FTC reaches settlement with Florida man who assisted IRS scammers


The Federal Trade Commission has banned a Florida man from aiding telemarketers after being charged with helping telemarketers in India con American consumers in an IRS scam.

According to the FTC, Joel S. Treuhaft and his company, PHLG Entreprises, collected more than $1.5 million from about 3,000 consumers in a scheme that helped Indian call centers collect money from victims of IRS tax scams, government grant scams and advance-fee loan scams, among others.

The FTC said telemarketers at Indian call centers tricked consumers into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars each for taxes they did not owe, or fees for services they did not receive. The scammer pretended to be affiliated with government agencies and told people they owed money to the IRS, or that they would get a government grant after they paid a fee. The consumers paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which made it difficult for them  to trace their payments or obtain refunds.

Treuhaft and his company would then pay “runners”  to collect the money at retail stores that offer money transfer services.

The complaint filed by the FTC said Indian call center coordinators managed the collection process through text messaging. They assigned a runner to each transaction and provided the consumer’s name, location, payment amount, and the transaction number, which the runners then used to obtain the money from the stores.

The federal alleges Treuhaft told runners to pick up the payments as soon as possible in order to avoid consumers that tried to cancel or reserve their transfer.

In addition to being banned from aiding or facilitating any telemarketers, the settlement imposes a $1.5 million judgment that will be suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. The full judgment will become due immediately if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.