02/24/12 Search “telemarketing calls” and “Rachel” online and you will find more than 1 million sites that mention the robo-caller who offers credit card interest-rate reduction programs for up-front fees.
Consumers nationwide have been contacted by “Rachel at card member services” spurring federal and state investigations to find “Rachel’s” employer and the credit service organizations that profit from these illegal robo-calls. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the state is making headway in its own investigation after filing a lawsuit against Consumer Credit Group (CCG) of Florida which has been linked to the calls.
“The ‘Rachel’ auto-dialer service provides leads to companies like Consumer Credit Group to generate business,” Zoeller said. “We hope this lawsuit translates into fewer robo-calls to Hoosiers, but this will not be a cure-all. We believe there are numerous illegitimate companies that are paying for leads from the ‘Rachel’ callers. However, we will continue our aggressive efforts to find the source of the ‘Rachel’ calls and the companies that profit from them while victimizing Hoosiers.”
According to the lawsuit, one of the consumers received an automated call from “Rachel” and was transferred to a live operator who identified themselves as working for CCG. The consumer had no prior business relationship or communication with CCG and his home telephone number is on Indiana’s Do Not Call registry.
Credit card interest-rate reductions scams often originate with a robo-call promising to lower rates for an up-front fee ranging from $700 to $1200. These offers usually accompany a money back guarantee. Zoeller said these phony sales pitches claim consumers can pay off their credit card debt three to five times faster and save them thousands of dollars in interest and finance charges. These companies are offering services that consumers can already do for themselves at no cost, by calling the credit card company and asking for a reduced rate
Zoeller said his office received 14,148 Do Not Call or Auto-Dialer complaints in 2011 – that’s more than twice the number received the year before. More than 6,900 of those complaints were about calls from credit card service companies.
The Attorney General’s Office received 13 complaints against CCG with five of the victims losing a total of about $4,500 after paying the fees and not receiving services or a refund. All of the victims, including some registered on the state’s Do Not Call registry, reported receiving the illegal robo-calls that offered credit card interest-rate reduction programs.
The Attorney General’s Office filed lawsuits against:
- Consumer Credit Group and Proactive Planning Solutions of Arizona for violating Indiana’s Do Not Call Law and Auto-Dialer Act known as the robo-call law. Both companies violated the Credit Service Organization Act and Deceptive Consumer Sales Act by not obtaining $25,000 surety bonds with the state and collecting money upfront without performing any services.
- Debt Zero of California for collecting money up front, failing to provide services or a refund and operating without a $25,000 surety bond.
- Clear One Advantage of Maryland and Credit Arbitrators of Texas for violating the Credit Service Organization Act and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act by not obtaining the required surety bonds.
Since January of 2011, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 130 complaints from consumers who have been victimized by credit services agencies or debt settlement companies.
Zoeller said today’s five lawsuits are part of a broader effort to crackdown on credit service companies advertising in Indiana. He said the office is investigating 60 out-of-state companies to determine if they are complying with state law in their dealings with consumers.
In addition, the office has entered into settlements with American Debt Services, Capital Debt Relief, Credit Answers, Financial Management, MSI Credit Solutions and Silverleaf Debt Solutions.
To help protect consumers from falling victim to a credit card interest rate reduction scam the Attorney General’s Office offers the following advice:
- Be skeptical of any unsolicited prerecorded sales calls especially if your number is on the state or national Do-Not-Call list. If you receive a rate reduction robo-call just hang-up, because more than likely it’s a scam;
- Do not share your personal information, such as your social security number or credit card numbers, during an unsolicited sales call. Scammers will use this information to commit frauds against you or sell the information to other scammers; and
- If you receive a call like this or you think you might be a victim of a scam, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by visiting www.indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1.800.382.5516.
Zoeller is only one of three state attorneys general recently selected to serve on the nationally Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s working group. The task force, chaired by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, works across federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies and with state and local partners to strengthen efforts to address consumer-related fraud like credit card interest rate reduction scams.