Good news for anyone with a phone: a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit recently shut down two companies that auto-dial consumers with recorded messages saying the target was approved for credit card rate reduction services.
The FTC dubs this type of call a “Rachel” call because it often features recordings of “Rachel, from Card Services.” Rachel calls are not regular telemarketing calls – robots aren’t allowed to be telemarketers. Instead, they’re scams to defraud consumers out of thousands of dollars in upfront fees, without providing any card services.
FTC Settles Two Separate Lawsuits
The FTC recently brought suit against two companies: Treasure Your Success and Ambrosia Web Design, in separate, but very similar cases. Both companies were luring consumers with absurdly low interest rates – 2 or 3 percent – or a specific amount of interest savings. Both companies had their targets pay hefty upfront fees, and then abandoned them.
Both companies settled and are now permanently banned from making robocalls, engaging in telemarketing, or doing business with anyone who uses those tactics.
Both defendants also had their assets frozen and were ordered to pay substantial monetary penalties in addition to the bans.
These were serious crimes, the FTC claimed, well beyond simply annoying consumers:
The defendants often deceived consumers into thinking defendants were affiliated with a government program. If consumers agreed to sign up, the telemarketer got their credit card information, often charging an illegal advance fee before providing any service.
And it didn’t end there: Ambrosia Web Design’s reps would also allegedly fail to mention their “no refund/no cancellation” policy. (Later, Ambrosia Web Design was also charged with credit card laundering.)
Robocalls Are Illegal
You’re probably familiar with the experience of getting a robocall – you pick up the phone, and you’re greeted by a monotone voice that’s obviously a recording.
In this robocall scam, a recording identified as “Rachel” offers callers a substantially lower interest rates, an extended warranty on your car or home, or similar consumer financial services.
The robocalls are annoying, to be sure. And, if you didn’t ask in writing for a sales call from the company in question, they’re illegal. (Charities and political candidates are exempt).
A lot of robocall companies also don’t screen their call lists for numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
Remember, if robocall companies don’t bother to follow telemarketing laws, they’re probably not pitching a legitimate product or service.
Robocalls are also getting more common thanks to advancements in auto-dialing technology and Caller ID spoofing, where the company tricks your phone into thinking the same robot is calling from North Carolina one day, and Idaho the next.
Faced with a Robocall?
If you pick up the phone, and find yourself talking to a robot (and it’s not reminding you of an appointment or similar service you’ve signed up for) hang up the phone – don’t press whatever number they say will remove you from their list.
If the company is placing robocalls illegally, they may not have a formal list, so complying with the robot and pressing buttons will confirm that your number works. Instead, hang up and block the number.
Has a company been harassing you with robocalls? Click here to submit a complaint on Scambook.
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