When is a deal a deal? Sometimes, we come across an unusually marked down item that’s simply too good to be true. But you know how the saying goes – most of the time, that’s because it is.
Have you ever heard of the “White Van Speaker Scam”? It’s one of the oldest scams in the world where a sly salesman tries to sell you what appears to be “the best deal in home theater history.” Well, check again, it might just be “the best scam in home theater history,” if you fall for it.
Read on and learn how these scammers have taken this classic scam to the digital age.
The ‘White Van Speaker Scam’
Here’s how it works.
So someone approaches you in a parking lot, typically around big box stores like a Best Buy or a Walmart, and offers you something that sounds like the deal of a lifetime – “expensive” high-end home theater equipment like speakers, receivers and projectors sold at bargain bin prices!
Their M.O. still remains the same. They will tell you that there was a mistake in their inventory system and they have too many units in stock so they have to unload them as soon as possible.
And lucky you, the salesman is willing to drop the prices way below the retail price out of desperation.
The “goods” are stashed away in the back of a van, car or truck, all in their original packaging filled with professional-looking imagery and impressive specs plus buzzwords like “4K,” “High-Resolution Audio,” and high wattage numbers.
And conveniently enough, the exorbitant Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is printed and proudly displayed on the box, usually amounting to thousands of dollars each time.
They usually have fancy sounding brand names, too, usually derivatives of legitimate high end audio companies.
You probably know of legitimate top-shelf audio brands like Bang & Olufsen, Paradigm, Klipsch, Polk, Cavalli, Harman Kardon, etc.
But how about “Bach & Odin,” “Paradyme,” “Kirsch,” “Pold,” “Cavelli,” or “Kamron Audio?” Maybe not.
There’s a reason why these brands are obscure. They are all made-up company names for peddling cheap and genuinely shoddy products.
New tricks, same old scam
Actually, the “White Van Speaker Scam” has been going on since the 1980s, during the Hi-Fi stereo and audio component craze.
It’s just as its nickname suggests, hired salesmen go around in official-looking white vans trying to lure people into buying incredibly marked down “high end” audio and home theater equipment like speakers, receivers and projectors.
Note : Why white vans? Well, these fly-by-night operations most likely rent their vehicles. Back in the day, a majority of rental vans and fleet vehicles come in white.
Through the years, the scam has evolved, for sure. The “White Van” nickname may have stuck but these salesmen could be peddling their wares from anywhere and any vehicle.
The packaging of the cheap equipment has also vastly improved (sometimes, it looks like the companies spend more on the packaging than the actual product).
The new twist
But here’s the modern twist. These scammers have taken their operations online.
Nowadays, these questionable companies are actually putting up real websites and registering their own domain names.
Why? That way, when you or the salesman looks up the brand online for verification, a legitimate looking storefront will appear, displaying all their products and the abnormally high MSRPs they’re charging.
They are even putting up multiple dummy Craigslist, Amazon, Facebook and eBay listings, one, to advertise the outrageous prices, and other listings for drastically “reduced” prices, hoping to fool customers that they are in fact getting an insanely good deal.
For example, a storefront or eBay listing may display a “high-end” MSRP price of $2,500 for one particular item but another listing will drastically mark it down to around $300. What an awesome deal, right?
You’re not even getting what you pay for
Here’s a shocker. These “$2000 – $3000” home theater systems are not worth $300. Heck, probably not even $100.
They’re mostly made with cheap components and substandard materials that betray what’s advertised on their boxes. Take them home and you’ll painfully discover that they’re nowhere near the audiophile grade quality equipment they claim to be.
Most of the time they have non-existent speaker drivers, false fronts, under-powered speakers, missing amplifiers. In fact, some of these speakers are even being filled with concrete to give them weight! It’s literally like buying bricks!
Genius marketing, they say? More like false advertising.
Look up some of the “White Van Scam” horror stories online and you’ll see what I mean.
Remember, if you fall for these scams, there’s no customer support to call nor a dealer/retail location to return the product.
In short, by Thor’s thunder, you’re stuck with your “Bach & Odin” speakers, whether you like it or not.
Here are examples of known “White Van Speaker Scam” brands to look out for: (Note: List compiled from internet user forums)
- Acoustic Response
- Acoustic Image
- Acoustic Lab Technology
- Acoustic Monitor
- Acoustic Response
- Advanced Sound Technologies
- Audio Tech
- Divinci Sound
- Digital Audio
- Digital Dogg
- Bach & Odin
- Digital Audio
- Digital Research
- Dogg Digital
- Epiphany Audio
- Elite Audio
- Epic Audio
- Fleetwood Audio
- Genesis Audio
- Nolyn Acoustics
- Panorama Innovations
- Kamron Audio
- Kevlan Media Labs
Word of caution, these outfits change their names all the time, so if a particular brand has no online presence whatsoever, just stay away from it.
How not to get duped
The “White Van Speaker Scam” may be old but it’s still around and widely popular. This means it’s still profitable and people are still getting duped.
To avoid getting fooled by these clever con men, here are some tips:
Search for the brand online – These outfits may be using websites and shopping sites to deceive you but you can use good old Google, too, to fight back. Simply search for the obscure brand plus the word “scam” or “ripoff” and that should give you a pretty good idea.
If you do find a website for the sketchy brand, check if they have actual retail outlets and partnerships. If not, they’re most likely fake.
Check audiophile websites – A lot of legitimate custom high-end audio and speaker brands are not mainstream and they’re relatively unknown to the average consumer too. However, if you have doubts about a brand, hit up home theater and audiophile websites and forums like AVS Forum or HighDefForum.
Check YouTube – YouTube has tons of “White Van Speaker” scam videos you can check out. Some are reviews of the substandard products while some show the actual scam as it happens.