FTC Shuts Down Robocall Operation That Allegedly Falsely Claimed to Help Consumers Get FTC Consumer Refunds
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal district court temporarily shut down a robocall operation that allegedly impersonated the agency in an attempt to trick consumers into turning over their bank account information and other sensitive personal data, pending resolution of the FTC's case. The FTC seeks to permanently stop the scheme.
In a complaint filed in federal court, the FTC charged that the operation run by The Cuban Exchange, Inc., also doing business as CrediSure America and MyiPad.us, and its principal, Suhaylee Rivera, deceptively claimed they could help consumers obtain refunds from the agency, in an effort to trick them into providing their personal information and bank account numbers.
According to the FTC, the company falsely told consumers it has helped "more than 13,000" people get refunds. It also "spoofed" the FTC's Consumer Response toll-free phone number, so that the FTC's number appeared on consumers' Caller ID devices. The defendants also allegedly used a website address – ftcrefund.com – designed to confuse consumers into thinking the operation had a connection with the FTC. The website has since been shut down.
"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 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."
The case is the 100th brought by the FTC over the past nine years alleging violations related to the national Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, which was launched in 2003. The FTC alleged that, in addition to making illegal telemarketing robocalls, the defendants also called consumers whose phone numbers are on the Registry.
The FTC charged that the defendants made illegal robocalls that played a prerecorded message telling consumers to visit the website ftcrefund.com. During the message, the- defendants also allegedly 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, misrepresenting that the call is coming from the FTC.
According to the FTC, consumers who visit the ftcrefund.com website, or an identical website, credisure.net, are told that, "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."
Consumers who enter their "Seizure ID" number on the website are directed to a page on the site that provides them with information including the supposed name of the FTC case, the amount to be refunded, the fee the defendants will charge, and the supposed total amount of the refund the consumer will receive. To get the "refund," consumers must 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 can be deposited directly into their accounts. The FTC, however, does not provide refunds by direct deposit, but only by check.
Based on this alleged conduct, the complaint charges the defendants with a making a range of misrepresentations, including:
- That they are affiliated with or endorsed by the FTC;
- That they can obtain refunds/redress from the FTC on behalf of consumers;
- That they can reduce FTC refund/redress wait time to five to seven business days from 8 to 10 weeks;
- That they know the consumer is entitled to a refund or redress from the FTC; and
- That they have helped more than 13,000 clients get refunds/redress from the FTC.
The complaint also charges the defendants with violating the agency's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by misrepresenting their affiliation with, or endorsement or sponsorship by, the FTC, and by making material misrepresentations about the services they provide to consumers.
The complaint also charges the defendants with violating the TSR by calling consumers whose phone numbers are on the DNC 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 Commission vote to issue the complaint was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and names as defendants The Cuban Exchange, Inc., doing business as CrediSure America and MyiPad.us; and Suhaylee Rivera, individually and as an officer or director of The Cuban Exchange, Inc.
Information for Consumers
The FTC recently issued tips for consumers, as well as two new consumer education videos explaining robocalls and describing what consumers should do when they receive one. See ftc.gov/robocalls for more information. For official information about the FTC's refund process, consumers should visit Getting Your Money Back: Consumer Refunds.
Complaints from consumers affected by this alleged scam were essential to helping FTC learn about it and stop it quickly. The agency advises consumers contacted by anyone claiming they can help expedite FTC refunds or redress payments to contact the staff of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 202-326-2635.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaints are not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. The cases will be decided by the court.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
(FTC File No.: 132-3046)
SOURCE Federal Trade Commission