In a scheme that can only be described as asking for trouble, scammers who pretended to be from the Federal Trade Commission allegedly tricked consumers into revealing their bank account information.
Suffice to say the FTC didn’t take the imposter lightly, swiftly winning a temporary restraining order shutting the entity down, preserving its records and expediting discovery.
“To anyone hell-bent on breaking the law by making illegal robocalls, transmitting phony Caller ID information, or impersonating a federal agency, we have two words for you: Stop now,” said FTC Consumer Protection Bureau chief David Vladeck in a news release. “The real Federal Trade Commission will come after you.”
The case against The Cuban Exchange Inc. was the agency’s 100th enforcing provisions of the Do-Not-Call registry – and this time, it was personal.
Based in Brooklyn, the company also known as CrediSure America and MyiPad.us allegedly placed illegal pre-recorded calls in violation of the FTC’s Telemarking Sales Rule. The company “spoofed” its caller ID to match the FTC’s toll-free consumer response phone number of 877-382-4357 or 877-FTC-HELP.
The recorded message instructed consumers to visit the website ftcrefund.com (or the identical website credisure.net) and give a “seizure number” of 123223.
The website claimed that the company could “expedite refunds you may not even know were owed to you” by the FTC – money supposedly derived from agency actions shutting down illegal telemarketing firms.
Rather than waiting “the usual 8 to 10 weeks” for the unexpected check to arrive, the company said it could secure refunds in 5 to 7 days. Consumers were directed to enter the seizure number (everyone got the same number, according to the FTC) and a treasure trove of personal information including bank account numbers. The company claimed to have helped more than 13,000 people obtain refunds, and said it would take a 5.5 percent fee for expediting the process.
“Defendants’ claims are false. They cannot expedite consumer redress from the FTC, nor can they receive or process refunds on behalf of consumers. Defendants simply place illegal robocalls and then attempt to dupe consumers into providing sensitive personal and banking information,” the FTC stated in its complaint filed on November 28 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Still, it was not exactly a slick operation. The error-filled website stated, for example, that “only those who are contacted are elijible” and “We apologies for any invonvience.”
According to court papers, the agency first became aware of the website on November 16.
On November 30, Judge Roslynn Mauskopt issued a temporary restraining order forbidding the company from making deceptive calls and shutting down its website, writing that “There is good cause to believe that Defendants have engaged in and are likely to engage in acts or practices that violate Section 5(a) of the FTC Act…and the FTC’s Trade Regulation Rule entitled ‘Telemarketing Sales Rule’…and that the FTC is therefore likely to prevail on the merits of this action.”
The company and its founder Suhayle e Rivera have yet to respond to the court proceedings.
Contact Jenna Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org.