Recently, I've been getting a wave of calls and emails from small businesses who feel like they were on course to be duped by one or more of a cast of shady companies based in and around St. Petersburg, FL.
The organizations in question are reported as being evasive with substantive information most of the time, and other times they provide information that just makes no sense even to folks who are admitted neophytes to federal contracting. The "shiny rocks" these predators dangle include promises of guaranteed no-bid federal contracts, guaranteed micropurchase orders, guaranteed GSA Schedules, guaranteed contracting officer's calling you daily with business opportunities, guaranteed whiter white's, fresher breath and...well, you get the idea.
Do a simple web search for the names of any of these companies that mine the Central Contractor Registration database (among others) for your info, and you will find plenty of commentary about them in places like BBB, ripoffreport.com and 800notes.com. The stuff out there is definitely not an endorsement to run out and do business with these organizations.
So I did a little research.
One of the very first things you will note about these companies is they all seem to be affiliated in some way. Some share phone numbers, while others share addresses and even executives. Several very clearly link back to an organization made infamous by getting itself investigated by multiple State's Attorneys for fraudulent business practices a few years ago. Several of the principals and employees have formed spinoff organizations that mimic many (if not all) of the bad habits of their predecessors.
Two markers common to each? I never saw personal contact information or bios about company executives on any of the sites, and each organization took factual information related to federal contracting and went over-the-top in their marketing write ups to the point they are ludicrous and completely unbelievable to anyone that applies basic common sense.
Please sir, I want some more. Really? Okay, here you go.
In a discussion forum where individuals submit information about repeated nuisance marketing calls, the "PROUD President" of one of the organizations I was told about makes the following claims about his company:
"...the federal government knows who we are and what we do. You are welcome to go to the government's website and see all of our credentials yourself by clicking the following link https://www.bpn.gov/CCRSearch/Search.aspx and entering our Government CAGE Code. You can also see our credentials through the federal government agency known as the Small Business Administration (SBA) by clicking the following link http://dsbs.sba.gov/dsbs/search/dsp_dsbs.cfm and also entering our CAGE Code. (5MKQ3)"
What credentials? This particular company does not participate in socioeconomic programs administered by SBA or VA. The only aspect of their CCR profile that could be considered a "credential" is the CAGE Code which anyone with a DUNS, Tax ID, bank account and no delinquent federal debt can obtain. Like them for example!
The proud president of this company goes on to say "We are a CCR and SBA registered company with a COMMERCIAL AND GOVERNMENT ENTITY CAGE Code - (5MKQ3). USFCC holds Government Procurement Certifications from the Small Business Administration (SBA) & the U.S. General Service Administration which is THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!!!"
Hmm. Doing a search of the FAR, Google, and other sources, and I cannot find a single reference to the phrase "Government Procurement Certifications" attributed to the U.S. Government. I also checked with the folks I know at these agencies to make sure there were not other "Government Procurement Certification" programs their agencies were running that would not be posted on the agency websites.
Other than having a CAGE Code, nothing one would call a credential. Now, a GSA Schedule, 8(a) Certificationor a contract for a million dollars? Those are credentials! These are the things these guys and all the others, promise to get you. Of course they can do that and all for $599 (more or less a few thousand dollars). And they seem so honest and knowledgeable.
Oh geeze! Did I leave a company name in that earlier quote? Well, it was the "Proud President's" own words, right?