Telemarketers selling dubious debt assistance plague consumers
Consumers across the U.S. have been sounding about incessant automated telemarketing calls. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on September 1st these prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls (robocalls) to consumers will be prohibited, unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls.
This now means that sellers and telemarketers making robocalls to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call. These new rules, however, do not prohibit calls that deliver informational recorded messages such as flight cancelations, delivery notices, or certain healthcare messages; robocalls from politicians, banks, telephone carriers, and most charitable organizations will also still be legal.
“This FTC action to reduce robocalls is great news for consumers who feel they are being bombarded with these automated phone calls,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
The Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers who elect to receive robocalls about messages that include statements like: “There are no problems currently with your account, however it is urgent that you contact us concerning your eligibility for lowering your interest rates to as little as 6 point 9 per cent.” or, “This is our final attempt to reach you since you’ve not responded to our other calls to discuss your credit card debt.” These automated messages invariably do not include the name of the company, but may claim to be with Card Services or Card Holder Services. These types of calls may be designed to deceive consumers into thinking their credit card company was contacting them.
“Lack of clear identification is simply the first deception by many these automated calling companies,” said Bernas.
“Some companies behind robocalls also may be ripping off consumers by charging large up-front fees to negotiate lower interest rates with credit card companies—something consumers can do on their own for free,” said Bernas. “It’s very important to look up any company you do business with on bbb.org and review their Report to help prevent getting ripped off.”
BBB offers the following advice for consumers who receive robocalls from companies soliciting business or donations:
- Never give personal information, including Social Security, bank or credit card numbers, over the phone to an unknown telemarketer. Always research the company first by reviewing its Reliability Report at bbb.org
- When considering any company offering any type of financial assistance, insist on getting a contract in which all terms and conditions are clearly explained before signing up or providing credit card or other payment information.
- Consumers can place their home phone number on the federal Do Not Call list by visiting www.donotcall.gov. If the consumer’s number is already on the list but continues to receive telemarketing calls—or is receiving robocalls on a cell phone—he or she can use the same Web site to report the incident to the FTC.
- Consumers who receive prerecorded telemarketing calls but have not agreed to get them should file a complaint with the FTC, either on the donotcall.gov Web site or by calling 1-888-382-1222.