Tellman Knudson, the Internet tycoon who plans to run barefoot on Route 66 and across the country next month for charity, has run into a thicket of questions from the attorney general’s office in his home state of Vermont.
According to a well-researched article in the Times Argus of Montpelier, Vt., the problems for Knudson arise after people click onto his fundraising site, runtellmanrun.com:
But people who click on the page are immediately asked to give Knudson their names and e-mail addresses. And that’s sparking questions from some users of his business sites — registered and run in Vermont as Overcome Everything Inc. — who complain of receiving endless appeals seeking credit-card numbers for what many call “too-good-to-be-true” offers.
Log onto www.overcomeeverything.com last week, for example, and Knudson offered a free “Instant Money Button” compact disc “guaranteed to stuff six-figures into your bank account in the next year.” To receive the otherwise unidentified product, people were told they needed only to type in their credit-card number to cover a $7.95 shipping fee.
But read the fine print — tiny and in the lightest of grays at the bottom of the white screen — and you’d find a disclaimer that said “there is no guarantee that you will earn any money” and, in fact, the “CD purchase automatically renews to a recurring charge of $97 a month.”
Many recipients complain, particularly in online forums, that they either didn’t know about the $97 charge until they saw it on their credit-card bills or had read how they could cancel “for a full 7 days” and “you won’t be charged a single penny.” But when they tried to opt out, they couldn’t easily contact Knudson’s Brattleboro office — a delay that added to their monthly fees.
These complaints — which number in the dozens, before Knudson’s journey even begins on Sept. 9 — have gotten the attention of the state attorney general’s office, which is investigating whether the charity setup is lawful or deceitful.
And reading on in the story, Knudson’s own vague and evasive comments about himself and his company are troubling. And the fact he wants to raise an astounding $100 million for charity during a poor economy seems terribly unrealistic.
So … if you decide to go online and give to Knudson’s charity, make sure you read the fine print first.