Rachel’s bosses just got in a lot of trouble – FTC cracks down on robocallers

ID-100128578Last week, I got a call on my cellphone that made me smile: a robocall telling me I might be paying too much for car insurance. If they only knew who they were calling.

I called them back a few times and told them I was an investigator with BBB. I grilled them about their business information, which they didn’t want to give me. When they hung up on me, I called back, till finally they disconnected their number. Not a huge accomplishment in the scheme of things, but I enjoyed making them squirm. They knew and I knew they were doing something illegal, spamming tons of random phone numbers without regard to the Do Not Call Registry.

I was happy to learn that illegal robocallers do sometimes get their comeuppance. The Federal Trade Commission just announced a settlement with defendants associated with the A+ Financial Center scheme.  The settlement followed last year’s joint law enforcement sweep against five companies that made millions of illegal robocalls claiming to be from “Rachel” and “Cardholder Services,” pitching credit card interest rate reduction services.

The case against A+ Financial Center, LLC was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against A+ Financial Center, LLC, also doing business as Accelerated Financial Centers, LLC; Accelerated Accounting Services LLC; Christopher L. Miano, individually and as the managing member of Accelerated Accounting Services LLC; and Dana M. Miano, individually and as the managing member of A+ Financial Center, LLC.

The FTC charged the companies and their principals with misleading consumers about their services, calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, illegally collecting up-front fees, and making illegal robocalls. The FTC said the defendants told consumers they would lower their credit card interest rate to as low as six percent or zero percent — in exchange for up front fees of between $495 and $1,595. After collecting the fee, the defendants did little or nothing to help the consumers lower interest rates or achieve long term savings.

The FTC settlement  bans the defendants from making robocalls, pitching unsecured debt relief services, misrepresenting attributes of any financial product or service and engaging in abusive telemarketing such as calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. The defendants are also prohibited from misrepresenting their services and from misrepresenting their relationship with other entities such as banks, credit card issuers, credit reporting agencies, or the government. The defendants are also required to have reliable evidence to support any claims they make.

The A+ defendants are forbidden from disclosing or benefiting from customer lists or from collecting or trying to collect money from any consumer who bought their service.

The ruling imposes a judgment of $9,238,155, which will be suspended after defendants transfer all of their assets (except $25,000), including a 2007 Mercedes Benz CL, a 1999 boat valued at approximately $17,000, and a 2002 boat worth about $45,000.

BBB offers the following tips if you get a robocall:

  • Hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. Pressing a number will probably just lead to more robocalls.
  • Consider blocking the number — if it’s free. Consider contacting your phone provider and asking them to block the number, and whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.
  • Report it to the FTC. You can report your experience to the Federal Trade Commission online or by calling 1-888-382-1222.