As if the pre-election robo-calls in Maryland aren’t bad enough, “Rachel from Cardholder Services” is still annoying people with scam phone calls – despite an announcement just yesterday from the Federal Trade Commission that they had halted operations at five companies they say make the illegal “Rachel” calls.
“‘Rachel’ . . . is public enemy Number One,” FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz thundered, in a statement released yesterday announcing the federal court order they obtained.
But Rachel is not exactly quaking in her boots.
Dialing from a 213 area code (which is Los Angeles), she called me just now and told me I was eligible to “drastically lower my interest rates!”
“Rachel” calls almost daily to tell me, probably you and millions of other American about this wonderful opportunity.
But the FTC alleges in its complaint that it’s no opportunity at all. After collecting an up-front fee, the companies behind “Rachel” do little if anything to fulfill their promises.
The fee ranges from several hundred dollars to $3,000, the FTC said. In some cases, consumers are charged without their consent. In others, the telemarketers do not disclose that there is a fee.
The FTC has been warring with robo-callers in general, shutting down companies responsible for 2.6 billion calls since the calls were outlawed in 2009 . Last month, they held a Robo-Call summit to underline their resolve.
So how is it, after all this enforcement effort, that Rachel is still on the loose?
Mitchell Katz from the FTC office of public affairs, said there are many companies involved in the Rachel calls and the Commission is continuing to try to root them and other phone spammers out.
“It’s an incremental thing,” he said, “you can’t get them all in one shot.”
What about political robo-calls, I asked.
“Political calls are specifically exempted from the law,” Katz answered.
That was going to be my kicker, as they say in the news biz.
Then, the phone rang and it was, according to caller ID “000-000-0000.”
It was a fellow who said he was from “Mortgage Solutions.” In Pennsylvania, he said, when I asked where he was.I told him I was finishing up a story. Was there a number where I could reach him to call back?
He hung up.