Thursday, February 21, 2008

Con artists in desperate need of money

Although I've gone for the last several years with extremely few illegal prerecord telemarketing calls, I've received three to my cell phone in the last three weeks, all scams. (I wonder how many of these people were working in the mortgage business until recently?) Two of them came from faked caller IDs that look like UK telephone numbers (starting with +44), but which appear to actually be from Florida, a popular location for all kinds of scammers. The first call, on January 30, came from 44-207-490-6113and was selling auto warranties, no doubt at far above market prices, and was phrased in such a way as to attempt to deceive the recipient into thinking they needed to renew an existing warranty that is expiring. When I got to a human operator and asked to be put on their do-not-call list, the woman hung up on me. I need to learn to be more subtle in my questioning to get more information from these con artists.

The second call, on February 12, gave caller ID of 866-526-9732, and said that I had won a no-catch, all-expenses-paid vacation for two, and asked me for my name and number so that I could be called and told where to pick it up. Unfortunately, it hung up on me while I was trying to provide a fake name and real phone number, so that I could identify the caller and sue them.

The third call, today, gave caller ID of 44-207-414-4370 and was offering a credit card deal to "reduce my interest rate." Again the wording expressed urgency about a limited-time offer and made it sound like it was with regard to a card I already hold. This time, I asked the human operator (after waiting quite some time to get one) what company he's with. I had to ask three times--he kept repeating his script about "any Mastercard or Visa," and I kept saying "no, what company are YOU with." Finally, he said "United Debt Aid," which is no doubt a fake name. I asked him to put me on their do-not-call list and again was hung up on as I was telling him he was working for a bunch of criminals. I didn't get a chance to ask for a written do-not-call policy from any of these three, but I'm sure they don't have them since they're violating the law in several ways already. Prerecord calls with advertising to cell phones are flat out illegal, just as prerecord calls with advertising to residential phones is illegal (without an existing business relationship, according to the FCC, which has incorrectly added an exception not present in the actual statute). So is falsifying caller ID information, so is failing to identify the business calling or on whose behalf the call is being made. So is failing to put me on their do-not-call list, and so is failing to send a written do-not-call policy upon request.

If anybody happens to come across more information that might identify who is behind these calls, let me know--I'd love to sue them.

UPDATE (February 25, 2008): I got another auto warranty one today, Caller ID said 442074791697 and it began "Your auto warranty has expired" and claimed they had been trying unsuccessfully to contact me via mail--two lies in the first two sentences. I pressed 1 to talk to a live operator, who immediately asked me for the year and make of my car. I asked what company is providing the warranty, and he hung up on me. Apparently any questioning at all is reason for these scammers to proceed to the next call recipient.

UPDATE (March 27, 2008): I received two more of these in quick succession--one on March 17 (auto warranty call from 505-217-2684) and one on March 19 (credit card rate reduction call from 305-654-1842).

ConsumerAffairs.com has a story about ripoff auto warranties sold by companies in St. Louis.

Verizon Wireless has filed a law suit against John Does to go after these auto warranty calls.

UPDATE (April 7, 2008): Another auto warranty one, from 305-672-6663.

I believe that at least some of these calls are coming from businesses run by former associates of Fax.com, a defunct broadcast fax and prerecord telemarketing business that received a $5,379,000 fine from the FCC in 2002 which was never collected, and was successfully sued by the D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling for $2.3 million in 2003, which I believe was also never collected. The legal system is not good at dealing with these sorts of criminals, because it's all being left to civil enforcement, when these are the kind of people who need to be thrown in jail.

UPDATE (April 10, 2008): Another from "Heather at account services," caller ID 561-482-7092, for credit card rate reduction. The human being I spoke with confirmed that she's in Boca Raton, FL--on a previous call the company was identified as "United Debt Aid" in Boca Raton.

UPDATE (August 11, 2008): There's a wealth of information about these calls and who's behind them at the Stopping Heather Forums.

15 comments:

Jay said...

I got a call with no one on the end from the 4370 number this evening. Hugely inconvenient. Who is your provider?

Jim Lippard said...

Not sure it matters--I'm with Alltel, with a number ported from Verizon.

laughin said...

UPDATE (February 25, 2008): I got another auto warranty one today, Caller ID said 442074791697 and it began "Your auto warranty has expired" and claimed they had been trying unsuccessfully to contact me via mail--two lies in the first two sentences. I pressed 1 to talk to a live operator, who immediately asked me for the year and make of my car. I asked what company is providing the warranty, and he hung up on me. Apparently any questioning at all is reason for these scammers to proceed to the next call recipient.

Ditto just now. I looked up the number and found your blog.

Jim Lippard said...

Thanks for stopping by... I may have to actually use the credit card and buy one of these warranties to find out who's behind it, then cancel within three days to avoid the charges. I've got several thousand dollars in TCPA claims against these guys now.

Dan Ellis said...

I just got a call from the +442074791697 number. I didn't answer it, then ran a Google search and found this blog.

They didn't leave a message.

Please let me know if you ever get any more detail about this.

Daina said...

I got a call from that number as well saying that my warranty has expired. I forwarded it to my husband who is an auto dealer to see if it is legit.

Mithandra said...

I just got a call from the same +44 number, didn't answer, didn't get a voicemail, and found this blog after a Google search. I'm glad I didn't answer, but now I want to know how they got my number.. :\

Dan Ellis said...

I *HIGHLY* doubt the call is legit.

My only vehicle is a '99 Saab that I bought used. As such, it didn't come with a warranty that *COULD* expire.

Grrr!!

Jim Lippard said...

There is no way this is legit, and they "got your number" by calling all numbers in an area in sequence with an autodialer.

These guys are con artists running a boiler room operation.

Mark07 said...

I just received a call from 442-074-791697. It was about a warranty. I wasn't thinking and I pressed 2 to disconnect instead of just hanging up, and then it said your number has been removed (or something of that nature). Do you guys think that pressing a number could give them any type of information? I'm starting to get a little worried that I shouldn't have pressed any number or anything.

Jim Lippard said...

Odds are that pressing 2 didn't do anything at all. If it did, it didn't give them any information that they didn't already have (i.e., your telephone number).

jimbo said...

Just received a call at 9pm est. I pressed #1 to speak with a rep to "renew" my auto insurance. When the man answered, he didn't say his name or the company name, just asked, "whats the year and make of your vehicle", and I replied by asking him if he had my information on his computer screen, if he could see my phone number, and he said, "no, just a phone", like he was the one that was being inconvenienced, then he hung up on me!!! This is wrong, and it wasn't even my home phone, it was my cell phone that he called, which costs money per minute of airtime usage!! Someone needs to stop this scam, IF THEY CALL YOU, JUST GO ALONG WITH IT AND FIND OUT "POLITELY" WHAT THE NAME OF THE COMPANY IS!!!!!!! Then please post it on this message board so others know, and can do something about it. I hope Lippard does decide to use his credit card and purchase it then sue the company. I am with AT&T, and live in Pennsylvania, are you guys from this area, too, or just all over the U.S.?? Thanks, good luck.

Mark07 said...

Verizon, and Philadelphia here.

davnjax said...

I just got the call for the lower interest rates. i also asked for the company name and was told "United Debt Aid". Googling the business brought me to this blog. The operator (a man) asked if I wanted the lower interest rate. I asked him on what card and he repeated the question. The second or third time he asked me wether or not I understood the question. When I asked who was really calling, he hung up. Good luck on the lawsuit. If they have taken anyone with this scam they deserve more than just that.

davnjax said...
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