AG Cooper blocks telemarketer from pitching phony government grants
Consumer Grants USA promised NC consumers thousands of dollars in grants but failed to deliver
Raleigh: A Florida telemarketer that took North Carolinians’ money but did not help them win government grants as promised has been ordered to quit doing business in the state, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
“This telemarketer cloaked its scam in a government grant offer to make it appear more legitimate to people,” said Cooper. “Thanks to consumers who reported it to us, we saw through the scam and now we’ve put a stop to it.”
Cooper filed suit this week against Consumer Grants USA, Inc. of St. Petersburg, Florida and its president and vice-president, James T. Lovern and Leo J. Corrigan, charging that the company made illegal telemarketing calls, deceived North Carolina consumers and lead them to believe they had been specially selected to get government grants.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Evelyn W. Hill today granted Cooper’s request to stop Consumer Grants from making calls to or taking money from North Carolinians while Cooper’s case against the telemarketer goes forward. The suit also seeks to permanently bar Consumer Grants from deceiving consumers and illegally telemarketing in the state and to make the company pay consumer refunds and civil penalties.
As alleged in the complaint, Consumer Grants offered North Carolina consumers government grants worth thousands of dollars in exchange for a fee. Telemarketers working for the company began their pitch by asking consumers if they paid taxes and had at least $239 in the bank, then announced that the consumers qualified for government grants or were guaranteed to receive them. Consumers were typically told they would win grants of $8,000, or in some cases as much as $30,000, if they paid a fee of $199 to $300. If the grant didn’t materialize, consumers were told they would get their money back.
Cooper contends that instead of receiving a grant as promised, people who paid the fee either got nothing or a list of agencies that offer grants. When customers asked for a refund, they were regularly turned down or told that they first had to apply for and be rejected by three of the grants on the list.
More than 100 people complained to Cooper’s office about the telemarketing scheme. The case against Consumer Grants was brought by the Attorney Generals’ Telemarketing Fraud Prevention Project, funded by the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The company is also facing action by attorneys general in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois and North Dakota.
“Telemarketing fraudsters are always coming up with new twists and tricks to take your money,” Cooper said. “Don’t fall for their gimmicks. And don’t forget that you can still sign up for the Do Not Call Registry to cut down on unwanted sales calls.”
In addition to busting fraudulent telemarketing outfits, Cooper’s office continues to go after companies that don’t respect people’s wishes not to get calls at home. Cooper has recovered more than $175,000 from violators of the Do Not Call Registry and is continuing to pursue cases against several others.
To reduce unwanted telemarketing calls, North Carolinians can place their home or cell phone on the Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number they wish to register or visiting www.donotcall.gov . Consumers whose numbers are on the list can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.