North Carolina Department of Justice
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Court bars robo caller from calling NC, announces AG Cooper

Release date: 4/7/2009

Cooper took action to stop illegal calls that promised lower credit card rates for a fee

Raleigh:  A telemarketer that used unlawful robo calls to pitch lower credit card rates has been ordered to stop making any calls to North Carolinians and pay more than half a million dollars in fines, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Tuesday.

“Telemarketers that use illegal calls to try to take North Carolina consumers’ money should expect to pay up themselves,” Cooper said. 
 
Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul C. Ridgeway agreed Monday with Cooper’s request to permanently ban Possibilities Unlimited of Arlington Heights, Illinois from making telemarketing calls to North Carolina residents. The court also ordered Possibilities Unlimited to pay $572,000 in civil penalties for its illegal calls, $500 for the first violation of the law, $1,500 for the second, and $5,000 for each additional violation. 
 
Possibilities Unlimited made illegal robo calls to North Carolinians, including to several who had listed their numbers on the Do Not Call Registry to stop telemarketing calls. The prerecorded telemarketing messages used generic names such as Credit Card Services and Card Services to pitch lower credit card rates in exchange for a fee. 
 
People who got the calls say that after a recorded pitch they were told to press one number to speak to a live operator or another number to stop getting the company’s calls. The live operators often refused to tell consumers the company’s name, and consumers who pressed the number to stop future calls from Possibilities Unlimited kept getting the calls. Consumers who were connected to a live telemarketer were asked for their credit card number and permission to debit the card for a fee. 
 
Cooper filed suit seeking to shut down the calls in May of 2007, alleging that Possibilities Unlimited worked with United Savings Center of Tacoma, Washington to make robo calls to North Carolinians. The Attorney General’s Office previously won a consent judgment with United Savings Center in March of 2009 which requires the company to stop its unlawful telemarketing in the state and pay $25,000 in civil penalties. 
 
Robo calls are prerecorded telephone calls made using automated dialers. Under North Carolina law, prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls are illegal unless a live operator first asks if the consumer wishes to listen to the message.
 
Fortunately, none of the consumers who reported calls from Possibilities Unlimited and United Savings Center to Cooper’s office gave the telemarketers their personal financial information or their money. Unfortunately, other robo call groups using names such as Card Services are running a similar scam, Cooper warned.  They place their calls over the Internet using fake names and caller IDs which make the calls very difficult to trace. 
 
“Some of these callers are looking to make a quick buck, while others want to steal your personal information and use it to commit identity theft,” Cooper warned. “Never share your personal financial information with someone you don’t know who calls you over the phone, and be very skeptical of anyone who promises to cut your credit card rate or make your debts disappear for an upfront fee.”
 
To cut down on unwanted telemarketing calls, North Carolinians can join the Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number they wish to register or by visiting www.donotcall.gov.  More than five million North Carolina telephone numbers are currently on the list.
 
People who’ve joined the Registry but still hear from telemarketers can report them to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within the state or by filling out a complaint form at www.ncdoj.gov.
 

Contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413