Alleged Oracle Scammer: I Am Not a CrookBy Lisa Vaas | Posted 2004-11-19 Email Print
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Updated: In an exclusive interview with eWEEK.com, Ed Haskins, the subject of scores of Internet complaints regarding his alleged Oracle training scams, said that he's "working his butt off" to payBeware, Oracle training and/or security expertise buyers.
Ed Haskinsthe purveyor of Oracle training materials that paying consumers complain often fail to appear in their mailboxes, the mastermind behind Oracle security pitches that he admits tout a completely fictional "expert," and a man who admits that he owes customers and experts more than $30,000is still at it.
Haskins started the now-defunct Oracle certification training site OraKnowledge some four and a half years ago. During the first two and a half years, he did "very well," he told eWEEK.com in an exclusive interview, with at least 150 customers managing to get through online training or having received CD-ROM training materials.
eWEEK.com was still attempting to verify these claims when this story was posted. Haskins faxed completed test scores for people who passed Oracle Certified Professional exams for topics including Oracle 8i Architecture and Administration, Introduction to Oracle: SQL and PL/SQL, and Oracle8i: Performance Tuning. But there is no way to determine whether the documents are genuine and/or if the exam takers actually paid for training materials provided by OraKnowledge.
OraKnowledge recently became defunct and is now the subject of multiple Better Business Bureau complaints filed in Haskins' home state, New Jersey.
The portion of the BBB file that's publicly available states that the company has "an unsatisfactory record with the bureau due to unanswered complaint(s)." The complaints concern delivery issues and refund practices, according to the BBB.
A spokeswoman for the BBB declined to state how many complaints have been filed. Judging by the many sites where Internet users have posted complaints, though, the number is likely multiple. Those sites include Exam Notes, an Oracle FAQ segment and LazyDBA.
This is a typical complaint: "I purchased the Oracle 8i & 9i e-boot camp from OraKnowledge last year with the guarantee that you could take the classes as many times as needed until you passed all the tests," wrote a poster on ExamNotes.net. "I was forced to suspend my training due to family matters.
"When I tried to contact OraKnowledge some months later, neither my e-mails nor phone calls were returned. I did have [OraKnowledge president Ed Haskins'] personal address, so I gave him one last chance to make good on his word. He offered to send me a CD-ROM with all the classes I was taking recorded. He never did."
Don Burleson, a noted Oracle expert, also claims to have been stiffedto the tune of more than $30,000.
Next Page: The OraKnowledge reincarnation.
OraKnowledge's business went south, not so much because of the dot-com crash, Haskins said, but because the technology training industry as a whole went into a downward spiral. "Unfortunately for myself, being a small, undercapitalized company, I got to a point where I was in a complete jam," said Haskins, in Lakewood, N.J.
At this point, Haskins isn't filing for bankruptcy and claims that he plans to pay back his debts.
"At this point, I should just file bankruptcy and absolve my debts," Haskins said. "I mean, I know I haven't paid Mr. Burleson back any money, but I do plan on paying that debt. I would rather work my butt off to continue to pay off that debt and other business-related debt."
Haskins said he is now working as a personal consultant, helping individuals set up home computers. "Recently, I had made a decision to get out of the Oracle training business," he said. "It's more hassle than it's worth. Business has dried up, and it's impossible to make money at it."
That doesn't mean he isn't trying, however. As is depicted on Burleson's site, Oracle community members were treated to spam e-mail in October that looked to be a reincarnation of OraKnowledge. The e-mail was from a supposed Oracle security consultant by the name of Robert Allen, with a company called OraSecure Inc.
Burleson's use of whois uncovered the fact that Ed Haskins was behind the site. Haskins admitted to eWEEK.com that Robert Allen and his photo were phony, and that Allen's biography was unverifiable.
The e-mail states, "Many of you have been calling my office to ask when the next course [on 'Hack-Proofing the Oracle Database'] will be offered," but Allen is booked for "security consulting assignments" straight through March. But act now, the e-mail urges: Allen has 100 copies of digital video CD-ROMs that cover the entire course.
Haskins admitted that Allen, represented as having "over nine years of trial-and-error from painstaking research" and now acknowledged as "a promising top expert in the field of Oracle database security," is in fact a figment of his imagination. "There is no Robert Allen," he said. "It's a marketing figure. Is it ethical? No. Is it used in business often? Absolutely. Plenty of people utilize fictitious people in marketing their circumstances."
Next Page: Doing business under an assumed name.
The New Jersey Attorney General's office declined to state whether it is investigating Haskins. Haskins' activities are clearly illegal, though, according to Andrew August, a business attorney and principal partner of San Francisco-based Pinnacle Law Group LLP.
"What he's doing is clearly illegal under a potpourri of federal and state statutory schemes," August said. That includes laws such as the CAN-SPAM Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. But the likelihood of Haskins being brought to justice is small, August said, given the comparatively negligible amounts he owes his customers. "The amounts are so small," he said. "What capable consumer rights lawyer is going to take him on?"
By the time this story was posted, Haskins hadn't responded to questions regarding whether OraSecure was an ongoing business venture. Haskins did, however, stress his opinion that, although he owes people money, he is not a crook.
"Am I a fraudster or scam artist? I wouldn't say so at all. I'd consider myself a small entrepreneur who got buried in the economy and almost had no way out," he said.
"I'm not some snake-oil salesman. I'm not sitting in an apartment sucking up people's credit cards and not delivering anything to them. There are people on the Internet who have accused me of that, but that's far from the case."
Editor's Note: This story was updated to include comments from Pinnacle Law Group's Andrew August.
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