The Whistleblower blog was started in 2008. Look for posts by these contributors: James Eli Shiffer, Jane Friedmann, Brandon Stahl, Eric Roper and Alejandra Matos. | Check out the Whistleblower archive.

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Posts about Scams

Marketer banned from sending texts

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: February 10, 2014 - 6:26 PM

By Alejandra Matos

A Wisconsin marketer was permanently banned from sending unsolicited text messages to consumers after he sent millions of texts to people promising free gift cards and electronics, the Federal Trade Commission announced last week.

Jason Q. Cruz of West Bend, Wis., allegedly sent the text messages promising free iPads or $1,000 gift cards from major retailers, the FTC said.

Those who clicked on the links were taken to a website that requested their personal information and required them to sign up for multiple “risky” trial offers for “questionable products and services” that cost money or included recurring monthly charges, the FTC said.

The FTC sued Cruz in March, and the ban on future texts settles that lawsuit.

Scammers want you to call them back

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: February 5, 2014 - 5:29 PM

Think twice before returning a missed call from a number you don’t know.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota is warning against “one-ring phone scams.” 

The scheme works by robocallers letting the phone ring once, to show up as a missed call. 

Victims who call the number back are then connected to a paid adult entertainment service located overseas. The calls typical cost victims $19.95 for an international call fee, plus $9 or more per minute. 

The BBB said the scam calls usually come from outside the United States, but include area codes that appear as if they are regular long distance calls. 

The calls are coming in from area codes 268, 809, 876, 284 and 473.

'Free' Bieber tickets were a scam

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: December 17, 2013 - 9:38 AM

An offer for free Justin Bieber concert tickets did nothing more than sign up consumers for a monthly charge.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Lin Miao and Andre Bachman of California pitched “love tips,“fun facts” and celebrity gossip alerts sent through text messages to consumers. But the texts unknowingly cost customers $9.99 a month.

In one instance, the FTC said, a website told visitors that they had won free Justin Bieber tickets and needed only to fill out an online quiz to claim them. The tickets never arrived, and consumer phone numbers were signed up for the paid services.

The FTC sued Miao and Bachman in Central California District Court to stop the operation and recover money lost by consumers.

Rachel and Lisa, please don’t call us

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: December 4, 2013 - 5:12 PM

Minnesota may have a large number of residents registered on the National Do Not Call Registry, but that hasn’t stopped the illegal robocalls.

The Federal Trade Commission released its Do Not Call data book Wednesday and found Minnesota had the 8th highest registry enrollment in the country. The state also had 969 complaints per 100,000 residents, about average for the nation. 

Last week, Whistleblower reported that the FTC had reached a settlement with the final defendants in a “Rachel from Cardholder Services” robocall scam. Some of you called Whistleblower, saying they were still receiving these calls, often many times a day, but from someone named “Lisa.”

Have you complained about unwanted calls to the government? I want to hear from you. Comment below or you can reach me at 612.673.4028 or amatos@startribune.com.

'Rachel' robocallers reach settlement with FTC

Posted by: Alejandra Matos Updated: November 25, 2013 - 11:27 AM

Two more people and four companies have agreed to settle charges in the “Rachel robocall” scheme, the Federal Trade Commission said last week.

The Rachel scam, which used other names as well, called people, often on the do-not call list, to offer lower interest rates on their credit cards.

The six defendants, including Emory Holley, aka Jack Holley and Lisa Miller from Arizona, agreed to pay a partially suspended $11.9 million judgment for charging illegal upfront fees during telemarketing calls in which they falsely claimed they could reduce the interest rate on consumers’ credit cards.

There were 10 total defendants in the Rachel scheme, and four other defendants had already agreed to settled their charges in June. Those four had allegedly opened merchant and bank accounts in their names for processing consumer payments obtained through the calls.

Previously, Whistleblower was on a search for Rachel. Click here for some of our reporting.

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