FTC: Fake Discount Clubs Took $42M From People Who Never Signed Up

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Discount clubs that give you savings on stuff you might want could be convenient, if you’re into that kind of thing. But not so much if you’ve never signed up for the service in the first place — and end up getting charged for it nonetheless.

According to a complaint [PDF] filed by the Federal Trade Commission, starting in 2010, a group of marketers operating discount clubs called Savings Makes Money, Saving Pays Club, and Money Plus Saver targeted consumers with websites and telemarketing calls offering payday or cash advance loans.

Under the impression that they were signing up for loans, victims of the alleged scheme would hand over their bank account information, which the defendants allegedly used to enroll them in an online coupon service that charged monthly fees.

The FTC claims that the defendants used electronic remotely created checks (RCCs) to withdraw funds from consumers’ accounts: An initial fee between $49.89 and $99.49, and recurring monthly fees of $14 to $19.95.

Hundreds of thousands of people called the defendants to cancel the memberships they never signed up for and to ask for refunds. And thousands more notified their banks that something funny was going on.

The FTC claims the operators of the clubs attempted to debit more than $185 million and succeeded in withdrawing at least $42 million from people who never gave their consent to be enrolled in the discount clubs.

All defendants have been charged with violating the FTC Act, while two were also charged with violating the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. All defendants save one were charged with violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule as well.

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