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Suspected Linuxgruven Scam Becomes A Reality

By mklp in News
Fri Apr 06, 2001 at 09:37:44 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Well it looks like BlackHoleSurferX was right. I knew he was last fall because I went through the same thing here in Denver. I suggest you read this prior K5 article for background by searching keyword Linuxgruven. The title is "Linux Scams? Hmmm......" or use this link to the article, it won't take long. This background is important, but rather than include it in my article, skimming the original is more complete and efficient. My article will either make you laugh, cry or get angry, the background helps form which and this article assumes its knowledge. BTW I'm a technical contractor in networking, hardware, software etc. looking at Linux to expand my base. Yes, I work for a pimp company and yes, I'm the whore.


When the Linuxgruven guy 'interviewed' me 6 or 7 months ago (see article) here in the Mile High City, I started asking questions. Not just of the 'interviewer' (read salesman), but also of everyone at the company I could get my phones on. I only spoke to three because the number on the WEB site is an answering service, as was the direct number provided by the local representative. After speaking to the 'head technical guy' in Missouri, I too was miffed by their lack of concern about my technical skills so I pushed and pulled until I spoke with the Big Dog himself: James Hibbits. Any real world indications or history that Mr. Hibbits behaves like a dog is purely coincidental. He's much more like a Snake Oil Salesman.

He, like the other Linuxgruven people, was not interested in technical skills at all (to clarify, I was never asked a technical question by ANYONE), only in selling me the course, cash up front. Just so I'm clear, one of the questions on the 'aptitude test', which he emphasizes on his site to make the company sound legit was "x+1=2 Solve for x". No kidding. But I digress, on to the scam.

I urge everyone reading this to visit their site, if not to help protect others by getting upset at the whole scam, then just for a grin. I'm going to paste some text from the Linuxgruven home page between these hash marks. If you've read the page you can skip it:

--------------------------------------------------
Linuxgruven Employee FAQ

We realize that many of you have specific questions and concerns about Linuxgruven. We now have some more specific information to offer

Do I still have a job?

As we said in the previous statement, although we regret it, we are going to have to lay some of you off until we can turn our financial situation around. We will send letters out to each of you tomorrow informing you of your employment status.

What is the name of the outplacement firm and how do I reach them?

We have secured the services of Geoffrey, Morgan and McKinsey & Company. They will take your resume and will try to help you secure a new position. You can reach them at 314-962-2001.

I am currently in the middle of a Linux training class with Linuxgruven. What do I do now?

We are offering two choices to students currently in the middle of a training course. Students may choose to wait for classes to resume. We are currently working on a new schedule and anticipate that we can release that information next week. Or a student may choose to request a refund. Those students requesting a refund may send a written request to: Linuxgruven PO BOX 16505 Clayton MO 63105 Please include the name of the course you were taking, the location where you were training, your instructor's name, and the date that you started your class. We will do everything we can to process these refund requests as quickly as possible. We will notify you via the Web-site when you can expect your refund to be processed as soon as we know.

When can I expect my check to go through or another paycheck?

We're currently taking inventory of our current resources, assets and equipment. As soon as we get a clearer picture of what we have, we'll know when you can expect to get your money. We are doing everything we can to get you your money as quickly as possible. Please check back at this Web-site for updates. As soon as we have more specific information, we'll post it.

I trained with Linuxgruven, I passed the exam and I'm certified. What do I do now?

Your certification is nationally recognized and it belongs to you. No one can take it away from you. There are many companies out there looking for highly skilled Linux trained engineers. You may contact our outplacement service: Geoffrey, Morgan and McKinsey & Company. They will take your resume and will try to help you secure a new position. You can reach them at 314-962-2001.

Is Linuxgruven out of business?

Linuxgruven is not out of business. We have not filed for bankruptcy. We plan to move the business forward and have every confidence that we will succeed.

We hope that this helps to answer some of your questions. Please check back here regularly for more information.

Thank You,

James Hibbits and Michael Lebb
----------------------------------------------------

When you visit the site notice that this is on the HOME PAGE, not even a link. Is this the way a legitimate company communicates internal payroll problems to its employees? Of course not! It is their way of hiding from these same 'employees' (based on personal experience with the company my assumption is that these people probably have a REAL hard time finding information through other channels). BlackHoleSurferX's 'Hmmm......' is again right on the money. These people can't even get their earned wages from the outfit. I particularly like the FAQ that asks when the questioner can '...expect my check to go through...' It is ILLEGAL to pay an employee with a check that won't clear. The Missouri Dept. of Labor should be all over this. I think some states allow triple damages. Any bets that the loophole is that they are NOT really employees? I'll be curious to see how this shakes out.

I think it is evident that Linuxgruven never had any intention of keeping full time employees, only in selling illegitimate 'certifications'. Take a second to go to Linuxgruven and read the sob story on their home page about how their trusted corporate officers didn't even use Vaseline when they bent them over far enough to break them. It becomes painfully apparent that they either 1) Don't know what they are doing, or 2) Are laying down a sob story so when they 'recover' they can go back out and sell more 'training' at 2,500 bones a pop without too much suspicion. After one year. I'm voting on 2 but keep reading (the one-year comment will make perfect sense). I mean REALLY how can anyone believe they need to "...get a clearer picture of what we have..." as an excuse for delaying payment of the people they've 'hired'. It might take AT&T or Boeing a while to count their stuff for a liquidation, but the Fax machine, a few PC's, the printer paper, and bathroom supplies can't take THAT long to inventory at Linuxgruven.

Needless to say, I did not sign up and help pad their pockets. What is truly sad about the whole scam is the effect it must have on the people they managed to suck in. Not only did they lose training costs on a bogus certification, but also likely the lost wages they could have had working for someone legitimate.

I challenge Mr. Hibbits to directly address the following here and in the press. We know he reads this site based on his previous response at the link to the article (referenced above) in which he rebuts the authors legitimate suspicion. I will be surprised if he responds with anything other than to beg off about being a 'private company' or how the economy got 'em or how his hired guns shot him in the back (or anything but gibberish really) but I'll ask anyway...

Mr. Hibbits,

Concerning ONLY employees or students acquired from your 'Employment Ad' in the various cities' newspapers, (NOT office staff etc.) just those 'trained' or 'certified' by paying for your classes, please answer the following:

  1. What was the total revenue received from the 'certification training' tuition?
  2. How many total people were 'trained' and of them how many put to work as employees of Linuxgruven?
  3. What was the average duration of employment?
  4. How many collective hours were actually paid to these 'employees'? Not dollars, just raw hours and over what aggregate duration? (I doubt many ever saw a 40 hour week). We can do the math.
  5. Show us WHERE in the industry that Linuxgruvens 'certification' is, as you state, '...nationally recognized...' by ANYONE currently recognized as legitimate. I believe that no legitimate organization (e.g. SAIR) would stick their neck out to vouch for your 'training' or 'certifications'. Include proof other than hearsay and prove me wrong.

A very important point is that a HUGE hook in selling the training was that a person became an Employee with full benefits (paid insurance etc.) on the spot after passing the last exam and thus obtaining 'certification'. AND that the 2,500 clams plus test costs would be FULLY REIMBURSED if that person just stayed with the company for a year. ALL IN WRITING when you give them your money. This is a clever hook in an industry known for its extreme efforts at employee retention. Notice that 6 months later these people can't fulfill their end of that contract, through no fault of their own. Their money is gone. I asked Mr. Hibbits and everyone else I spoke with what would happen to my promised reimbursement under these circumstances and never got a straight answer from any of them. Now we all know why. I was told that I could study all of the coursework (on their site) and then just pay a c-note each for 4 tests and when 'certified' I might be hired. IF, however, I took their paid course, I was guaranteed employment under the terms above. I've noticed that the training is no longer offered online at their site as was promised personally by Mr. Hibbits, which is probably OK because it was a joke anyhow. Anyone who previously looked at the online coursework is likely to agree with me on this one. So the final question Mr. Hibbits:

WILL YOU REIMBURSE THESE PEOPLE IN FULL WHEN THEY INTENDED IN GOOD FAITH TO STAY WITH YOUR COMPANY FOR ONE YEAR AND NOW CAN'T THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN?

I think by now most everyone reading will want to know if you'll step up to the plate on this one. The emphasis on your site reassuring everyone that you are still in business grows more suspicious by the minute. I'll be interested to see your responses K5 people, in addition to whatever Mr. Hibbits may have to say. I sincerely hope that my questions are not sidestepped by Mr. Hibbits and that my observations are completely wrong. None of us would mind seeing that. I also hope that people who purchased a 'certification' (and thus the job) will step forward and either confirm, deny or clarify my observations. These people are certainly insightful in choosing Linux as an employment path and we should support them if they really have been shafted. Let's read carefully though and watch for company plants, it seems Linuxgruven is in fact very clever.

Linux can be a bright future for many people; we should all urge the ligitimate members of the Linux community to take particular note of this scam. Interested people should be able to trust this infant industry (linux training) without fear of being ripped off. I can laugh about it because I wasn't a victim, while those that paid for their jobs are almost certainly crying. I do however have this nervous habit of laughing when I'm angry.

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Poll
What's your view?
o They should hang from the highest tree. 28%
o Where's Janet Reno when you REALLY need her? 21%
o I'm just glad I didn't get caught in the scam. 10%
o Caveat Emptor 15%
o What's all the fuss? I still got my Edsel. 1%
o Hell, sign me up fer the course. I'm certifieable!! 1%
o I can't wait 'til they go public!!! I'm tired of Vegas. 5%
o What? Could you read it to me again? 14%

Votes: 69
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o article
o site
o Linuxgruve n
o HOME PAGE
o Also by mklp


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Suspected Linuxgruven Scam Becomes A Reality | 17 comments (7 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Sales (3.66 / 6) (#1)
by cameldrv on Sat Mar 31, 2001 at 05:36:42 PM EST

Well, the sure way to tell if they are a pyramid scheme or not is if they have any customers. I've never heard of anyone hiring Linuxgruven for anything except training. Supposedly they are a consulting firm. Does anyone know if they have any actual clients?

It's not really a pyramid scheme, but it is a scam (3.75 / 4) (#4)
by darkonc on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 01:10:45 PM EST

I don't have the proper name for this sort of scam, but does seem to be a variation of the 'bait and switch' thing...
come on in. We'll give you a decent job. Oh. First you have to take this course from us, and pay us for the privelege. Don't worry though. We'll give you your money back after a year.

Oops! It's almost a year since we started offering people jobs... I guess we'd better go away! But don't worry. If you want, we'll give you your money back. All you have to do is wait an indeterminate amount of time while we Hide the ... um, er... figure out how to go about the process.

There is NOTHING I've seen about these people what doesn't make me want to scream:
Scam ALERT! Scam ALERT! Hide your money and run away! Scam ALERT!
Any information that would change my opinion of these people would be gratefully recieved, but I'm not holding my breath. Like my money, I've got far better things to do with it.
Killing a person is hard. Killing a dream is murder. : : : ($3.75 hosting)
[ Parent ]
You read me well... (3.33 / 3) (#5)
by mklp on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 07:47:46 PM EST

darkonc,

Fantastic comment! I gave you a 5 because of your thorough reading, understanding, and ability to put it in a nutshell. I wish I had thought of your "To kill a dream is murder" comment because that is exactly what the article is supposed to convey (along with a public awareness of the scam). As I stated, I hope I'm wrong too, but I think the light at the end of the tunnel is bright enough for all of us to see. WELL DONE!



[ Parent ]
One small thing... (3.25 / 4) (#6)
by mklp on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 08:02:07 PM EST

I am guilty of not reading as well as you. One small item worth note is that they seem to offer a refund only to current students. I believe the past 'graduates' will be the ones who will be completely shafted.

[ Parent ]
Great job (3.25 / 4) (#15)
by Sheepdot on Thu Apr 05, 2001 at 12:18:37 PM EST

I like consumer reports. I'd rather see more people doing investigative work than whining to the government to fix their problems.


Dying breath? (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by cmpgn on Fri Apr 06, 2001 at 12:59:43 PM EST

Although this is slightly off-topic, I also interviewed with Linuxgruven and experienced what seems to be their common procedure--a hurried, non-technical interview followed by a laughable aptitude test and promises of future employment. I even received their so called "contracts" in the mail. Upon review by my attorney, it turns out they aren't worth the paper upon which they were printed. I politely told Linuxgruven to stop contacting me and assumed that was the end of things. Just one or two weeks ago, I recieved a breathless phone call from their recruiter, informing me that training was being discounted from $2500 to $1500. I was slightly less than polite to the man, and I haven't heard from them since. This sort of information does seem to explain why training was so recently "discounted", and their attempts at recruiting more desparate.

Nicely written story. It's a shame it didn't make the frontpage.



Dept. of Labor? (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by darthaggie on Fri Apr 06, 2001 at 03:39:28 PM EST

The Missouri Dept. of Labor should be all over this.

One would presume so, yes. Does anyone know if they've been alerted? Also, has anyone alerted the Attorney General's office? obviously, those most affected by this should be doing the alerting, but if they haven't, then perhaps someone should ask for a review?

The wheels of justice turn slowly, and sometimes they require help in getting pointed in the right direction.

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.

Suspected Linuxgruven Scam Becomes A Reality | 17 comments (7 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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