Before I begin my story, let me set the record straight: This article is not meant to degrade or attack anyone. It is solely here to give some information about the run-up to a thread that, at the time of this article's publishing, is almost 30 pages long. This thread is about an individual and the company that he has used to scam customers for the past few months. I myself have never been scammed by this individual and his business, but member(s) on our forums have. Whether it be for money or time, this individual has taken a lot of us for a ride.
What I'm doing here is laying out exactly what occured over IM before the thread took off. Let's begin all the way back to last year, on December 21 2006 to be exact. A long time member on our forums decided to post about a new company, Zio Systems (http://www.ziosys.com), for whom he was working for. He was quite excited about his new job and thought it would be a good idea to promote his new employer on our forums, possibly drumming up some sales through our site. However, for anyone wishing to place advertisements on our site, there is a a pre-screening process of having their site checked to see exactly what they are selling. If a company is operating illegaly, we don't want to be a part of it, so the post was edited to let the user know that the company should contact us in an official capacity to discuss an advertising deal.
December 29, 2006
A few days later, someone identifying themselves as Brad Burns sent me an IM over AIM. Essentially, he wanted a banner campaign run across our main site for a duration of one month advertising his site and company. I checked his site, asked a few questions about his business and we agreed on a price for the campaign. His site looked alright from our first impression, nothing seemed illegal with their offerings. He sent a paypal payment and I set up his campaign for that month. I didn't receive any complaints in that time period and thought nothing of it.
Throughout the campaign, I kept in touch with Brad through IM. We chit-chatted about his business and other things. Our first conversation evolved into how he used to work for Dell and he advised me never to "venture towards hell". He often spoke about sending us free stuff, offers that I thanked him for, but never received. He also mentioned his other advertising attempts with other hardware websites and print outlets. I wasn't sure if he was bragging or not, and I just shrugged it off. He then mentioned that he hated Dell again; I wasn't sure how that correlated with the advertising list he just mentioned.
At this point, he said that he was a video game designer attending uat.edu. He explained why he created Zio, which was, unsurprisingly, because he hated Dell. He also mentioned that he had served as the Eastern seaboard sales manager for almost a year. I can only assume that here he was talking about Dell once again. I again shrugged this off and tried to stay on the topic of our advertisement campaign. I was asking him about landing pages and whatnot, but he didn't seem to want to talk about that. I had to leave at that point, so we ended it there, but not before he told me how he was going to send me a $3500 liquid cooled desktop. I said thanks and promptly closed the window.
December 30, 2006
Brad sent me another IM to remind me that he was sending me that water cooled rig for review. I told him that was great, and that I'd be waiting for it. He then mentioned that his distribution warehouse is in Ohio, but will be moving to Tempe/Mesa. I asked him if that was where all of his technicians were, to which he replied that they were in "Lexington, New York, Los Angeles, Kentucky, Washington State, and Arizona". This was when he shows me a link and another link for his Scion tCs, which he claimed to have 4 of. According to him, he would have had 5, if he hadn't fallen asleep at the wheel of one and totaled it. His plans included "taking down the Geek Squad." He then started talking about the Linux carputers he had in the glovebox in each Scion. These carputers were supposedly to talk to their servers while on the road. I was curious, so I asked if he had pics, a request which he ignored.
At this point, he went into a Linux mini-rant. He mentioned that if he made enough money in six months, he would ask Ubuntu if he could fund an idea. I didn't bother to ask about the details for fear of not hearing the end of his open source crusade.
December 31, 2006
Brad IMed me again, telling me that my review sample was being built and that he was ordering parts for it. I again said thanks and shrugged it off. By this point I was growing a bit wary of what kind of business Zio Systems was doing. He proceeded to ask if I needed anything else like networking gear, memory, or laptops. If I could have looked into the future at this point, I would have seen the irony of this offer of laptops. One of our members who posted in his advertisement thread never received the laptop he ordered. He hasn't received a proper refund either, but we'll discuss that later in this article.
So, on the topic of laptops, he said he had 42 of them on hand. He told me that they were selling like hotcakes on ebay and they had Linux support. Again, I didn't inquire any further or else I'd never have heard the end of his Linux world domination scheme.
January 3, 2007
Not much on this day, but Brad did IM me again with this nugget of wisdom:
XXXXX: I never have enjoyed the open-legged whore approach that Nvidia's business model centers around.
XXXXX: However, ATI only wen
XXXXX: garbage because of the consoles it had to deliver GPU's for.
XXXXX: Last time I checked, I still like Nintendo
A few weeks passed with some IMs from Brad asking about my opinion about his website. Minor chit-chat, but nothing amusing. I'd stopped saying much in response to his IMs since things just did not feel right. The review sample he promised was nowhere in sight, and he kept asking about renewing the ad campaign, but never followed through. He also started having this user Eliot speak to me, even though it sounded just like Brad.
January 27, 2007
Brad IMed me again, this time talking about game servers. He wanted to put a mention of his game servers on our forums. I said fine, go ahead but this seemed to invite him to go on a slight rant again about *nix on his servers. Being a sys admin, this made me chuckle:
XXXXX: I have CentOS
XXXXX: FreeBSD is MAcOS stripped
XXXXX: Slckware is the best
I never saw a thread about his game servers after that.
Our IMs started to trail off in the month of February. Maybe he got the idea I wasn't that interested in his topics or rants, who knows. The last IM I got from him in February was about how his site was getting 200 hits per minute. I said 'neat' and promptly closed the chat window. I had no interest in his business venture anymore. Once the initial advertising campaign was over, I decided to cease any partnership with Zio Systems so no further banner placements were ever made.
Starting around the middle to end of March, a user made a post in the Zio Systems thread on our forums. He mentioned how he had ordered a laptop and never received anything, and that he was having trouble getting his money refunded. Brad came into the thread and replied, but not with an answer - instead he attacked the customer. In the next few pages, Brad replied a number of times but never clearly answered whether or not the refund was given nor if a laptop was on it's way.
A few days after that I decided to send an IM to Brad's SN. Strangely, someone by the name of Stan answered. He knew exactly who I was and what I was asking about. He again mentioned they refunded the user who bought the laptop on our forums. This of course was confirmed to be un-true by the user who was scammed. So I brought this up again and Stan says they don't want to speak the customer and they can't believe "how he's such a b*tch". This shocked me, considering Zio Systems still had this customer's money. I tried to press the issue again about refunding the customer. Stan got a bit aggravated and wanted me to delete the thread entirely. As all GTF members know, we do not delete threads, especially not ones containing proof of a business scamming its customers. I let Stan know this, which he promptly answered with a threat of taking down my servers.
This next comment by Stan was amusing:
XXXXX: If I can post 500 servers in idia to DOS for servers for 12 months, and the only proof you have is an aim log, people will go about their lives minus GideonTech.com
XXXXX: Then we will sue you because technically, that's slandering.
So basically, they've threatened our site with a denial of service attack unless we delete the thread. Not going to happen.