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How to get the FTC's attention: Illegally robocall consumers while spoofing the agency's consumer hotline number

Robocaller busted using FTC's number and website to scam consumers

By , Network World
December 03, 2012 01:30 PM ET

Network World - Seems these folks just wanted the Federal Trade Commission to smack them down. The FTC today said it had a federal court shut down an illegal robocall operation that allegedly impersonated the agency in an attempt to trick consumers into turning over all manner of sensitive personal data.

In its complaint, the FTC said The Cuban Exchange Inc., also doing business as CrediSure America and MyiPad.us, and its principal, Suhaylee Rivera, misleadingly claimed it could help consumers obtain refunds from the agency, in an effort to trick them into providing personal information and bank account numbers.

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In addition, the FTC said the company falsely told consumers it has helped "more than 13,000" people get refunds and, to top it off, "spoofed" the FTC's Consumer Response toll-free phone number so that the agency's number appeared on Caller ID devices. The FTC said the defendants also used a website address -- ftcrefund.com -- designed to dupe consumers into thinking the operation had a connection with the FTC.

The FTC charged that the defendants made illegal robocalls to consumers that played a prerecorded messaged telling them to visit the website ftcrefund.com. During the message, they also give consumers a phony "seizure ID number." The message uses the same "seizure ID number" for all consumers the defendants contact. When calling consumers, the defendants allegedly transmit the toll-free phone number for the FTC's Consumer Response Center, 877-382-4357, often broadcast to the public as 877-FTC-HELP, to consumers' Caller ID devices, leading some to think the call was coming from the FTC.

"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, in a release.

The complaint also charges the company with violating the Do Not Call (DNC) 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.

The FTC noted that this case marks the 100th brought by the FTC over the past nine years alleging violations related to the national DNC Registry, which was launched in 2003.

Robocallers have been at the top of the FTC's hit list of late. Just last month the agency pulled the plug on five mass calling companies it said were allegedly responsible for millions of illegal pre-recorded calls from "Rachel" and others from "Cardholder Services."

At the time the FTC said it gets more than 200,000 complaints each month about telemarketing robocalls, including calls from "Rachel" that pitch consumers with a supposedly easy way to save money by reducing their credit card interest rates. After collecting an up-front fee, however, the FTC believes that the companies do little if anything to fulfill their promises.

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