WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office is investigating a downtown Wilmington business accused of taking customers’ money and not providing promised services. WECT has received complaint after complaint about this business.
We first reported on DTopp in October. The company says it can get negative reviews and online stories about you removed or suppressed, or your money back. DTopp put us in touch with some satisfied customers, but many others, like Michael Dippel, are furious.
“For me to pay that kind of money, and I get nothing for it, you feel like you’ve been scammed," Dippel said Thursday morning outside of Wilmington police headquarters, where he was going to file a complaint.
Dippel found DTopp online and paid $1,500 to suppress two internet news stories. DTopp gave him a 90-day guarantee, but that window is up.
Dippel says the stories are in the same place they’ve always been, and DTopp won’t refund his money.
“To me, it’s fraud. It’s also obtaining property by false pretense,” Dippel said about why he thought police should be involved. “I’m going to request that they conduct an investigation into this company because I’m not the only person…that’s being scammed like this from what I’ve read.”
DTopp is a local player in the booming reputation management industry as people pay to clean up their online profiles to improve their chances at real world success.
The story also interested us because DTopp’s founder, David Topping, is a convicted felon. He first made headlines when he was 19 after pleading guilty to securities fraud. Topping was accused of scamming more than $100,000 from investors in Brunswick County under a different business model.
At the time our report aired, there was one complaint on file with the Better Business Bureau. Three months later, there are eight complaints on file with many customers filing similar grievances that the services they paid for were not delivered.
The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office said it has 11 complaints on file about this company, which the AG is investigating.
Of his criminal history, Topping previously told WECT he was a naive teenager who just got in over his head with his business importing computer components from overseas and selling them here for a profit. He said he pleaded guilty to avoid the risk of a lengthy prison sentence, but he stands by his innocence.
Still, it’s difficult to ignore repeated complaints from Topping’s new customers and other. Jacie Dykes is a former DTopp employee who says Topping promised her a hefty salary to take a marketing job with him in late 2016. Dykes says she quit after seven weeks when she had only received $100 of the money she was owed, and she got sick of hearing from upset customers who felt they’d been ripped off.
“A lot of his clients did figure it out and I got some really horrible phone calls and emails and that’s what kind of triggered the, ‘What’s going on? What’s wrong? Things are not adding up,’" Dykes said. "His clients were mad, and basically said he was scamming them, taking their money and he wasn’t giving them the services that they paid for.”
We reached out to Topping for a response to the latest round of complaints about his company, and are expecting a response soon. We will continue to keep you updated on what investigators decide to do with this case.