Working in conjunction with Florida’s Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission announced the permanent end to a scam tactic that law enforcement authorities said used robocalls to sell “free” medical alert systems to seniors.
AG Pam Bondi and the FTC charged the Orlando-based Worldwide Info Services and related corporate entities and individuals with violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In a typical exchange, consumers would receive a robocall informing the recipients that a friend or family member had purchased a medical alert system for them. If a consumer pressed “1” for more information, a telemarketer joined the call and claimed that the system was recommended by various medical groups and, if accepted, the monthly monitoring fee would not begin until after the system was installed and activated.
Instead, consumers were immediately charged $34.95, the regulators said, regardless of whether the system was activated. The defendants focused their efforts on a vulnerable population, the FTC and AG added – elderly consumers who lived alone with limited or fixed incomes.
Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the defendants are prohibited from making robocalls and engaging in other telemarketing activity. They are also banned from making future misrepresentations about any products or services. The majority of a $23 million judgment (the total amount consumers paid for monthly monitoring services) will be suspended upon the surrender of various assets such as cash, cars, and a sailboat.
To read the complaint and final order in FTC v. Worldwide Info Services, click here.
Why it matters: Both the FTC and Bondi noted the need for law enforcement to protect older consumers and they emphasized the joint efforts of the two regulators. Calling the action “a great example of how federal and state law enforcement can work together,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, vowed that the agency will “continue to work with its state partners to protect senior citizens from pernicious schemes like this one.”