When the mail carrier delivered what looked like a Web-domain-related bill for $60 from a company called Listing Corp. last year, the San Diego chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security immediately sent in the money.
"It had our domain name on it, and it looked like an invoice, so we paid it," says Herb Thompson, who chairs the ASIS San Diego chapter.
The document, sent via the U.S. Postal Service, was actually an advertisement for Listing Corp.'s services. For an annual fee of $60, the company said, it would submit the nonprofit's Web site to 20 unspecified major search engines and later e-mail a quarterly "search engine position and ranking report."
But Thompson says ASIS hasn't heard from Listing Corp. since it paid the firm in November 2005. Although Listing Corp. promises on its Web site to help a company improve rankings and visibility in search engines, keyword searches in March for ASIS on nearly a quarter of the search engines mentioned on Listing Corp.'s site didn't produce any links to the group's site. Thompson now says he thinks his association was hoodwinked.
Thompson isn't alone. Complaints about the way Listing Corp. advertises have been filed with various government and private organizations. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says it has received a "significant" number of complaints regarding Listing Corp., and U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson Paul Krenn says a "review" is under way to determine whether the firm is in violation of federal mail fraud laws.
And while MaxterHost.com, the company that had been hosting Listing Corp.'s Web site, declines to provide figures, a spokesperson says it received so many complaints about Listing Corp. that on March 20 it terminated its relationship with the firm and shut down the site. (Listing Corp.'s site has since reopened with California-based StartLogic as its hosting service.)
Listing Corp.'s publicly available domain-name registration information lists a box at a New York City branch of UPS-owned Mail Boxes Etc. as the company's mailing address. The Better Business Bureau in New York says it has only two reports on file for Listing Corp. However, a Google search for "Listing Corp." produces links to scores of blogs and forums where people have posted complaints and warnings about the company and its mailings.
Listing Corp. officials did not respond to repeated inquiries e-mailed to addresses in its domain registration information. The telephone number in the same database, "1.3251782," is incomplete.