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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The Federal Trade Commission filed charges against operators of a telemarketing scheme aimed at defrauding seniors by offering phony prescription drug discount cards last week.
In the complaint, the FTC alleges that seniors across the United States were deceived into turning over their bank account numbers and used that information to take money from their accounts.
The operators, based in the United States and Canada, claimed they would send consumers a prescription drug discount card for a fee. The cards provided were already provided to senior for free by calling a toll-free number, the FTC said Monday in a news release.
The telemarketing scheme is another in a slew of scams targeting seniors. On Sunday, I wrote about scammers who are taking advantage of the confusion swirling around the Affordable Care Act. The majority of the people I spoke to for that story were seniors who had received a call from someone claiming they needed to send a new Medicare card.
The operators who are named in the complaint that are based in the United States include:
Last week I tried to reach Jennifer Carr, owner of Distinctive Cleaning, after Zerorez filed a lawsuit against her company. I didn't hear back from Carr in time for Sunday's column.
On Tuesday Carr said the Zerorez lawsuit against her company is simply an attempt to knock out the competition. Carr said Zerorez is going after a local family-owned company because “we can do a very similar job and it’s a threat to them.”
The lawsuit claims Distinctive Cleaning bought up Google search terms to trick customers looking for Zerorez and told customers that they used “exactly the same” cleaning process as Zerorez.
Carr said they use a “very similar” process as Zerorez and have a right to advertise that their business leaves no residue on customers’ carpets. She said company representatives always tell customers they are from Distinctive Cleaning.
Carr would not say that the company bought a “zerorez” Google AdWord, but said “if in the past we did use the trademark term ‘zerorez,’ it is not a search term that we currently put in there.”
“When we received the first cease-and-desist letter, I contact our Google AdWords manager, and she made sure that those words were out,” Carr said. Carr said the battle over the AdWords has already cost her company $20,000 in legal fees.
Zerorez owner Michael Kaplan responded to Carr's statements saying: "There is a great deal of trust involved in the relationships we foster everyday. To respect and protect this trust we found it necessary to pursue legal action only after multiple requests for Distinctive Cleaning to stop their deceptive practices were ignored."
Nations Lending Corporation, a mortgage originator based in Ohio, was fined $500,000 for sending advertisements that claimed they were coming from a government agency and created a false sense of urgency.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce found some advertisements used prominent images of Mount Rushmore, stating “this loan is guaranteed by the federal government." Some used “prominent” references to the ads as a “Federal Relief Advisory” or fonts similar to "a historic government document."
The majority of the fine, $450,000, was stayed so long as Nations Lending Corporation’s advertisements comply with state statutes.
To see the full enforcement order click here. Attached below is a copy of one of the advertisements, sent to Whistleblower by the Department of Commerce.
A California man has been banned from selling work-at-home opportunities after he misled his customers or didn’t give them any information at all, the Federal Trade Commission announced Monday.
Christopher A. Sterling, doing business as sterlingvisa.com, rebatedataprocessor.com and creditcardworker.com is also banned from selling other business opportunities covered by the FTC's Business Opportunity Rule.
Sterling falsely claimed that by paying him at least $50, a customer could make $75,600 per year processing as few as 15 applications daily for rebates or credit cards, according to an FTC complaint.
Whistleblower has been on the trail of Rachel from Cardholder Services for years. Rachel has been the voice behind millions of illegal robocalls made over the years, pitching credit card rate reductions.
Now, the companies and people behind one robocalling scheme that used the voice of "Rachel" from "Cardholder Services" and charged up-front fees for services never provided must surrender their assets and stop scheming, according to an announcement by the Federal Trade Commission Friday.
Several companies and two individuals, all associated with the Florida company A+ Financial Center, made millions of illegal robocalls offering to obtain a reduction in the credit card interest rate consumers were paying.
The companies called phone numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry and collected upfront fees of between $495 and $1,595 by promising rates as low as zero percent, the FTC said.
"The defendants did little if anything to help consumers lower their credit card interest rates," the FTC said.
The group is banned from robocalling, trying to sell debt relief services and making misrepresentations related to any sales attempts. The defendants may not try to collect money from past victims.
A $9.2 million judgment was entered against A+ Financial Center, LLC, Christopher L. Miano and Dana M. Miano and a handful of other businesses managed by the Mianos. The judgment will be suspended once they turn over all but $25,000 of their assets, including a 2007 Mercedes Benz Cl and two boats worth a total of about $62,000.
The original complaint was filed by the FTC in October in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the district in which the Mianos resided.
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