The Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection has joined with Federal Trade Commission and the division’s law enforcement partners in a major crackdown on illegal robocalls. The initiative includes 94 actions targeting operations around the country that are responsible for more than 1 billion calls pitching a variety of products and services, including credit card interest rate reduction services, money-making opportunities and medical alert systems.
The joint crackdown, “Operation Call It Quits,” is part of the FTC’s ongoing effort to help stem the tide of universally loathed pre-recorded telemarketing calls. It also includes new information to help educate consumers about illegal robocalls. In addition, the FTC continues to promote the development of technology-based solutions to block robocalls and combat caller ID spoofing.
“We’re all fed up with the tens of billions of illegal robocalls we get every year,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s joint effort shows that combatting this scourge remains a top priority for law enforcement agencies around the nation.”
“Operation Call It Quits” includes four new cases and three new settlements from the FTC. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed two of the new cases on the FTC’s behalf. Collectively, the defendants in these cases were responsible for making more than a billion illegal robocalls to consumers nationwide. These actions bring the number of cases the FTC has brought against illegal robocallers and Do Not Call (DNC) violators to 145.
Utah’s Division of Consumer Protection will support the federal crackdown by providing consumer education tips on how to combat robocalls through social media, the division websites and news releases say.
“Robocalls continue to disrupt our daily lives with the aim to steal your money, or worse, — your personal information. Our goal is help educate consumers so they feel empowered with the latest information available to the public,” said Daniel O’Bannon, division director. “The Utah Division of Consumer Protection is grateful to the strong actions our federal and fellow state partners are taking against this deceptive industry.”
Some of the new cases being pursued by the Federal Trade Commission include:
First Choice Horizon LLC uses a maze of interrelated operations that used illegal robocalls to contact financially distressed consumers with offers of bogus credit card interest rate reduction services. The FTC contends many of the targeted consumers were seniors. According to the complaint, the defendants deceptively told consumers that, for a fee, the defendants could lower their credit card interest rates to zero for the life of the debt, thereby saving the consumers thousands of dollars on their credit card debt. Under the guise that the defendants were confirming consumers’ identities, the defendants tricked consumers into providing their personal financial information, including their Social Security and credit card numbers.
The FTC also alleges that First Choice did not disclose to consumers that they would have to pay substantial additional bank or transaction fees and that, in many instances, consumers who did not buy the services later found out that the defendants had applied for one or more credit cards without their knowledge or consent.
A company called 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle has used a combination of illegal telemarketing robocalls, live telephone calls, text messaging, Internet ads, emails, social media and live events to market and sell consumers fraudulent money-making opportunities. According to the FTC, the defendants have consistently made false or unsubstantiated claims about how much consumers can earn through their programs, often claiming that a typical consumer with no prior skills can make $5,000 to $10,000 in 10 to 14 days and $10,000 or more within 60 to 90 days of buying the program. In reality, the complaint states, consumers who bought the 8 Figure Dream Lifestyle program for between $2,395 and $22,495 rarely earned substantial income, typically lost their entire investment and often incurred significant loans and credit card debt.
According to the FTC’s complaint against Derek Jason Bartoli, the Florida-based defendant has been an active participant in the illegal telemarketing industry for several years, serving as the “dialer,” “information technology (IT) guy,” and at times the seller for various telemarketing companies, including companies that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies have sued. He provided services in his own name and in the names of Phoenix Innovative Solutions LLC, Marketing Consultation Solutions LLC and KimRain Marketing LLC.
Media Mix 365 LLC, doing business as Solar Research Group and Solar Nation, made illegal calls to develop leads for home solar energy companies. The FTC alleges that since at least 2015, Media Mix has called millions of phone numbers on the DNC Registry and has repeatedly or continuously called consumers with the intent of annoying, abusing or harassing them. The defendants allegedly called one number more than 1,000 times in a single year. The FTC alleges the California-based defendants were named in at least three other lawsuits, including two class action cases charging them with DNC Registry violations.
The FTC’s “one-stop shop” for consumers looking for information on what to do about robocalls and other unwanted calls can be found at ftc.gov/calls. In addition to updated articles and infographics, consumers will find three new short videos about stopping unwanted calls.