This investigation was conducted by Michael Crider, Liam Spradlin, Artem Russakovskii, and myself, David Ruddock. Credit for the [awesome] graphics in this piece also goes to Liam Spradlin.
Once in a great while, Android Police gets a tip that leads us down a long, winding trail of a story - this is one of those times. A couple of weeks back, we received an email from an app developer claiming that a 3rd party development company was taking credit in their portfolio for an app that he made by himself. At first glance, it seemed scummy, but not exactly newsworthy - after all, there are a lot of shady characters out there on the web looking to make a buck these days.
But we dug. We looked further, and we discovered that this wasn't just one website or one isolated incident: it was just another footnote in a long history of deception, misrepresentation, and lies.
Meet Salsoft - a company behind a dozen or so (possibly quite a few more) sketchy app development and design firm websites that have intentionally misrepresented themselves to customers, a fact some of those customers became aware of much too late. Those sites include, but are not limited to: Avenuesocial, InvolveSocial, Facebookster (defunct), FeelSocial, SocialJitney, Appbury, Logo Bench, Branded Logos, Branded Logo Designs, Salsoft (the mother site), and Appisco.
Why are we reporting on this? To be frank: because someone needs to call these guys out before anyone else makes the mistake of doing business with them. Our investigation has uncovered allegations of fraud, breached contracts, lies, general deception, and efforts to obfuscate the identity of the persons involved in the Salsoft business. We're here to expose them. With that, meet the faces behind Salsoft - a company you most definitely would do well to avoid.
Salman Ghaznavi: Salman has been overtly involved in SocialJitney, Appbury, FeelSocial, Avenuesocial, Salsoft, Facebookster, and possibly other parts of this ring of websites. Our suspicion is that Salman may be running the show, and if not bankrolling the effort, is at least involved in leading the organization. Salman has himself listed as CEO of most of these "companies," so it would seem a fair inference to make that he's calling some of the shots.
Salman does not appear on any search of official records in the United States (we tried a half dozen services), suggesting he is probably still a Pakistani national or is using an alias. He appears to at least visit the US regularly (as per his airport check-ins and various photos on his own, public Facebook page),
and has his place of residence listed as the San Francisco Bay Area on LinkedIn and numerous other professional networks.
Editorial note: before this piece could make it to publication, Salman Ghaznavi changed his name on LinkedIn to "Salman Anis," removed references to Appbury as his employer, and changed his listed residence to the UAE. However, his profile (link) still retains his previously listed last name in the URL, and contains links in his "Websites" section to Appbury, Avenuesocial, and SocialJitney.
Salman had listed the headquarters of Avenuesocial - now seemingly out of business - as being in Sunnyvale, CA, and a call to another tenant in the building they previously occupied did confirm to us that the company had an office there at one time, though had since moved out.
"Salman and his company Avenue Social deliver innovation, on demand and on time. Those are the service providers I want in the ecosystem of my organization because they help change our world for the better in the most efficient manner possible.".
It's rather easy to obtain faked (and custom-tailored... by yourself) LinkedIn recommendations using a site like Fiverr, so at least for the obvious fakes, it's equally obvious how they were probably obtained. Such deals also often come with endorsements, and at least one of the likely fakes shows up in every one one of Salman's "skills and expertise" endorsements.
Salman claims to have attended Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. We know little about what sort of business he was involved in prior to the Salsoft ring's emergence.
It is our suspicion that either Salman and / or Hakim Sadik are the primary backers of this operation, though it appears Salman actually doesn't do much on the product side himself. Regardless, he is without a doubt its public face, and you can watch him wax poetic about social media for 10 minutes in this truly wonderful video.
Usman Ghaznavi (aka Usman Anis): Usman may be related to Salman Ghaznavi, possibly a brother or cousin (the two do bear a resemblance). Usman does show up on record searches in the US, suggesting he is a legal resident of the country, perhaps serving as the enterprise's legally established foothold in America.
Usman is listed as the primary registrant for one of the Avenuesocial websites (other, later sites show that the group has since become aware of private registration services), with the same Sunnyvale address the Avenuesocial site lists as its HQ.
His level of involvement and role in the ring of sites is ambiguous - he is listed as COO at Avenuesocial, for example, but that particular site seems to have been largely abandoned (avenuesocial.com 404s, while avenuesocial.pk is semi-functional but full of broken links). Usman's LinkedIn page, though, claims he still holds the position there.
His public Facebook page does indicate Usman gets around, with regular check-ins in Denver, New York City, and occasional travel to France, the UAE, and Karachi, Pakistan.
Hakim Sadik: We found no reference to Hakim on any of the ring's currently operational websites, but this Twitter handle shows a clear involvement with Facebookster, one of several of the group's now-defunct Facebook development houses. Where we did see Mr. Sadik pop up on multiple occasions was Ripoff Report and Better Business Bureau complaints.
Those complaints allege that Hakim is in charge of the operation, though it's possible he's also just the man who actually handles communication with customers / victims. Mr. Sadik appears to have taken some effort in keeping his public presence low on the web - his former LinkedIn page dead-ends, and he has not been active on Twitter since 2009.
Hakim's public Facebook page shows him vacationing in the tourist town of Krabi, Thailand in 2012, as well as meeting former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a photo op (yeah, really - unless it was a wax figure or something) in what looks to be Germany, also in 2012.
Salsoft (link): Salsoft appears to be the legitimate face of the entire organization. The company's website is fairly drab, and unlike every other site in the ring, seems to deliberately avoid flashing "Get a quote!" and "Call us today!" all over the front page. Instead, it has only a generic form for inquiries, and suggests all emails go to [email protected] The list of claimed clients is also far more conservative than what you'll see on SocialJitney, Appisco, or Avenuesocial - it's very possible this all started as a completely legitimate business.
Salsoft, instead, seems to be interested in hiring developers. The company's careers page appears empty (and looks not to have been updated since 2009 based on the site's copyright notice), but a quick search reveals the company has employees and is still actively hiring. Though, it seems unlikely that Salsoft has the 150+ employees the official website claims, a number you'll see used across other sites in the Salsoft ring. It has a physical address in Karachi, Pakistan, which directs to an empty lot, though a Google Maps search for Salsoft does provide a result at an actual building.
A number of the sites in the Salsoft ring actually do have clients that claim to have received completed work, though the quality of that work - particularly when it comes to mobile apps - is often questionable at best. The point, though, is that there are actual developers working on producing these projects. It's our belief that those developers are all employed by Salsoft in Pakistan, and many may not even have direct knowledge of the existence of the other sites in the ring. Here's a layout of the sites we're aware of.
SocialJitney (link): The first site brought to our attention, the site that led us to begin this investigation, was SocialJitney. Alexander Osmanov, developer of an app called Perfect Ear Pro, noticed one day that his app appeared on SocialJitney's portfolio page. At the time of this writing, that app was still on the page.
SocialJitney, of course, had absolutely no involvement with this app in any way. Alexander developed it himself in his spare time on weekends, and he alone contributed to the project. He had never heard of SocialJitney, Salsoft, Avenuesocial, or any of the other companies in the Salsoft ring in his life. So what was it doing on SocialJitney's portfolio page?
SocialJitney lifted the app's images and descriptions from the Play Store, an app which they did not create, and claimed the project as part of their portfolio to make themselves look more legitimate. There is no case for "confusion" here, unless their incompetency borders on insanity - you don't "accidentally" claim to have developed an app you had zero involvement on made by a person you've never been in contact with.
SocialJitney also claims in their portfolio, amongst other apps, Duolingo (whom happily confirmed they had no involvement with the company), Saviry, the official Bloomberg TV+ iPad app (Bloomberg develops its app in-house), iScope (which appears to be entirely homegrown), the official British Airways iOS app (hey, it reviews terrible, so maybe!), and the official Dolce and Gabbana iOS app. As to the legitimacy of each of those claims, while we cannot be definitive about all of them, I invite you to draw your own conclusions.
For 3rd party development services, like designers, an attractive portfolio is paramount to bringing in customers, a fact it appears that Salsoft understood all too well. Using applications the company did not create or assist in creating to advertise the company's expertise and past work is, of course, a intentional misrepresentation, step one in any civil fraud allegation.
It gets better. SocialJitney has a "team" page, complete with photos of 29 individuals who all look suspiciously well-lit and smiley.
Well, we did some digging. And by digging, I mean the most rudimentary reverse image searching possible, and we got a hit on every. single. image. You may notice one of them pretty fast, like we did - actor Jason Segel up at the top right, who is now apparently Jayden, the Lead Technologist. Check out our exciting chart of all the identities (most are just stock photos), below. Yet more intentional misrepresentation.
Lead architect Nathan's image was lifted from a story about a man named Marek Barden, who became quasi-famous after doctors rebuilt his chest using concrete to fill in a hole left by a tumor. The "CEO" - who is not named on the website - is apparently Evan Kirkpatrick, CEO of Wendell Charles Financial. Developer Jacob is apparently a South African comedian by the name of Daniel Friedman. Visual Design specialist Mason is actually Nitin Bajaj, a mutual fund manager in India.
Linking Socialjitney to the Salsoft ring was fairly easy. A profile on ZoomInfo for Salman Ghaznavi lists Socialjitney as one of his companies. There are some weird WordPress blogs about the company, too, one with Salman's name, and another with Hakim Sadik's. There's also a press release naming Salman Ghaznavi as CEO of the company, announcing the completion of an app for a lawyer, Ralph Behr, that looks consistent with the quality of the other apps the group has actually created.
And yes, it does appear that Salsoft has actually produced some apps on its own. This app, for example, has a developer contact with an @avenuesocial.com email address.
As far as other apps the group has created, we believe most - if not all - of the portfolio of iOS game developer Googly, Inc. was actually created by Salsoft. The children's game company appears on SocialJitney's portfolio page, with titles like Alphabets in the Sea. The reason to think they actually made the games? Googly's website, Googly.mobi, is registered to Usman Ghaznavi. The company's two relatively popular titles, Alphabets in the Zoo (59 ratings), and Alphabets in the Sea (67 ratings), actually fare pretty well in terms of review scores, though neither looks particularly polished or visually impressive.
Appbury (link): Appbury is the company Salman Ghaznavi
lists as his current place of employment on LinkedIn listed as his place of employment on LinkedIn until a few days before this article was published (he also changed his name on LinkedIn to Salman Anis and removed his photo). Appbury has a portfolio claiming at least some apps it did not create, such as Quick Sale Pro (the developers assured me they had no association with the company).
This Spoke profile still lists Salman as CEO of Appbury, and here's a screenshot of it just in case it gets taken down.
Appisco (link): We were unable to locate any direct evidence of Appisco's being a part of the Salsoft ring (they seem to be getting that using their real names probably wasn't such a great idea), but it's a pretty dead giveaway when you look at the website layout and the portfolio page, both of which are identical to SocialJitney's. They also use the same hilarious stock photos for their "team." So, it's either a blatant ripoff of the SocialJitney site by someone else, or more likely, just another name they can exploit after another one of their "companies" drowns in a sea of Better Business Bureau complaints.
Avenuesocial (link): Avenuesocial appears to have been the group's primary venture up until the last couple of years, when mobile application development eclipsed Facebook app development (and let's be realistic, Facebook apps have always just been kind of a dud). Avenuesocial claims to have done work for Heineken, and there's even a press release - published, of course, by Avenuesocial - but unfortunately we weren't able to confirm with Heineken or Havas Worldwide (formerly Euro RSCG) as to its legitimacy. There are at least two people on LinkedIn claiming to have been involved with the Claim Your Victory Dos Equis (a Heineken brand) project while employed by Salsoft, so who really knows.
Avenuesocial also claimed to have done projects for Wells Fargo, Sony PlayStation, Amnesty International, LG, Naked Juice, World Aids Day, Pringles, Disneyworld, Cars.com, BlackBerry, Carhartt, Pillsbury, Nickelodeon, St. Ives, Nexxus, Texas Instruments, California Pizza Kitchen, Pedigree, Canadian Club, and many, many more. Unfortunately, the age of the site and the claimed work makes it all but impossible to figure out whether any of this was legitimate. PR departments have high turnover, and none of the projects are actually linked to the URLs where they originally appeared, so there's really nothing to inquire about in the first place. It's a dead end.
Go further into Avenuesocial's portfolio, though, and the big names drop off, and low-quality quiz games and fast fact apps start to appear with much more frequency. I'd be willing to bet that work is real. But the official Disneyworld Facebook fan page? Again, I'll leave you to decide that one.
Salman Ghaznavi continued to call himself the CEO of Avenuesocial well into 2012. Somehow, he secured a spot as a guest speaker at the DEMO 2012 startup conference as part of the unveiling of something called the Dynamic ePlate mobile payment system, calling himself the "CEO of the largest social app games designer" in a video posted on his Facebook page (we won't post the link, but it's not hard to find). He spoke for about 45 seconds without really saying much of anything.
You can also find Ghaznavi listed as the company's CEO on Lead411.
So, was this just another diversion in the Salsoft shell game? It at least appears possible Avenusocial may have been more than that. Do a quick LinkedIn search, and you'll find something surprising: 70 hits for people with the term Avenuesocial, well over 50 of whom appear to be former employees of the company. Some are even based in the United States. Perhaps the company had some momentum, enough to amass a decent number of people on the payroll, before going silent last year. But all other signs point to Avenuesocial having since closed up shop - the website is barely functional (and that's only the .pk domain version, the .com is completely dead), and Salman Ghaznavi no longer lists the company on his LinkedIn page. A call to the Sunnyvale building the company listed its headquarters at, as I said earlier in the piece, gave us a tenant who claimed Avenuesocial did have an office there at one point, but had since vacated it. Avenusocial.com also now 404s, and the previously-mentioned Avenuesocial.pk is basically derelict.
What happened? Was Avenuesocial floating on funds from one of the Ghaznavis, or Mr. Sadik, hoping to gain enough momentum to grow into a sustainable business? Did it actually have a fleeting run of success? Or was it all just smoke and mirrors? We don't know. I've reached out to some of the company's alleged former employees, but after nearly a week, I've not heard back from any of the ones I was able to reasonably attempt to contact. For all we know, they could be largely composed of LinkedIn zombie profiles.
Facebookster, FeelSocial (link), InvolveSocial (link): We know little about Facebookster - the site now redirects to Avenuesocial, which 404s - but it seems like the predecessor site of the aforementioned Avenuesocial. A CrunchBase entry for the company is still online, published in 2009. Based on the Ripoff Report complaints, it sounds like Facebookster was in the same business as Avenuesocial - Facebook app and website development. The CrunchBase profile claims the company was founded in 2003 and had over 100 employees, based in Fremont, CA.
Clear links to Hakim Sadik and Salman Ghaznavi are easy enough to find, like this presentation uploaded by Salman to SlideShare, or this profile for Hakim on LeadFerret listing him as director of sales.
InvolveSocial and FeelSocial appear to be two of the Salsoft group's less successful social enterprises. These websites were in a largely similar vein to Avenuesocial and, presumably, Facebookster. It's likely that both were abandoned shortly after the company made a shift toward mobile app development as opposed to Facebook app and page services.
A cached FeelSocial news page lists Salman Ghaznavi as CEO, while this video on Vimeo clearly links InvolveSocial and Avenuesocial, the latter for which we have numerous connections to the Salsoft ring. InvolveSocial's website also claims responsibility for many of the same high-profile social campaigns Avenuesocial's once did, though none of the links to any of the apps are functional (some of the pages do work).
The logo trio - Branded Logos (link), Logo Bench (link), Branded Logo Designs (link): Sketchy development and design firms often start in the logo business, because it seems like a relatively simple trade. Salsoft probably had that in mind when it started not one, not two, but three logo design firms (that we know of - there may well be more), two of which have developed fairly terrible reputations on the BBB and Ripoff Report.
The websites feature extensive clipart in their "portfolios," much of which, I would have to guess, they have questionable right to be using in the first place. For example, Branded Logo Designs claims to be the designer of this logo for Stray Cat Productions, but this is actually a work created by BlooVooDoo Studio, a fact I confirmed with the owner. I also found several of the logos featured in this portfolio in logo "inspiration" blog posts, a fact not exactly encouraging in terms of their legitimacy. This ApparelZoo logo, for example, is claimed as a design by a DeviantArt user. Logo Bench and Branded Logos also have many works in their portfolios so generic as to be unusable (eg, the exact opposite of what a logo should be), suggesting yet more fluffing of their work, not to mention that many of the works in the two sites' portfolios match up.
I did speak to a couple of customers who used these services. One of Branded Logos' clients in particular called the company "a bunch of frauds." He did receive an end product, but paid a substantial sum of money for a logo he was "not happy with," and only after "lots of pushing." He claimed the first set of drafts he received were all poorly edited clipart - he did reverse image searches on the web - and even his final logo contains clipart there's no reason to believe Branded Logos had any legal right to use. I won't point out the work specifically, as this customer asked to remain anonymous if we mentioned his experience with the company.
It appears each of these three sites were launched in consecutive years, probably to wash themselves of the BBB and Ripoff Report complaints their predecessors built up (as well as generate new buzz), with Logo Bench in 2011, Branded Logos in 2012, and Branded Logo Designs in 2013. Branded Logo Designs doesn't have any carryover from the previous sites' portfolios (smart!), but the aforementioned and rather blatant intellectual property theft is arguably worse.
What links them to Salsoft? Logo Bench has a business listing with Salman Ghaznavi shown as the primary contact, and the same Sunnyvale address used by Avenuesocial. This obviously then links Branded Logos, which shares many portfolio entries with Logo Bench. Branded Logo Designs is a tougher nut to crack, but there are links according to dissatisfied customers, and this portal at a similar URL is clearly run by Salsoft (brandedlogodesign.com).
Another site I found was StudioXcess, and the link is a bit more tenuous, but I'm inclined to throw it into the ring of sites - employee "Bill Smith" (SOUNDS LEGIT) lists his previous employer as Logo Bench, a "sister company" of InvolveSocial, which is of course related to Avenuesocial. His current employer is also InvolveSocial. His profile picture shows up on a blog called Sumi Ink Club. My guess is the man on the ladder pictured is actually Luke Fishbeck, one of the founders of Sumi Ink Club, and best known as a member of the band Lucky Dragons. I can't get a concrete link to the ring of sites, but it seems pretty likely to me (they list an address in Sunnyvale, too), and it's my strong inclination that "Bill Smith" is a bogus employee.
A History of Complaints
Sites in the Salsoft ring have amassed an impressive number of Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report claims in the past few years. Here are some of the numbers.
- Branded Logo Designs: 2 complaints on BBB, 6 on Ripoff Report
- Logo Bench: 17 complaints on BBB, 3 on Ripoff Report (alternative spelling)
- Avenuesocial: 19 complaints on BBB, 6 on Ripoff Report (alternate spelling)
- SocialJitney: Not listed on BBB, 2 on Ripoff Report (alternate spelling)
- AppBury: 3 complaints on BBB, 1 on Ripoff Report
- Facebookster: Not listed on BBB, 2 on Ripoff Report
And here are some of our favorites that are still listed as unresolved.
Company: AvenueSocial. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $8,300. Site: BBB.
Seeking refund of $8,300 from Avenue Social for services they did not provide. Ignored emails, pay-pal dispute.
I paid for a service I never received. I have emails in which several team members promised refund. I have been ignored by them as soon as the refund was to take place. The payments were for a service they did not perform and I would like my money back.
The payments were done via wire transfer and PayPal. I have not received any communication on when the money will be sent back. After doing more research, I see that several companies/people have filed similar complaints due to this issue.
I would like my money back and this to be resolved. The product is no longer applicable.
Company: AvenueSocial. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: Unknown. Site: BBB.
Avenue Social has defaulted the contract and since this complaint has been raised the company:
1. Continue its deceptive practices
2. Phone calls and emails went with unanswered or customers are being asked to go in a circle of people who don't have any knowledge or experiences with the work
3. The company took the money and did absolutely nothing
Company: AvenueSocial. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $7,000. Site: BBB.
I had hired Avenue Social for a fee of $7,000.00 to develop and maintain a smart phone app. With this agreement I was promised the highest quality of post service by the way of maintenance and updates. I was promised 3 free updates after the app was active. In January 2012 I had spoke to my then project manager about an update and adding new items to the app. He told me it was a 2 week process. Since this time I have been in contact with them on numerous occasions and continue to be put off until a later date. Now over a year and a half has passed *** I have not yet seen the update. Not only that, I have been completely ignored by everyone I have ever been in contact with concerning my app.
Company: AvenueSocial. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $22,500. Site: BBB.
My company signed a contract for a completed service for $45000. After $22500 into the project, they stopped all communication and the project. My company hired this company to create a facebook app for $45000 and completed in roughly 6 monhts. After two years and no completion of the project, they just stopped responding. After repeated emails and phone calls, they finally responded telling me that they have dumped the project and were not completing it.
*AvenueSocial responded to the complaint, claiming they "delivered the code for which [the client] paid" - eg., an incomplete app - the consumer did not accept this as reasonable and demanded a refund, which AvenueSocial refused to provide. BBB marked the issue resolved, but I think we all know how useful an incomplete app is.
Company: Appbury. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $17,000. Site: Ripoff Report.
This one's pretty long, and this guy basically started discovering exactly what we did when we began digging into this whole mess. The short version is he paid Appbury $17,000 for an app that was never fully functional, and the last delivery was over 2 months past the original deadline. The customer never indicated in an update that he received any sort of refund, or that Appbury ever delivered a functional app. He indicated he had given up hope of seeing any of his money returned.
Company: Avenuesocial. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $5,000-8,000. Site: Ripoff Report.
This person wanted Avenuesocial to develop an app called iKissable, which it appears they did do (it's on the App Store). The complainant claims that Avenuesocial promised the app in 8 weeks, but after a year, they still had failed to deliver an app that actually worked. The complaint was updated to show an agreement was reached stating the app would be updated by June 15 2013 to fix the problems, but the app has not been updated since February 2013. This would imply that the app was never updated as the complainant demanded, and the person likely just gave up on resolving the problem.
Company: Avenuesocial. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $6,500. Site: Ripoff Report.
This person claims to have paid Avenuesocial $6,500 to create a website, and 4 years later, still has yet to receive a product.
Company: Facebookster. Reason for complaint: Services not fully rendered. Amount: $5,000. Site: Ripoff Report.
The complainant paid Facebookster $5,000 for a Facebook app, specifically to Hakim Sadik. A year later, the application was still not complete. The complainant notes the company had since changed its name to Avenuesocial, a name it has also since dropped. Sadik responded claiming he would refund the complainant, but the report was never marked resolved by the complainant.
And really, those are just some of the big ones. You can find many additional complaints against Logo Bench, as well as quite a few more against Avenuesocial for unspecified amounts. If you guys find any other complaints that are particularly interesting, be sure to point them out in the comments - we'll add them to the list. By the way, from the numbers we have up there, the total dollar value of just these unresolved complaints shown here is nearly $75,000.
A History of IP Theft
SocialJitney and its associated companies have an impressive habit of misrepresentation. We've already demonstrated that essentially all of their "employees" are proxy people, and since Alexander Osmanov tipped us that they were unjustly using his app as a promotional tool, we decided to contact the developers of the rest of the Android apps in the website's development portfolio. The entire portfolio seems to have been copied verbatim for the extremely similar site Appisco. iOS developers don't have to post contact information on the web version of the iTunes app store, but we tried to get in touch with a few of the more notable ones anyway.
First, there are at least two developers who responded to us saying that SocialJitney/AvenueSocial did, in fact, develop an app for them.
Developer: KN Defense
A representative of KN Defense said that SocialJitney had, in fact, created the PocketAtt Test app for his company. The representative also said that the company was very hard to get in contact with, and that they hadn't spoken with their project manager in over a year.
They did actually develop the app for us but they are a very interesting company for sure. They are very hard to get a hold of and they are a legitimate company but they sure make them selves appear like they are not. however, the dealings i had with them were a few years ago. I tried to contact the project manager that helped us but never received a call back.
There was some confusion over the state of this app's development - it was last updated in August, which would be well after KN Defense's last formal contact with SocialJitney. The representative said that they were still trying to get in contact with the company but had no luck via phone.
Developer: Zarif Technologies Inc
A representative of Zarif confirmed that SocialJitney had in fact created both of the developer's apps.
In fact they are legit. My company entrusted them to do both of the app Learn Bangla and Simple Invoice. They have an offshore development center that does most of their work I think. Thank you.
The rest of the developers that responded to our inquiries were less than pleased to hear that there was a company claiming to have created their apps.
Duolingo is probably the best-known developer featured in SocialJitney's gallery - we've highlighted the well-received language learning app right here on Android Police. When we contacted the press email for Duolingo, CEO Luis von Ahn was unequivocal in denying any connection or contact between SocialJitney and Duolingo.
We've never heard of them, and I can assure you that they did NOT develop any part of our app.
When we confirmed a formal quote for this article, Mr. Ahn added:
You can quote me! these guys suck.
Pinkfroot was already aware of Social Jitney, after being contacted by a prospective SJ customer who was doing their homework and checking with the featured apps on the website.
Yes this is completely fraudulent and we have contacted the company to get their claims about Plane Finder removed. We were alerted to this by a potential client for them who was seeking references! Needless to say I put them straight.
According to Jodie Armstrong of Pinkfroot, the developer then contacted the SJ sales team directly and pretended to be interested in services before confronting them about the fake app profile. This was the response from SocialJitney:
I completely understand your point of view and just so you know yes I did think it was a sales lead. It would be been more appropriate if you could have called us rather than enticing a sales representative such as myself to believe the inquiry you shared was authentic. Secondly, just so you know I am an employee here and I have to follow certain parameters and protocols. I have notified the management on this and they are looking into it.
Pinkfroot's contact at Social Jitney, Neil Kenneth Baroi, gave a Sunnyvale, CA address and phone number. At the time of writing, Plane Finder is still being featured on the SocialJitney and Appisco galleries, despite Pinkfroot's efforts to remove it.
Note: the Saviry app was previously titled "iSlick" and is named as such on the SocialJitney and Appisco galleries.
The Saviry Team denied any knowledge of Social Jitney and said that they had had no contact with the company. Here's the official statement:
We, Saviry Team, never heard of (or worked with) ScialJitney.com or any of it's employees.
Our contact at Bishinews denied any knowledge or contact with SocialJitney.
This is the first time we hear this site. We don't know any of them in the "the team". Not sure why they took the credit for the app. At least they didn't pirate the app like some other sites do. Not sure how to deal with it.
IntelliXense said without reservation that they had no connection with any of the companies we've mentioned here.
Our Quick Sale app was completely developed in-house. We have no relationship with Appbury, SocialJitney, Avenuesocial, or Salsoft and not permission has be granted to allow the use of our app name and logo.
We also spoke with one developer who legitimately worked with SocialJitney at one point, but had switched to another development company. Another developer representing a major company told us that they probably had no contact with SocialJitney, but that due to organizational issues, could not completely confirm or deny any wrongdoing. Both contacts asked us not to mention them by name.
So, what do I do with this?
Well, for one, you can share this article. The only way these guys will end their deceptive practices is if this story gains traction. We'll also update it as needed when we see new sites that we believe are part of the Salsoft ring emerge, though we certainly wouldn't mind some help with that.
We'll be sharing this article with the FBI's Cyber Crimes tip line, the IC3, as well the California DoJ's eCrime unit. While we obviously can't make any definitive conclusions about any potential criminality in what Salsoft is doing, I think we can all agree they at least warrant a little looking into.