Filed Under (Advice, Finance) by brah.john on 25-06-2010

I had an interesting experience today when I swung by the bank to deposit a check.  As I walked into the bank, there was a big sign stating:

“As the teller how to avoid your debit card from being declined!”

Slightly concerned, I figured this must have something to do with my bank being bought out by another bank and changing hands.  Apparently I was wrong.

I asked the teller about it, and got a response fitting for Texas:

“Oh, that’s the government setting new rules and regulations for the bank.  The banker over there can talk to you about these new rules”.

Big government and heavy handed regulation of banks – oh my! (heavy sarcasm)

I walked over to the “banker” (apparently tellers aren’t bankers?).  She pulled out an overdraft protection from and started her spiel:

“Well, you have a checking account, and the new government rules and regulations no longer allow the bank to automatically pay for any overdraft to your account if you overdraft your debit card.  In the old system, there was  a fee levied on your account for doing so.  You really want opt in to this new overdraft protection program to avoid that embarrassing moment in a restaurant where your debit card is declined.”

I rolled my eyes.  She continued:

“So now, you can opt in to the overdraft protection; and the slight change being instead of the bank covering the negative balance, we would just auto-draft it out of your savings account – for a fee.”

Wait… so my choices are:

1.) Leave the status quo.  If I go over my account balance, my debit card is declined.


2.) Opt in to this “great new program” in which if I overdraft with my debit card, the transaction will still go through, and the bank will, graciously, auto draft it from my savings, I only need pay a fee to the bank for doing so!

Hrmmmm… hard choice.  The opt in paperwork that the banker gave me only made it far enough out of the bank to be thrown in the trash.  Option 1 sure seems like that’s how debit cards should have always worked.

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My oh my this company likes to get around (aka keep changing names so people can’t get information on the scam-company as easily).

As of today, with my previous post about Watson Brooks, I have received many comments about similar shell company names that this shady company uses.  It appears that they are using at least 8 different company names.  Many of the actual websites appear to be down, but people continue to get letters from them:

But three are still up and rocking that awful website music:

Alas, I have heard nothing more from them to me about their legal threats.  I keep checking my Facebook inbox and I guess Amy Yates doesn’t want to be friends.  Also, it appears they have at least four letter signers of fake Vice Presidents to:

  • Amy Yates
  • Sandra Wallace
  • Julie Harris
  • Ashley Wilcox
  • Jacqueline Penn

I wouldn’t put it past this company to continue to put these letters out under different shell company names.  If you know of any others, let me know in the comments so I can add it to the list.

Update 9/18: Added a new company name and Vice President to the list – thanks to Sam for sharing another shell company name!  Also – it appears that all of these shell companies are being driven by “TravelAgencyAppointment.com“.  It looks like most of these shell company sites are down, but they are certainly still pumping out the scam letters.  This is getting down right stupid.


Stupid company…

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Filed Under (Advice, Life, Rant) by brah.john on 22-07-2009

I got home today to find I had a new Facebook message from one Amy Yates.  My first thought was “damn… why does that name sound so familiar?”

I quickly remembered who Amy Yates is – she is the teleporting-signature changing VP of Watson Brooks!  Able to personally sign thousands of letters all postmarked from different locations!

I open the message up to find legal threats against my post on their letter they sent to me…


Wow – serving me a legal notice on Facebook?  That is soooo Web 2.0.

In the spirit of the many signature of Amy Yates, her Facebook profile picture looks suspiciously like a stock photograph:

Amy could be in a catalog somewhere!  I did a quick image search for a “business woman”, but couldn’t track down the source image of this photo – anyone out there have Sherlock-Holmes tracking skills for stock photography?  I would really love to find it…


Amy Yates "Herself"

I’m tempted to add Miss “Multiple Signature Personality” Amy Yates as my friend and see what she does.  Anyways, in the spirit of my last post on Watson Brooks, I’m updating the list of phone numbers they use based on your comments.  It amazes me that a “legitimate” company would need so many phone numbers for their valuable prize giveaways…

210-301-0087 San Antonio, TX
214-932-0716 Dallas, TX
302-365-8228 Delaware
302-526-5000 Delaware
302-526-5219 Delaware
303-209-4159 Denver, CO
303-242-3511 Denver, CO
407-358-6163 Orlando, FL
480-281-0118 Phoenix, AZ
480-567-1642 Phoenix, AZ
732-481-4573 Central NJ
732-676-4052 Central NJ
732-676-4053 Central NJ
817-786-3340 Fort Worth, TX
973-302-9053 Northern NJ

Update 8/19/09: Many thanks to commenter “Rich” for finding the stock photo of my good Facebook friend Miss “Amy Yates”.  Stock Photo 1, Stock Photo 2.  I love that these were found!

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Filed Under (Advice, Life, Rant) by brah.john on 13-07-2009

I recently received one of those “all to good to be true” letters in the mail.

I have to admit, they got me curious enough to open it by hand addressing the envelope.

Upon opening it, I found out that I was the lucky recipient of an award!  Two round trip airline tickets!  Congrats to me!  Reading a bit further, I even found out that this was my last notice – apparently they had attempted to contact me previously…

Yes!  I just need to call (214)-932-0716 and I can receive my winnings!  Hell, even Amy Yates personally signed the letter; it must be legit!  A quick glance at their website and Google search surprisingly didn’t turn up much information on this company.  I fell upon another of their shell companies: “Lambert Steel” which has oddly familiar scamsite – also looks like they are associated with CVI Travel.

From what I can tell, the letters are often postmarked from AZ, NY, NJ, FL, TX or CA – but never a return address.  Who signs the letter varies; at the very least between my beloved Amy Yates and Julie Harris.  The existing phone numbers associated with the scam are:








And I’m sure many many more.  Do not respond to these letters if you get one – they will try to reach you numerous times.

Anyone else have information about this slime-ball “company”?

UPDATE 7/15: The only action I can see taking against this company is filing a report at the BBB.  Any other suggestions that don’t involve TP-ing Amy Yates house?

UPDATE 7/22: Legal threats made to me via Facebook from Amy Yates “herself”!  Post also contains updated list of phone numbers used from people in this comment thread.

UPDATE 7/24: Thanks to commenter “Bart” for finding a couple other names they go under!  Avoid Spencer Burns, Donovan Rich, and Hammond Reed (although this one appears to have lapsed the domain registration).  It also appears that they have gotten our contact info via job sites such as Monster and Career Builder.

UPDATE 8/8: One more company name to add to the list: Bradley Tate.  If you have lost track of all the names this company uses, we are up to at least 6.  Bradley Tate, Spencer Burns, Hammond Reed, Donovan Rich, Lambert Steel, and Watson Brooks; all having the exact same website sending out the same letters with the same letterhead but different shell company name.  The sites tend to go dormant quickly once the word is out that its the same scamming company.

Here is the hand signed letter for my “winnings”:

WatsonBrooks Scam

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Filed Under (Advice, Humor) by brah.john on 22-01-2009

I recently broke down and bought a “new” 2006 Ford Fusion with about 45k miles on it.  It’s a great car, roomy, fun to drive, and it looks pretty nice – even if I do need to fend off a little bitterness from the wifey.  Buying a “new” car is something I’ve never really done.  The car is black – not my favorite color due to its propensity to show dust easily, but the price was right.  Now, I’ve bought hand-me-down family cars, but never from a dealer before.  It was pretty nice, he took care of the taxes and title/registration transfer.

I ran into a problem on day #2 of ownership though – and here is your challange: find the flaw in my actions during the first 2 days of ownership.

I picked up the car on a Monday night, and drove it home (weeeeeee!).  The next morning, I drive it into work (weeeeee!).  I admired my car in the parking lot at work as I walked away from it.  After work, I notice as I walk up to my car that my suspicions about the black color of the car exposing any and all dust were confirmed!  Blast!  Not to worry, there is a cheap automatic car wash on the way home so I can see her sparkle.  I took her for a quick bath, and drove home.

I pulled into my driveway, and sure enough – she was sparkling!  But wait…something was wrong.  What was it?

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Filed Under (Advice, Finance) by brah.john on 17-10-2008

There are tons of good personal finance sites out there.  A couple that I think give some of the better advice are Get Rich Slowly and The Simple Dollar.  I’ve found tons of helpful advice there, but have not yet seen one thing that we do to may sure we are able to cover all of our unexpected expenses.

The way to make your budget agile enough to absorb unexpected expenses is simple: Budget on a monthly basis, but do auto withdraws for savings on a weekly basis.

We have set up several savings accounts at ING Direct.  We have one primary pool of money in a checking account, and then other accounts for long term expenses, such as homeowners insurance, car insurance, property taxes, savings for Roth IRAs, and and emergency fund.

Our monthly budget is based on a 4 week month, with four weeks worth of paychecks.  We try to fit our budget within a 4 week month, which allows for an extra ‘bonus’ paycheck every 3 months if you are paid weekly, or every 6 months if you are paid biweekly.  This has huge impacts on those unexpected expenses, such as those things that don’t really fit into a monthly budget.  If you don’t end up using that money for unexpected expenses, it just adds that much more padding to your savings.  Plus, it’s like having a mini bonus every 3 or 6 months, who wouldn’t want that?

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