Robocall me never

"Hey, I've never met you.
So don't get clever.
T
hat's my number.
Robocall me never."

When consumers are struggling with their finances, is there anything worse than getting solicitations from debt settlement outfits deceptively promising to reduce their unsecured debt by 50% or more?  Actually, there is something worse.  According to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, it’s when those bogus claims are conveyed via illegal (and annoying) robocalls to numbers on the Do Not Call list — and when the companies in question make unauthorized debits from people’s bank accounts.

Those are the allegations in the FTC's complaint against Jeremy R. Nelson and four companies he controlled:  Nelson Gamble & Associates LLC, Jackson Hunter Morris & Knight LLC, BlackRock Professional Corporation, and Mekhia Capital LLC.  The FTC has charged that in many instances, the defendant’s recorded sales pitches claimed to be “public service announcements.”  People were told that because President Obama wants to help consumers get out of debt, people can settle for 50% or less of what they owe.  To make matters worse, the defendants allegedly “spoofed” their identity by transmitting phony caller ID information — meaning that consumers couldn’t figure out who was calling.

In addition to the telemarketing calls, the defendants also pitched their debt relief services online.  According to one of the defendants’ many sites, “Nelson Gamble works with the utmost diligence to obtain the best possible outcome for our clients, with over $90 million of debt settled in the past 12 months — and over $800 million since our inception…”  The defendants claimed to use “proven tactical methods to settle debt by 50% to 80% of your total outstanding balances” and told people that “Typically, you can be free from debt in three years or less.”  In addition, they said lawyers would provide the services.

But according to the FTC, the defendants settled few, if any, debts for consumers.  And that part about being lawyers?  Not true, says the FTC.

The FTC alleges that the violations didn’t end there.  When consumers stayed on the line after the recorded sales pitch or called one of the numbers on the defendants’ websites, they were transferred to operators who asked for their Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and security information — like a maiden name or sibling’s middle name — all under the pretext that the information was needed to pull the person’s credit report or confirm their debt-to-income ratio.

What does the FTC say was really going on?  According to the complaint, Defendant Nelson instructed the telemarketers to send him the security and bank account information at the end of each day.  For people who signed up for the services, the defendants debited an up-front fee of $200 or more from their bank accounts within a few days of the phone call and before the defendants had settled any of their debts.  In numerous other instances, the FTC says the defendants debited money from the bank accounts of people who hadn’t enrolled in their services.

What about when people tried to cancel and discontinue the monthly debits?  The FTC says that in many cases, the defendants didn’t honor their requests and continued to debit money from their accounts.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ course of conduct violated numerous consumer protection laws, including section 5 of the FTC Act and multiple provisions of the Telemarketing Sales Rule, including the Do Not Call Registry, the ban on robocalls, sections making it illegal to transmit deceptive caller ID information, and sections added in 2010 making it illegal to accept fees upfront before settling consumers’ debts.  The complaint also alleges that the defendants violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act and Regulation E, which bans debits to consumers’ bank accounts on a recurring basis without their written authorization and without providing consumers with a copy of the authorization.  A federal judge in California has issued a temporary restraining order against the defendants.

In a related mark-your-calendar note, on October 18, 2012, the FTC is hosting a public summit in Washington, D.C., to examine issues surrounding the robocall problem.  Watch for the agenda soon.

 

15 Comments

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How do I get on the "Do Not Call" registry

Chuck, if you visit www.donotcall.gov, you can sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry.

I am more than a little fed up with the robocalls. I get anywhere from 10 to 30 calls a day and I am registered on the do not call list. The solicitors even call on cell phones soliciting everything you name it and they solicit it, and they are not very nice people when you tell them you are not interested. Emergency ID's, security for my house, help with health issues, which should be protected information, how do they get it anyway. I just don't understand what the "do not call list" is suppose to do, because it isn't helping me at all. I'm more than fed up, they call from morning until night. They don't just call one time. They call repeatedly in the matter of minutes or hours, the same numbers are calling 4 or 5 times a day, day after day. I just don't understand. What can I do to make them stop?

How do I report these robo calls!!! got a new number and put it on the DNC list but these robo calls are happening every single day.

How can I completely rid the "Robocalls" all together?...There are begining to be more of these calls than personal calls on our land line and both of our cell phones and to top it off is they seem to call at such inconvenient times such as early morning, meals, or even driving!
I would like to have more Info on how to rid of these calls completely!
gary

would love to know the answer to this myself

Completely agreed. There is nothing more annoting.

Way to go FTC...keep up the great work....I have to say you are spending those tax dollars wisely....

Thanks, Ms.Fair,

FTC, an Federal Organization that does a great job. A great investment of our tax dollars. Keep up the good work.

Aga

that is very funny lol

afraid of the phone calls now!!!!

Nice job, Lesley! Cute :)

Major business are selling your information to these vultures. Then they sell it to other vultures. Many operate out of the country.

If not for you, it would be a shooting gallery for these imposters. My guess is desperite times for desperite people. I'm glad the MOB is taken down a notch by FTC and other quality Agencies. Thanks again for intervening in our Nations behalf.

Tbrow a couple of tbese people in jail for 90 days and see if that changes anything. These calls and the claims they make regarding everything from who they are to why they say they're calling is a total lie and as such is an assault on and deprivation of someone's privacy as well as dangerous. Many people have elderly parents or children or relativea that need assistance and these calls interfere with one's ability to respond when emergencies arise. Let us hope they are not life threatening emergencies because if they ever are and assistance was deprived because of one of these calls, there would be ample motivation to sue the hell out of them.

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