other victims.

Do the same with Fulton Superior Court.
Choose All Case Records and enter the CAPTCHA. In the box below this, change Search By: Citation to Attorney. Ignore all fields but the attorney’s name. In this case, the attorney has a rare name so search by the last name of KASPER (nothing else). When you see a list of cases, look for the ones grouped as Contract/AccountFor more info on a case, click on the blue links to the far left

Often, a big bad debt collector trounces on the little guy in magistrate court. But later the debtor turns around and sues them for FDCPA violations in federal court. While the debtor often loses the first round, with the help of free plaintiff attorneys they typically win or settle the FDCPA case. At least that’s how it works with Cooling & Winter.

And guess what? You can find all these cases on PACER. PACER is free if you use it wisely. And even if the case has settled already, you get to see what every debtor complained about (before they were paid to keep quiet). This is great because the debtor’s complaint can show if there’s a pattern or practice the government should investigate. For example: a debt collector’s repeated attempts to sue before the debt was confirmed or “validated.”

To search on PACER, log in and then get to find a party by pasting the link below in the Internet address bar at the top:

Or you can go to National Case Locator, click on Pacer Case Locator, and Find Parties. Next, in the field called Last Name or Entity Name, all you need to do is enter in the law firm name without the LLC, LLP etc. For example Cooling & Winter. Click Search and watch the magic!

As of 8/12/18, here are all the Unfair Debt Collection Law Suits Against Cooling & Winter in Federal Court. See PACER which has 30 Lawsuit Against Cooling & Winter with 21 cases based on FDCPA violations, 1 is a FCRA violation

What We found On Cooling & Winter

  1. Cooling & Winter is the successor to the notorious law firm of Frederick J. Hanna & Associates.
  2. Hanna is the same firm that in January 2016, was fined $3.1 million and then shut down by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. (CFPB)
  3. The Hanna firm was shut down because it relied on deceptive court filings and faulty evidence to churn out over a hundred thousand debt collection lawsuits in violation of the FDCPA.
  4.  Cooling & Winter was formed just three weeks before the government  forced Hanna out of business. (Frederick J Hanna & Associates knew they needed a new name as a shut down was imminent.)
  5. The new firm is strikingly similar to the old one. In fact, the named partners, Joseph C Cooling & Robert A Winter, belonged to the Hanna firm, and were specifically named in the government suit against Hanna. In addition to having virtually the same partners and many of the same attorneys, the new firm even uses the old firm’s prior phone number. (For National Headlines on Hanna partners Joseph Cooling & Robert Winter, click Here.)
  6. Like its predecessor, Cooling & Winter has continued in the Hanna legacy. In 2017 alone, they’ve been sued 11 times for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Many of these cases touch on the same practices prohibited by the government Order that shut down their predecessor.
  7. Cooling & Winter collects for Bank of America, Capital One and a debt buyer called Midland Funding.
  8. Cooling & Winter lawyers are licensed by the GA Bar and subject to their rules and regulations for ethical misconduct.
  9. Cooling & Winter is a member of a trade organization called NARCA (The National Creditors Bar Association)
  10. Cooling & Winter knows it’s subject to the FDCPA. In 2017 alone, They were sued under the FDCPA 11 times. And in every case, they settle within 1-6 months.

What We Found On Quinn M Kasper

Quinn Kasper was no angel either.

  1. Martha Kasper worked for both Hanna and Cooling & Winter and is therefore bound by the government order on unfair debt collection. She’s also known as Martha Quinn McGill and Quinn McGill Kasper.
  2. Kasper is a former magistrate judge and files many suits in magistrate court.
  3. Kasper holds herself out as an expert on the FDCPA and even was about to teach a class on such to NARCA before it was canceled due to a hurricane scare.
  4. Kasper in spite of her seniority and expertise, still tells debtors she and her firm are not covered under the FDCPA.
  5. Kasper is a lawyer licensed by the GA Bar and subject to their rules on ethical misconduct & misrepresentation. (Rule 8.4 )

For more see,

Lawyers at Cooling & Winter (For Googling)

Georgia Office

Joseph C. Cooling
Managing Partner
Phone: 770.988.9055

Robert A. Winter
Managing Partner
Phone: 770.988.9055

S. Louis Schiappa
Managing Attorney
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3014

Kristian Knochel
General Counsel
Phone: 770.988.9055

Quinn McGill Kasper
Senior Attorney
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3299

Christopher R. Yarbrough
Attorney at Law
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3356

Louis R. Feingold
Attorney at Law
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3127

M. Scott Peskin
Attorney at Law
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3116

Allison K. Lovell
Attorney at Law
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3007

Shenika L. Lee
Attorney at Law
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3066

Ryan O. Bell
Attorney at Law
Phone: 770.988.9055 x3184

Florida Office

Joy Lynn Kundawala
Senior Attorney
Phone: 954.903.2806 x4028

Karen E. Berger
Senior Attorney
Phone: 954.903.2806 x4031

Melissa Alvarez
Attorney at Law
Phone: 954.903.2806 x3389

Lauren N. Turner
Attorney at Law
Phone: 954.903.2806 x4026

Mateusz M. Szymanski
Attorney at Law
Phone: 954.903.2806 x4032

South Carolina Office

Joseph E. Brown
Attorney at Law
Phone: 864.605.3832 x4003

Wesley E. Boyd (name has been removed from website)
Attorney at Law
Phone: 864.605.3832 x4004

Dylan D. Lingerfelt
Attorney at Law
Phone: 864.605.3832 x4004

Expose The Business Owner Behind A Website

Scroll to the bottom to see the Sentencing and Imprisonment of  Elisabeth Greenhill and Jonathan Greenhill who operated the fraudulent travel agency Mission Trip Airfare and stole over $1.3 million from over dozens of Christian Ministries.  (The subjects of this blog which was written 3 years before, while they were still hiding behind their website.)

The great thing about living in a small town is that you know everyone by name. You know their reputation and you know where to find them, especially if they’ve done you wrong. And so you’re less likely to be taken in by a pretty face, as you already know their true character.

Not so on the Internet. On the Internet the big bad wolf can masquerade as a happy sheep. And the ugly duckling can look like  a beautiful swan!

Don’t get me wrong. I like beautiful swans. Especially when they’re all so pretty soft and white. But if they’re an ugly duckling, I want to know about it. Because if the ugly duckling took all my money and won’t give me a refund, I’m going to go duck hunting.

So let’s talk about business websites. No, not the large companies that are publicly traded and easily found. But the small businesses. The ones that make nice professional web pages, where for some reason, the owner’s contact information is completely missing.

Yes, the websites where you’re unable to talk to a live person. And if you have a problem, you’re stuck filling out a complaint form which goes into the corporate abyss.

But what if you could find the business owners behind the website?  Perhaps express your joy to them at their personal email address?  Or maybe even send a bouquet of flowers to their house while they’re eating dinner?

Do you feel guilty for being so mad at them? Why not tell them all about it on their private cellphone! They may need to know about the awful dream you keep having. You know, the one where you repeatedly sue them and put a lien on their home.

Reaching real live owners is important, especially when there’s no evidence the business has been incorporated. If it’s not an official company, it means the owners could be personally liable. And so the more owners you can find, the more houses and property you can put liens on!

So this is a blog about hard to find businesses. Businesses that might not be incorporated and might not even have a bad reputation. (Yet)
The only thing you know for sure is that they owe you money and you need to reach real live people. People who can be held accountable for the wrongs they’ve done.

As an example, I will show you how to find the owners behind (AKA MTAF and Mission Trip Airfare) is a great example of a site that doesn’t have easy to find contact information.

Just recently, Atlanta’s Fox 5 News reported they owe people over $500,000 for airline tickets. (They took the money, never bought the tickets and never refunded the money). Others have reported Mission Trip Airfare to be a scam and a fraud. And now the FBI is investigating them! (On April 5, 2018, the owners of Mission Trip Airfare, have been indicted for fraud).

Once, their contact information used to be out in the open. But for some reason, it’s now all been neatly removed. So here I will use real public data to show you who the owners are and (if you like) how to reach them.

But before we begin, I must warn you: There’s a lot of information out there. So don’t get lost in it. Always keep in mind the following:

When You Get Their Names & Websites It Will Lead To Their Contact Info. When You Get Their Contact Info, It Will Lead To Their Names & Websites.
(So Everything Can Be Used To Find Who Owns What!)

Four Happy Tips

  1. Get their name and ways to reach them through their website, website address and older versions of their websites.
  2. Google any contact information you find, including their business names, plus any business or personal emails, addresses and phone #s.
  3. Use their names to get their contact info and their contact info to get their names. (Gather all the info you find. Even old emails and phone numbers could lead to other owners and hidden associates.)
  4. Confirm you have the right contact information. Plug your info into the free validators for their current emails, physical addresses and cell phone numbers.

Now Here’s How To Find Them:

Scour Their Current Website For Owners Names & Contact Info
Typically, ownership and contact information can be found on their  “Contact Us”, “About Us” or bio section. Copy any contact info into Word or notepad even if it’s just a first name. You’ll be Googling it later.

Sadly, through this method I could find nothing about the owners of The website was devoid of any helpful names, emails or phone numbers!

Scour Their Old Website For The Owners’ Names & Contact Info
Here’s where I hit paydirt! With the Way Back Machine, you can go back in time to what the website looked like in the days of yore. 

In other words, you may be able to see owner information before they got crafty enough to remove it! So with, I was able to browse through 10 years of changes to find one of the website owners and how to reach her!

Here’s what looked like in 2007. Note the contact info up top is now missing from the current website. But there’s no fooling the Way Back Machine!

The owner of Mission Trip Airfare is Elisabeth Greenhill, also known as Beth Greenhill. Her photo and bio is here (site as of 2005). I was also able to find a working cellphone # for her at 404-353-6824 (confirmed by the cellphone validator below). As late as 2016, she was still on the website as the founder and owner.

Lookup The Website’s Domain Name Registration For Names & Contact Info: Also Look Up Related Sites With .org & .net
Yes! Did you know that every website must register their domain name and provide contact information? Often this information can be found for free through a domain name lookup.

For large businesses, a domain lookup is pretty much useless. The reason is that any contact info you get is apt to lead to their IT department. And who wants to talk to IT people!

But it’s a goldmine for looking up small business owners. Often a domain registration gives you their name, their phone number and their email address. Sometimes you’ll even get their personal cell phone number. How about that!

But I was not so lucky with MTAF. For some reason has concealed their domain registration. Sometimes people will pay extra for a private (or hidden) domain registration which can only be revealed through a court order.

But fear not! Sometimes you can look up a domain history which will tell you who owned the web address before they concealed it. This is how I found Beth Greenhill’s email address, which is Too bad it’s no longer valid.

For even more leads, try looking for who owns the same domain name but with the .net and .org suffix. Often people will reserve several domain names even if they’re never make them into websites. And sometimes, they will leave their contact info unprotected!

Through this approach I was able to uncover that Jonathan Andrew Greenhill owns and WOW. He has the same last name as Beth Greenhill.

Is that a wild coincidence? Or could they be business partners? Whether they’re siblings or husband and wife is a separate issue.  But read on and I’ll show you that too!  But right now I’m just looking for liability. And the more partners the merrier! 

Google All Names & Contact Info For More Leads
Even if your website has virtually no contact information, be sure to do at least two Google searches.

You’ll always want to Google the business name and then do a separate search for the website address. In my case, I jumped the gun and Googled too quickly. I didn’t have the owners’ name yet. So I was overwhelmed with hundreds of useless hits.

This is what I found for I got more specific results when I did a separate search for “Mission Trip Airfare” (putting the business name in “quotes”).

If I knew the owner’s name earlier I could also have Googled Beth or Elisabeth or Beth Greenhill separately or in the same search box along with the website or the business name.

Also, I could have Googled any email addresses, physical addresses and phone #s to see what else comes up.

A Google search for“elisabeth greenhill” Georgia found she lives at 225 Warm Springs Circle, Atlanta, GA 30075. She owns this property as indicated in the Fulton County property lookups.

Check For Hidden Relationships
Note: To find hidden relationships between two people, I could have Googled Beth Jonathan Greenhill. Or I could have searched for their names along with a company they might own together.

In this case I confirmed that Beth and Jonathan Greenhill are brother and sister, not husband and wife.

To reveal their connection to each other, I simply checked for back links to This gave me the other websites which linked to them. While this won’t help for a big site like Microsoft, here it led me to the Greenhill family webpage.

And guess what?  In the middle of the page, Mama Greenhill boasts all about her 3 three sons and her daughter, the travel agent! Now ain’t that special!

For more on Googling, see Googling For Courts, Crimes, Marital Status & Names.

Find Owners Through A Company Name Search, Both Local and National.
Off the bat, I found nothing for But that doesn’t mean you won’t find your business. And how I searched will help you.

Be sure to search several states and in the various ways described below in red. If you find an incorporation, see if you can open up the original company filing. This will often have the owner’s cell phone number!

Searching Several Ways For A Business
For, I did a preliminary national search making sure not to include a city or state. The free national search is good just to see what states have companies with the same name as the one you’re looking for.

If you find one in a certain state, click on the company name for their contact information. But don’t stop there. Even if you get their address, it could be an old one.

Now that you know the state where the business could be incorporated, go back to the free listing of Secretary of States and look up the most current contact info.

The national search ain’t perfect. It could miss records. So to figure out where they might be incorporated, I also would do a search where the owner lives and has lived, plus California and Delaware, which are where a lot of people incorporate.

So in the case of Mission Trip Airfare I checked with the Secretary of States in GA, DE, IL, SC and CA. Sadly, none of these had anything for MTAF, Mission Trip Airfare or In GA, I also searched for Beth Greenhill and Elisabeth Greenhill both as a registered agent and also as the officer/owner of any company. Nothing.

Now you might be asking what does it mean if your business is not
incorporated? In short, it means the owner can be personally liable for any debt incurred here.

Even when a business has incorporated, the owner may still be liable if they used the business to defraud people. So be sure to get legal advice on Piercing the Corporate Veil.

And this is where the fun begins! If more than one person is involved in the business, it could be a partnership where everyone is liable. This means you want to find all owners, so you can put a lien on all their houses! Now ain’t that something!

Plugin Names To See If They Own Other Businesses Which List Their Contact Info
If you find the names of people connected to the business, do a national search by their names too. Remember that names lead to contact information and contact information will lead to more names.

It may be they are the officers or agents of other companies. Companies where you can find where they live and send them a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Find Their Contact Info Through The Better Business Bureau Complaint Database.
The BBB allows you to search by website, business name, phone number or email address. Keep in mind that a new business may not have complaints. I recommend a search with and without their state. It’s possible their new business  in GA has no complaints, but the old one in AL does. This only works if the owner used the same name for both businesses (not uncommon).

WIth MTAF, I was able to use the BBB to locate their virtual office which is located at 10 Glenlake Pkwy STE 130 Atlanta, GA 30328-3495. They also listed “Ms. Beth Greenhill, Founder

Find Their Contact Info Through Other Domain Names They Have
Yes, you can get their private cell phone number, physical address and email addresses based on other domain names they’ve registered for. And you can do it simply by plugging in their old and new contact information. You don’t even need to know if they have a website!

So now all the contact info you saved is paying off!

Through a Reverse Whois Lookup you can find their other websites and domain names.This works by plugging in any of the following:Their name, the name of their company, their user name, or an email address of theirs.

Now let’s get back to Jonathan Greenhill of Mission Trip Airfare. With just his name I learned he owns the following web addresses: 2005-11-02 GODADDY.COM, LLC 2014-10-01 REGISTER.COM, INC. 2016-04-01 GODADDY.COM, LLC 2014-08-11 GODADDY.COM, LLC 2014-03-27 GODADDY.COM, LLC 2014-03-27 GODADDY.COM, LLC 2014-04-15 ENOM, INC. 2014-04-15 ENOM, INC. 2014-08-11 GODADDY.COM, LLC

To find his current address, look for the latest website/URL. In this case it’s the one I marked in red. They don’t have a website up yet. But it’s always worth checking because an up and running website might have contact information.

Note that as late as 2016, Jonathan Greenhill listed his contact address as 1425 Rock Springs Circle, and his cell phone as 404-822-4185. Here’s a photo of the property where he lives.

Are you a shy person who is too afraid to shake his hand? Well in that case, why not  email him at I’m sure he’ll be very glad to hear from you. The email is still valid. But if you need several more,  just grab them from one of his other domain registrations.

Note: If my link to who owns a domain name doesn’t give out details on how to find him, you may need to go to GoDaddy or where ever the domain name is registered. Then use their WHOIS to find the owner’s contact information.

Confirm You Have The Right Contact Information
By now you have a slew of emails, phone numbers and physical addresses. But which ones are current? Does the cell phone number work? Who owns it? Is the email still good? And how can you know if they even live there anymore?

For emails, check to see if it’s a working email address. For physical addresses, do a reverse lookup to find if they still live at that location. You can also verify the name of the property owner.

For phone numbers, check out and Both can tell you who’s behind the phone number. And Spydialer allows you to hear their voicemail without them ever knowing who called.

For More See

Trial of Elisabeth and Jonathan Greenhill

1:2018cr00108 or 1:18-cr-00108-MHC

On October 18, 2019 Elisabeth and Jonathan Greenhill both pled “Not Guilty” to all counts. Elisabeth Greenhill’s pleading shows her current phone number and address. If it were Jonathan’s I’d have published it in a heartbeat. But perhaps Elisabeth should get some grace here. She’ll need it.

Elisabeth Greenhill
On February 3, 2020 Elisabeth Greenhill changed her plea from “not guilty” to guilty of count 1. But she then tried to withdraw her plea, blaming her lawyer of course, for never explaining things to her. The judge didn’t buy it, and Elisabeth was penalized for perjuring herself and showing no remorse for her awful and dishonest crimes which hurt at least 41 people.

On March 23, 2021 Elisabeth Greenhill was sentenced to 7 years and three months in a Florida federal prison, plus 3 years supervised release with special and standard conditions. She must pay $1,310,102.00 in restitution and has reported to prison atFCI Marianna SCP on Noon, April 29, 2021 to begin service of sentence. She is appealing, but I doubt she’ll win this one.

Jonathan Greenhill
Jonathan Greenhill was found guilty after a three day trial, which he appealed of course. Jonathan actually got a much lighter sentence than his sister Elisabeth, even though he has a decade plus history of being sleazy, unscrupulous and downright deceitful. Perhaps this is because unlike his sister he wasted far less of the court’s time with legal duplicitousness and chicanery. Plus he probably blamed his conduct on being a victim of substance abuse, as his sentencing suggests he has a drug problem.

On April 1, 2022, the court sentenced Jonathan Greenhill to 3 years and one month in federal prison; plus 3 YEARS SUPERVISED RELEASE and $969,102.00 IN RESTITUTION. The court also recommended to the Bureau of Prisons: (1) That the Defendant be allowed to serve his custodial sentence in the BOP facility at FPC Montgomery, Alabama, and (2) That the Defendant be recommended for participation in the RDAP program if he qualifies. Unlike his sister, he has no set time yet to surrender himself to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. As of May 11, 2021 Good ole Jonathan is now in federal prison at Montgomery FPC.

Sentencing Docket For Elisabeth Greenhill

Sentencing Docket For Jonathan Greenhill

Background Them By Their Business Card

So your 20 year old daughter is all gaga about the cool guy she met at the Waffle House.  “He’s fun, he’s fast and he’s really terrific”,  so she says.  “At 23, he owns his own modeling agency and is now off to Europe to check on his import export business!”

It’s obvious your daughter is wild about him.  But as a concerned parent you’re worried.  Some men will say anything for sex.  And as smart as your daughter is, she’s also a bit naive.  So you wonder, what if this guy’s a liar?  Or worse, what if he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing?  He could be dangerous!

Your daughter won’t listen without proof.  And you know just how to get it!  Now is the time to be cheerful.  So with your best botox smile, you say “That’s great honey! I’d love to meet him when he returns!  May I take a look at his business card?”

With great joy she hands it over to you.  And now you’re really smiling.  For his neck is in your noose.  With just a business card, you have all you need for a full fledged background check!  It’s time to pull the beard off Santa, and expose him for the fraud he is!

A short time later your suspicions are confirmed.  The guy is 30 not 23.  And to your disgust, the slacker still lives with his mommy.  You also learn the company he “owns” doesn’t exist, and his arrest mugshots show he’s driving on a suspended license-a license he lost after his second DUI.

He’s also lying about his wealth.  Court records on PACER show that less than a year ago he filed for bankruptcy.  Looking at the bankruptcy petition, it’s obvious to you what happened.  With his minimum wage job at the gas station, he couldn’t make the payments on his flat screen TV and the Jet Ski he bought on credit.

Smug and self satisfied, you tuck away his business card and can’t wait to tell your daughter the good news.  Ain’t life grand!

A Sample of What You Can Find Out From A Business Card


Why A Background Check Through Their Business Card?
As you can see, a business card is so packed with information that it screams out: PLEASE DO A BACKGROUND CHECK ON ME!

The typical business card has:
1. The names of the person, business and website; and also
2. Contact information such as their address, phone number and email address.

Even if you’re not a protective parent, there are plenty of good reasons to do a background check.  And what better way than with their own business card!

People use business cards to inspire trust.  They hand out them out in the hopes you’ll feel they’re competent, dependable and professional.  So at the very least you can investigate these claims before you date them, hire them or introduce them to your friends and colleagues.

What To Look For In A Business Card
There’s only two reasons to check out a business card:

  1. Confirm The Person Is Being Truthful About Themselves
    Are they really a doctor or a lawyer? Are they truly a licensed CPA?  Do they own that company or work for someone else?  Is their physical address an office, a home or just a concealed mail drop made to look business like?
  2. Learn The Things They’d Never Dare Tell You On Their Own
    Is the person reputable?  Have they had complaints, been sued, or ever been convicted of a crime?  Did they drive their former companies into bankruptcy?  Do they own the property or just rent from their mom?  These are the things they won’t volunteer.  And unless you background them, you’ll never know what to ask.

Where To Plug In The Information
Google everything.  This includes their name, the name of their company, the phone number, address, email address and website address.  Make sure to Google with and without their middle initial.
For more on name searches see:

Leverage what you find to get even more information.  For example:, if your search turns up more companies or prior phone numbers and addresses, Google these too.  After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.  It could be these lead to other failed ventures, or to lawsuits and arrests that reveal their rotten character.

Check Licenses and Certifications  and verify they own the company they claim to own.  For example, all doctors and lawyers better be licensed in the state they practice.  Same with CPAs, realtors and financial advisors.  If you’re unsure if they need a license, Google their profession and your state to see if such is required.  For more, see the Sleuth For The Truth blog on Backgrounding A Contractor.

Do reverse lookups to see who’s behind any of the contact information on the business card.  Learn who is behind the phone number, the email address, who owns the property and whether its a real address or concealed mail drop.  Often a reverse lookup will tell you other things such as lawsuits, who their associates are and if there are complaints against them.  Other red flags include connections to criminal activity, and the business being “theirs” but you can’t find them as an officer or registered agent.

Finally, see what else you want to know about them at below:

Find Or Background People By Their:

Arrests, Mugshots, Criminal, Civil Records Friends, Associates & Relationships
Age, DOB, Relatives & Where Else They’ve Lived Liens
Contact Information (Includes Reverse Searches) Newspaper Articles
Assets (Whatever They Own) Name (Search By First or Last)
Bankruptcies/Bad Debt Neighbors
Business Or Profession Or Certification   Photos
Campaign Contributions Property 
Dating Profiles State, County, City or Zip
Death Records Websites/Intellectual Property 
Salaries-Federal & State Employees & Officers of Public Companies (Exact $ Amounts) Misc. Public Records (Classmates, Military, Genealogies, Rare Names, etc.)

Why A Background Check?

For anyone who would background the house or car they buy,  but not their date…

Are Public Records A Bad Thing?
Are you a privacy nut?  Or someone convinced that free public records mean the end of the world?  Or maybe you’re less extreme than that, but just a little alarmed because there’s far too much public information freely available online.

Well, to quote Bill Clinton: I feel your pain.  There’s a lot on the Internet that can be used to stalk people, defame people, or simply harass people. Too much hate, too much bullying, too much social media.  And yes, too many YouTube videos with annoying pop up ads.

So what are you going to do about it?  Without a time machine, we’re stuck in the here and now.  And like fire, which is good in the oven but terrible on the curtains,  so is the free information you’ll find on the Internet.

Think back to all the amazing inventions.  And the opposition they all received. The VCR allowed you to illegally copy.  But with it you could watch all your favorite programs without the commercials.

And what about the Internet?  It made huge numbers of teens more isolated, more asocial and even more into pornography.  Yet it also allowed bedridden grandmothers to Skype their distant grandchildren.  I could talk about the car, the iPod and the smartphone.  But you get the gist.  The technology is neutral.  What counts most is what we do with it.

So let’s stop the complaining. It’s now time to make the lemons into lemonade.

Trust But Verify
Too many times I get the question: Why do a background check?  Sometimes I’m even accused of being  a snooper or stalker.  The people who ask these things tend to think there’s something shady when you look someone up online.  Their concern is that the mere act of backgrounding someone creates inherent feelings  of mistrust.  And that it’s better to be ignorant than poisoned by unfounded suspicion.  In some cases they may be right!

I agree that it’s what’s in our heart that matters.  It harms us when we always suspect others of being liars or underhanded.  But this doesn’t mean we throw away our intelligence or our caution.  We live in an age where people are no longer in communities.  A time when people are no longer accountable.

Unlike a century ago, people now have the power to run away from their own heat.  They can escape their own bad reputations.  So you’re an abuser, a liar or a cheat?  Simply cut off old ties, move to another town and reinvent yourself.  Who will know?   Unless of course, there’s a trail of all the harm you’ve caused.  A trail that can be found easily and for free by those with a need to know.

Your Need To Know
As employers, parents and singles, we all have a need to know.  We have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our friends and our families.  We need to know who we’re going to hire or date or allow near our children.

As Ronald Reagan once said when dealing with the Russians, we should  “trust, but verify.”  This means we start out in good faith and with the best of intentions.   But we’ve got to do our homework as well.  We cannot close our eyes to the realities that surround us.

As the mom of little red riding hood, would you let your little girl wander alone in the forest?  And what about the man you invited home for dinner?  Are you so sure he’s not the big bad wolf?  How can you tell?  As in the story, the wolf wears many disguises.  And the faster you know it’s a wolf, the faster you can protect those you love.

When Is A Good Time To Do A Background Check?
So now you’re seeing wolves and want to do a background check.  But when is a background check appropriate?   It’s all about balancing your desire to trust verses the risk of being too trusting.  The threshold of trust is different for everyone.  It’s your life.  So only you can answer that question.

But allow me to make a few suggestions.  Do a background check whenever the stakes are high.  At the the very least, I recommend it when dating, hiring, renting out your house, or when investing in someone’s business.

I also recommend a background check when you notice something is wrong.  It could be that someone’s story doesn’t add up.  Or that an employee has a pattern of acting strange or erratic and you’re unable to figure out why.

What Do I Look For In A Background Check?
What to look for in a background check all depends on why you’re doing it in the first place.  For example, if your dating someone, their age and marital status may be more important than their DUI of 20 years ago.

If you’re checking out a renter, take a look at any incidences of violence or prior evictions, destruction of property, etc.  Also find out if they ever sued their landlord.

For investors,  you’ll want to check out their honesty and their competence in financial matters.  Do they have recent bankruptcies or defunct companies they ran into the ground?

Were they ever charged or convicted of fraud or embezzlement?  How do they manage their assets?  Checking out what they own tells you if they’re good managers.  It may also reveal if they have undisclosed conflicts of interests.  For example, are they asking you to invest in something they have hidden ties to?  Is it a Ponzi scheme or a company secretly owned by their kid brother?

Lies, Omissions & Funny Business (My Law School Days at ASU)
Often we have no clue what a person has done or even what to ask them.  In other words, we don’t know what we don’t know.  But if something suddenly appears fishy, it’s time to do a background check!

A great example of this occurred in my law school days when I met a a self proclaimed millionaire named Mike Davis.  Mike was smart, affable and seemed like a really nice guy.  But I should have suspected something fishy when I caught him waiting on the financial aid line.  Law school was a lot cheaper back then.  Millionaires didn’t need or qualify for student loans.  That was my first clue something was definitely amiss.

Years later at a party, I confessed to him, “Mike I’ve known you for three years and you’re still f*n inscrutable!  I know as much about you now as the very first day I met you!”  Mike grinned at me and said “just ask away little buddy!”  I was  silent.  What could I ask him?

A few years later Mike made national headlines.  And I so badly wanted to go back to that party and ask him: Hey Mike, by any chance, is your real name Walter Waldhauser And before I knew you, did you ever flunk out of a Texas law school and serve 9 years in prison for killing people to collect on their inheritance money?   And by the way, if you hadn’t plead guilty and ratted out your accomplices, do you think you too would have died by lethal injection as they did?  Just asking little buddy.  Just asking…

But again, you don’t know what you don’t know.  That’s why you should do the background check as soon as you know something’s fishy.   If there’s water dripping from the ceiling, don’t sit around until the roof caves in.

Related Links