Payment Card News

Fraud Rip-Off

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You know it is a cruel world when you get ripped off on insurance that is supposed to protect you from rip-offs. The purveyors of a well-organized scheme designed to defraud consumers through the sale of credit card protection insurance and debt consolidation programs were shut down this week by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Assets were frozen and a restraining order issued against Mark E. Wilson, the sole owner of all eight corporate entities used in the alleged fraud. The FTC contends that the defendants, when marketing credit card protection services, misrepresented their identity to imply an affiliation with consumers’ credit card issuers and used scare tactics to market their programs, telling consumers that their credit card numbers were accessible to criminals via the Internet, and that unless they purchased protection services, they could be held liable for unauthorized charges if thieves gained access to this information. The defendants typically charged $299 for their protection services. When marketing debt consolidation services, the defendants allegedly told consumers that for $397 they would obtain a low-interest loan that could be used to consolidate their credit card debt. In reality, all consumers received was a list of banks offering low-interest credit card loans.The eight corporations used for the alleged fraud included three Canadian based entities OPCO International Agencies, Inc., Fraud Watch Services, Inc.; and Central Corporate Services. The other five entities were based in Nevada and include American Fraud Watch Services, Inc.; Customer Services International Nevada, Inc.; Debt Services International, Inc; and Global Horizons, Inc.
The FTC’s Office of Consumer and Business Education has developed three products regarding credit card “protection” offers and the use of credit cards in general. Each is available from the Commission’s Consumer Response Center and from the FTC web site at http//www.ftc.gov. The first is a consumer alert on the general issue of credit card loss protection offers. It cautions consumers “Don’t buy the pitch-and don’t buy the ‘loss protection’ insurance.” The second is a bookmark designed to help consumers understand their rights concerning credit card billing procedures, the Fair Credit Billing Act, and receiving credits when billed items are in dispute. The third, a brochure in the Commission’s “Facts for Consumers” series, provides more detailed information on fair credit billing, including the types of disputes covered, what to do if you think your bill is incorrect, and other important consumer billing rights. The address for the FTC’s Consumer Response Center is Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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