Pissed Consumer Exposes New York Luxury Car Dealer's Use Of Bogus Notarized Letters To Remove Critical Reviews [UPDATE]
from the brand-management-yo dept
UPDATE: I spoke to former employee of Luxsport who claims Stephanie Lynch’s notary stamp was stolen by Lance Ludkin, the founder of LuxSport. This theft was reported to local law enforcement but Stephanie and this employee were told there was really nothing they could do about it. I am seeking more confirmation on this and other details about Ludkin’s self-styled reputation management efforts and will be providing another update once I have more information in hand.
Pissed Consumer has uncovered more fraudulent behavior by companies hoping to scrub critical reviews from its site. The site first uncovered the use of bogus court orders to delist content — something Eugene Volokh and Paul Levy have turned into a small-time crusade. These fraudulent court documents resulted in some genuine legal action. Questionable reputation management firms are now facing lawsuits from Pissed Consumer and the attorney general of Texas.
The latest twist in reputation management also includes forged legal documents. The stakes are a bit lower because no one’s directly defrauding a court or forging a judge’s signature. But the underlying tactic is still comparable: the misuse of fake legal documents to remove criticism from the internet.
Every once in a while, people would post a review or a comment here and there about Luxsport Motor Group. From time to time we received notarized letters from the posters who wanted to remove their reviews posted by mistake. Nothing suspicious. Until fraud was discovered.
Fraud involving notarized letters is the subject of this article.
As stated above, we accepted several notarized letters from the authors of the reviews about Luxsport Motor Group. They looked legitimate at a first glance as they were handled separately at different times and by different managers of our company.
In order to remove a review, the reviewer has to send a notarized letter retracting the review — one containing a sworn statement the review was inaccurate when it was posted. This helps prevent companies from impersonating users in order to remove their criticism.
By spacing out these bogus letters, Luxsport went undetected for awhile, slowly cleaning up its review history at Pissed Consumer. But things changed last March. Another notarized letter arrived but was missing some of the required statements. Pissed Consumer spoke to the person who had written the review they now wanted removed… only to find out this person hadn’t sent a notarized letter.
This happened again in October. Another review was removed with a notarized letter. Shortly thereafter, Pissed Consumer was contacted by the reviewer wondering why their review had been removed. The site dug into the stack of notarized letters it had received targeting negative reviews of Luxsport and discovered a whole mess of suspicious oddities:
4 notarized letters according to which we removed the reviews about Luxsport Motor Group were notarized by one and the same notary public from New York – Stephanie Chrysten Lynch
coincidentally, Luxsport Motor Group is headquartered in New York
interestingly, the posters whose letters were notarized by the same New York notary public, Stephanie Chrysten Lynch, posted their reviews not just from different parts of the US but from different continents
when we checked correspondence we received from, allegedly, the authors of the above-mentioned 4 notarized letters – it turns out that it was their 2nd notarized letter that was accepted in 3 cases; we did not accept the initial notarized letters and wrote them about it, they did not respond and then some time later the second “good” notarized letter came in.
Pissed Consumer confronted Luxsport about the suspicious letters and was treated to a lot of blustery bullshit suggesting the company was completely offended by the mere insinuation it might have engaged in questionable behavior. It claimed Pissed Consumer was trying to damage its brand and destroy its business with these claims. But in all of its defensive statements, it never sounded confused or baffled by the accusations, suggesting it wasn’t completely surprised to be hearing about its sketchy reputation management efforts. It may very well be that a representative of Luxsport didn’t craft these letters or have them notarized, but it’s not unimaginable it’s hired a terrible rep management firm to do whatever it takes to clean up its internet presence.
Bogus reputation management efforts rarely pay off. Luxsport only managed to temporarily shore up its questionable reputation before being found out. All of the reviews it wanted gone have been reinstated and Pissed Consumer’s blog post has drawn more eyes to its shady behind-the-scenes behavior. The Streisand Effect is nearly 15 years old, but there are entities still discovering the term’s definition — and consequences — in the year of our lord two thousand nineteen.