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FTC helps victims of 'Heather' robocall scam

Refund checks are in the mail for thousands of people who fell for a recorded telephone pitch by “Heather from Card Services” and bought a worthless credit card rate reduction program. 

Thanks to a court judgment, the Federal Trade Commission can return the money that 4,468 people paid to the telemarketers behind this operation. Refunds range from $31 to $1,300 depending on how much money was lost in the scam. 

The Federal Trade Commission alleges that the company selling this rate reduction service did little to get better terms for customers and refused refunds to those who complained. 

This is just the latest in a long series of scams that use illegal robocalls – auto-dialed telemarketing calls that start with a recorded message. They promise an amazing product or service. But there’s always a hefty up-front fee. 

People across the country are now complaining about robocalls from “Rachel” who’s pitching a credit card interest rate reduction offer similar to the one “Heather” promoted. 

“In many cases, it’s actually the same recording being used by lots and lots of scammers,” said the FTC’s Will Maxson.  “They just get the audio file and use it.” 

Fraud investigators tell me the success rate for this type of scam is rather low. Few of the people called actually take the bait. But the cost per call is so little – thanks to Internet telephone technology – the bad guys can still make out like bandits. 

“It doesn’t take many people paying $500 or $1,000 to make a profit.” Moxson noted. “After all, they don’t have to invest in any sort of real product or service.” 

If you get one of these robocalls – hang up! The message may say you can push a number to be put on the company’s own do not call list. Don’t believe it. These companies don’t have such a list. They want you to push that button so they know you have a working telephone number. If you do respond in any way, you’ll end up getting more robocalls. 

The companies placing these illegal robocalls don’t care about federal telemarketing regulations or the national Do Not Call Registry. After all, they’re trying to steal your money. But the feds will try to go after them, so file a complaint.

“We’re aware that companies are still making these sorts of calls,” Moxson told me. “We’re investigating them and as we find them we will take action against them. ‘Rachel’ is certainly a top priority with us.” 

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Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook or visit The ConsumerMan website.

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