Last week, the Federal Trade Commission got a U.S. District Court in New York to shut down a robocall operation that allegedly scammed consumers by pretending to be the Federal Trade Commission.
According the real (we hope) FTC, the fakers would contact consumers claiming to be the agency. The recorded calls would not only state they were coming from the FTC, but the schemers allegedly spoofed the agency’s toll-free phone number so it would appear as if the actual FTC was calling on the consumers’ Caller ID screens.
The recipient of the call would be told they were entitled to a refund because of an FTC settlement, and were directed to a now-defunct website called FTCrefund.com or a site for one of the defendants’ companies, CrediSure.
On these websites, the FTC says consumers were told:
“CrediSure has the proper knowledge and open door [sic] to expedite refunds you may not even know were owed to you. CrediSure works as a tireless collector and fiercely fights for its clients [sic] refunds to be paid first.”
Consumers are then told they will get a refund from the FTC in “five to seven business days, as opposed to the standard 8 to 10 weeks,” and instructs them how to enter their “Seizure ID” number and “depository information” to get the process started. Consumers are told that the defendants will take 5.55 percent of the refund as a fee for the service of speeding up the refund process. They also allegedly falsely claim that, “Over 13,000 clients have received refunds through CrediSure America.”
Once the “Seizure ID” number was entered on the website, visitors were directed to a page providing information on the name of the refund case, the refund amount, the fee the defendant would charge, and the supposed total amount of the refund the consumer would receive.
In order to get the “refund,” consumers had to provide their address, phone number, bank name (including the name listed on the account), account number, routing number, and a check number, supposedly so refunds could be deposited directly into their accounts.
Except the FTC only provides refunds by check, never via direct deposit. But of course this isn’t the actual FTC.
So in addition to charges that the robocallers violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting their affiliation with, or endorsement or sponsorship by, the FTC, the defendants also stand accused of violating the Do Not Call Registry by calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the Registry, failing to transmit accurate Caller ID information, making illegal pre-recorded telemarketing calls, failing to make required disclosures such as the identity of the seller and purpose of the call, and failing to pay the required fees to access the DNC Registry.
“When the Federal Trade Commission returns money to consumers who have been ripped off, it doesn’t use robocalls, and it certainly doesn’t ask them to provide personal financial information,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “To anyone hell-bent on breaking the law by making illegal robocalls, transmitting phony Caller ID information, or impersonating a federal agency, we have two words for you: Stop now. The real Federal Trade Commission will come after you.”