Follow Up on My Complaint with Lewt.com

Back in November 2011 I wrote about my ridiculous experience Lewt.com – the e-commerce store that literally held my money hostage in exchange for a copy of my driver’s license. I claimed that Lewt.com was going to lose money to me and that I would win my dispute with PayPal. Although my predictions were mostly wrong, I still came out on top. Here is my update on the ordeal.

You can read my original article here: Why I don’t Trust the People at Lewt.com

Protecting My Personal Information

First and most importantly, I am happy to report that I never buckled under pressure and provided any personal information to Lewt.com. That’s the whole point of all this – I would rather lose my money and spend time blasting them online than send them the photocopy of my driver’s license that they asked for. Go me!

My PayPal Dispute

I handily lost my PayPal dispute for two reasons.

PayPal’s lack of support for digital goods or services

First and foremost, PayPal doesn’t have much of a protection policy on digital goods or intangible services. This is aggravating because a lot of people use PayPal to pay and get paid for non-physical goods and services. This is why I stopped taking PayPal as a payment for my SEO consulting and small business services, or any number of business services.

That said, this policy is also understandable. I mean, how is PayPal really supposed to know if you transferred a non-tangible item or performed a service?

Providing Inaccurate Testimony to PayPal

The second factor was Lewt.com’s willingness to exploit this loophole to win PayPal cases, deny refunds, and likely continue to farm personally identifiable information from their once-trusting customers.

This manipulation of the PayPal system was achieved by taking advantage of the first point I made; representatives at Lewt.com simply – I don’t want to say “lied,” so – “egregiously misrepresented the facts” surrounding the transfer of digital goods to me during the dispute process. Why? because they knew PayPal couldn’t track that sort of transaction.

They simply said, “Hey, we gave this guy his digital items. We don’t owe him anything.” And just like that, they won the dispute.

The proof of this outright deception comes in the form of their original request for a copy of my ID:

Lewt.com asks for a photo ID

Think of it like this:

1) Lewt.com asks for my photo ID as a condition of filling my order.
2) I refuse, and request a refund instead.
3) Lewt.com says they’ll only refund my purchase if I verify my identity by submitting my license.
4) I open a PayPal claim
5) Lewt.com wins the PayPal claim because they say they gave me my digital items.

That doesn’t make sense does it? Why would I be opening a claim – and why would Lewt.com still be asking for my identification – if I had received my items in the first place? Someone must be lying.

The Refund

As indicated in my original article, Lewt made it clear that they “do not offer refunds on orders that require verification.” Oh yeah? Well, I got my refund.

Lewt.com finally issues my refund

Even after winning the PayPal dispute, Lewt.com continued to ask for a scan of my driver’s license. Though I had lost my claim, I had another resource which I had fully intended to utilize. After countless e-mails I managed to get a “manager” on the phone and record our conversation. I resigned myself to having lost the PayPal dispute, and indicated that I felt as though I had no choice but to report Lewt.com to the consumer complaints division of the California Office of the Attorney General.

Suddenly, this “manager” at Lewt.com decided he was willing to work with me even though he had won our PayPal dispute. Imagine that! He said that instead of requiring a copy of my driver’s license, he would send me a letter containing a code via postal mail (which came Certified, at a cost to Lewt.com of $4.44), and that all I had to do was provide him with that code to verify myself.

Considering this a victory, I accepted his terms and waited for the letter, which arrived a few days later:

Lewt.com's verification code

Lewt.com’s verification code. They should have done this first instead of asking for a copy of my driver’s license.

Unfortunately for Lewt.com, I had already reported them to the California Office of the Attorney General by the time they decided to stop stonewalling me and start talking to me. In fact, the OAG got back to me just days after I got my refund from Lewt.com:

California Attorney General's response to Lewt.com complaint

The California Office of the Attorney General’s response letter to my Lewt.com complaint. Now Lewt is on the government’s grid.

And I had already filed a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3):

Internet crime complaint center IC3 report for lewt.com

Internet crime complaint center IC3 report for lewt.com

Lessons Learned

Since posting my original article, I’ve received a significant amount of traffic from people searching Google for Lewt, as well as search terms like “Lewt.com scam” and “Lewt.com refund.” In fact, my article on Lewt.com outranks all but 6 other pages of content on my site:

A sample of my list of all-time top posts, with my Lewt.com article toward the top.

Most disturbing is the number of e-mails I’ve received from other Diablo players who have found themselves in the same position as me after having done business with Lewt.com. They all say they feel betrayed and angry, and they are afraid to leave comments because they think it will hurt their chances of ever getting their money back.

While I truly empathize with these people, I know that for each one of them who reaches out to me there are countless others who read my article and decide not to do business with Lewt.com – which is clearly their own decision and not a course of action I’ve specifically advocated.

This is a testament to the power of consumers; those like myself who refuse to be taken advantage of and are fortunate enough to have the experience to fight back, and those like the players who contact me who have used experiences like mine to educate themselves and empower their purchasing decisions.

Consumer Protection Information

As is the case in so many aspects of life – preventing these sort of incidents so much more preferable to fixing them.

Utilize various product reviews and business reviews on Google Maps and Google+. You can also use services like Topsy to search through comments and posts in social media like Twitter.

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, know that you are not helpless. You have rights as a consumer, and you have the right to keep your personally identifiable information private.

Utilize services like the IC3 to report internet crime. Also consider filing a complaint with the attorney general’s office in the offending business’s state.

Information on Lewt.com for Diablo Players

As an individual, you have the right to your privacy; corporations don’t.

Remember that verification letter that Lewt.com sent to me via certified mail? Well it came from their actual office – the one on file with the state of California, not some bogus post office box:

Lewt..com's actual address and the person running the company.

Lewt..com’s actual address and the person running the company.

Jesse Powell
Lewt, Inc.
777 Campus Commons Rd.
Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95825

A bit of research yields Lewt’s corporate entity ID as C2627826, which you can query on the California Secretary of State’s website to reveal this shocker:

Lewt.com's corporate business status is suspended

Sorry Lewt – you can’t treat the government like you treat your customers. You need to pay your taxes.

Lewt.com’s corporate business status is suspended.

Lewt.com and Diablo 3

Since the launch of Diablo 3 in May, Lewt has started to transition over to the selling of items for D3 as well. Please be smart, folks. If for some reason you haven’t learned anything from this article, at least limit your real money purchases to Diablo 3’s built-in real money auction house.

About Dean Peckenpaugh

Dean offers small business consulting services at DeanP, LLC - specializing in e-commerce and operations. Visit the contact page to request a consultation.