The Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General’s office have charged a web of related defendants based in Orlando, Fla. with bombarding consumers with illegal robocalls in an attempt to sell them bogus credit card interest rate reduction and debt relief services.
The complaint alleges that the defendants’ robocall scheme bilked consumers out of more than $15.6 million since at least January 2013.
A federal district court in Orlando, Fla. temporarily stopped the operation, collectively known as Life Management Services of Orange County LLC, from making illegal robocalls and selling its services pending an upcoming hearing.
The defendants allegedly used generic names such as "Bank Card Services" and "Credit Assistance Program" and falsely claimed to be a "licensed enrollment center" for major credit card networks such as MasterCard and Visa, according to the complaint. The alleged deception involved the defendants claiming that they would work with the consumer’s credit card company or bank to substantially and permanently lower their credit card interest rates.
"These scammers use robocalls to hide their identities and exploit consumers,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Working jointly with the FTC, our actions to stop these schemes and hold the scammers responsible will not only keep Floridians from falling victim to these scams, but also protect consumers nationwide.”
The defendants allegedly claimed these purported services would save consumers thousands of dollars in a short period and allow them to pay off credit card balances three- to five-times faster. For these services consumers typically were required to make upfront payments of between $500 and $5,000. In reality, the defendants sometimes made a rudimentary attempt to contact the consumer’s credit card company, but consumers report that defendants were almost never able to obtain the promised rates or savings, the agencies charge.
The complaint alleges that the defendants also pitched a bogus credit card debt-elimination service, promising consumers that they could access money from a government fund to pay off consumers’ credit card debt in 18 months.
For these services the defendants charged consumers between $2,500 and almost $20,000 up front. In reality, no such government fund exists, and consumers who paid defendants’ up-front fee wound up deeper in debt with damaged credit scores and higher interest rates and late fees, according to the complaint.
"This is the latest effort by the FTC and our international, state, and federal law enforcement partners to stop illegal robocalling operations that harass consumers day and night with unwanted calls," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The agencies charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The FTC and Florida AG’s office are seeking to permanently stop the conduct and secure money for consumer refunds. A complete list of the defendants can be found in the agencies’ complaint.This latest case marks the 39th action taken since January 2015 as part of a coordinated multinational enforcement effort to halt robocall operations. The enforcement crackdown includes actions taken by international partners, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission, the attorney generals’ offices of Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington State, and the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
Through their collective enforcement efforts, these agencies have taken action against operations estimated to have made billions of illegal robocalls.