Genealogy scams in general:
Genealogical Web Site Watchdog (only for online scams) at: http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm
The National Genealogical Society's Consumer Protection Committee is quite active at keeping an eye on the various scams, including both online and offline fraudsters. If you have a question about a particular company's services, you can contact the NGS Consumer Protection Committee via traditional mail at:
National Genealogical Society's Consumer Protection Committee
4527 17th Street North, Arlington, VA 22207-2399.
However,those pages do not mention specific companies.
Cyndi's List has a section for genealogy myths, hoaxes and scams at: http://www.cyndislist.com/myths.htm
I have received e-mail about the following companies; all have
been mentioned as having questionable services. I have listed
URLs where you can obtain further information:
Family Discovery.com - an online Web site that claims to have "the Web's most versatile Award Winning collection of genealogical databases." However, they don't mention the "award" they received from the Better Business Bureau! The Bureau says, "Based on BBB files, this company has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to unanswered complaint(s)." Family Discovery.com charges $59.99 for a one-year subscription. Most of the same information is available elsewhere on the Web at no charge. In fact, many of the links on FamilyDiscovery.com simply take you to free Web sites. You can obtain the same information at no cost by using one of the free search engines.
Details are available on the Genealogical Web Site Watchdog site at: http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm#Warning .
There is an Anti-FamilyDiscovery.com newsletter at:
The xxx Family Yearbook
- In this case, substitute your last name for the
"xxx." For instance, an advertisement sent to a person
named Smith would be advertising The Smith Family Yearbook while
someone named Clark would receive an advertisement for The Clark
Family Yearbook. These "yearbooks" claim to have
genealogy information. However, those who purchase the
"products" are usually disappointed. The producing
company has several business names; for example, you can
find them listed as Mountain West News Service or as the Mountain
Pacific News Service. They also may appear as an organizational
name, such as "The Smith Family Yearbook." However, all
these "companies" have the same address: 1181 S. Parker
Road, #105, Denver, CO 80231. The Better Business Bureau lists
the parent company as MORPHCORP. The News Herald of Panama City,
Florida has an article about these "products" at: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/2000/04/16/tp041600.htm
Family Tree House - The company gives an appearance of a Web site that offers genealogy services. In fact, it does not appear to sell anything. However, the same company advertises on another Web site with an offer to sell personal information obtained from genealogists who visit the Family Tree House site. You innocently enter personal information about yourself on Family Tree House and then operators of the site sell your personal information to bulk mail companies. Information for sale includes name, address, e-mail address and more. You can read that article at:
The Historical Research Center (HRC) International, Inc. sells "family histories" and coats of arms. Information about the true value of these products can be found on the Genealogical Web Site Watchdog site at:
Keep in mind that this company sells franchises. A few years ago they were listed as one of the top 30 fastest growing franchises in America. You may find their products being sold by other companies who purchase franchises. One such company is Names.com, but apparently there are many others as well.
The International Hall of Names in
Canada also sells "family histories" and
coats of arms. They are also mentioned on the
Genealogical Web Site Watchdog site at: http://www.ancestordetective.com/watchdog.htm#Coats.
I would caution anyone to be careful about "family coats of arms." In fact, in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and most of western Europe, there really is no such thing as a family coat of arms. In those countries, arms have always been awarded to individuals, not to families. Displaying a coat of arms that you are not authorized to use is a form of identity theft, even if you do happen to have the same last name as the original grantee. Any company offering to sell you a copy of "your family's coat of arms" is selling a bogus product.
If you believe you have been the victim of a genealogy scam, you can do something about it! If you purchased products or services from the above companies or any others that you feel did not live up to advertised claims, demand a refund! If your money is not returned within 30 days or so from a U.S. company, submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection at: https://rn.ftc.gov/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01 .
A few letters of inquiry from the federal government will send
a strong message to the people who produce products or services
of questionable value. If a Canadian company is involved, you can
register a complaint at: http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/SSG/ct01250e.html
You also might want to warn other genealogists and tell them of your experiences. You can post a message to others in the "Scams and Fraud" section of CompuServe's Genealogy Techniques Forum message board. Go to: http://forums.compuserve.com/vlforums/default.asp?SRV=GenealogyForum&AREA=Ms