by Kevin Allman
I don't have a landline or a car, and I've still gotten calls from these damned people. Turns out the problem is endemic, and the Feds are stepping in:
They used robotic dialers capable of sequentially calling every number in every area code across the United States.
They made hundreds of millions of phone calls to consumers, businesses, and government agencies, even to 911 emergency centers, unrestrained by laws barring such calls.
They touted "extended warranties" on automobiles, using marketing scripts and materials designed to mislead consumers into believing that their actual warranties were about to expire.
To keep from getting caught, they used an electronic trick called "spoofing" that displayed fake numbers on caller-ID systems. One bogus number was used so often that it was listed in more than 11,000 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission.
Those are among the allegations that the FTC made in lawsuits filed in federal court in Chicago yesterday against three companies it accuses of joining in a massive telemarketing scheme -- "an enterprise utterly permeated with fraud," the FTC said in court papers.
And they almost got away:
FTC officials said the dimensions of the scheme were not entirely clear, partly because the case was rushed to court after Wachovia Corp. inadvertently let slip to the defendants that investigators had demanded bank records.
Concerned that documents would be shredded and funds moved offshore, the FTC notified the companies yesterday of its plan to seek a restraining order, said Steve Baker, head of the FTC's Midwest regional office.
Within hours, a federal judge in Chicago issued a temporary restraining order against one of the companies, Transcontinental Warranty, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The order barred Transcontinental from making deceptive claims, froze its assets, and put the company under control of a court-appointed receiver.
Oh, yeah -- that opt-out choice the recording gave you?
The FTC said Transcontinental "heeded Dunne's advice, directing its telemarketers to simply hang up on consumers who ask to be removed from the calling list, without honoring such requests."
The FTC said Transcontinental's "motto posted on signs around the office is: 'Hang Up. Next.' "
Waterboard 'em all and let God sort 'em out!
Have you been bothered by these telemarketing car-warranty bastids? Worse: have they been harassing your elderly family or friends?