Usually we lay out the facts of a case and then summarize what we see as the take-away tips for business. But this time we’re switching things up. Here are the two bottom-line messages from the FTC’s ongoing action against The Cuban Exchange: It’s a Bad Idea to use robocalls to impersonate familiar groups in an effort to trick people into turning over their bank account info and other sensitive data. And it’s a Really Bad Idea when the group you impersonate is the Federal Trade Commission.
According to a lawsuit the FTC filed in federal court, that’s what the defendants were up to. The complaint alleges that the defendants robocalled people, urging them to visit a site called ftcrefund.com with a phony “seizure ID number.” The Caller ID transmitted with the calls was 877-382-4356 – the 877-FTC-HELP number the agency has publicized for consumers. Once people went to the ftcrefund.com site, they were told the website was run by “a firm specialized [sic] in FTC seizures collection. But don’t worry, we work for you.”
Offering what purported to be a short-cut to getting a faster refund from an FTC case, the site directed people to: “1. Enter your Siezure [sic] ID. 2. Enter your depository information. 3. Wait 5 to 7 busienss [sic] days.” Once people followed those directions, they were told they had a $399.99 refund coming to them, less a 5.5% fee for speeding up the refund process.
If people looked for contact information on the website, they were told, “We apologies [sic], due to high levels of contact requests, we only allow email contact. Please do not write to ask if you are elijible [sic] for a refund, only those who are contacted are elijible [sic]. Should we need more information from you, one of our experts will enter in contact with you. Thank you and we apologies [sic] for any invonvenience [sic].”
The FTC’s lawsuit alleges violations of Section 5, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and Do Not Call. A federal judge in New York has issued a Temporary Restraining Order, pending further court proceedings.
This isn’t the kind of operation your clients would be involved in (we hope). But we’re asking for your help as The Tech Dude or The Computer Gal among your friends and family to warn them about this. Please let them know that:
- We don’t make illegal robocalls. The FTC sues people who make illegal robocalls.
- Consumers never have to pay to get refunds from FTC cases.
- The FTC never direct deposits refunds from FTC cases and will never ask for your bank account information to process a refund.
- We’ll cop to an errant typo here and there, but we’re much better spellers than that.