You don’t need RoboCop to stop illegal robocalls
Updated: April 5, 2012 3:34PM
Dear Fixer: Please tell me how to stop all those calls I receive during the day and early evenings to lower my interest rates on my credit cards. I get at least three a week and when I press the key to tell them I want to be taken off their list, they hang up.
I only carry a balance on one of my cards, which is through a credit union. On the rest of my cards, I carry a zero balance.
One caller told me I gave permission for these calls when I signed on for a credit card. Is this true? Is there any action I can take to eliminate these calls?
Dear Gloria: These callers are annoying — and prolific. In a recent case against an illegal California “robocall” operation, the Federal Trade Commission found the scammers made approximately 2.6 billion (yes, billion!) calls to consumers over a 20-month period. More than 12 million people were tricked into talking with a sales agent who claimed to be calling about credit card interest rates or auto warranties.
We showed your letter to Steve Baker, the regional director of the FTC in Chicago. Steve said he’s gotten these calls himself, so he shares your frustration. His agency has already brought several big cases against robocall operations for violating the law by making pre-recorded sales calls to people without their written permission and calling people on the National Do Not Call registry.
He offered this info:
• First, if you haven’t already done so, register your number at donotcall.gov.
• Beware of urgent calls from “Rachel,” “Heather” or another innocuous-sounding name calling from “card services” or “financial services.” These are pre-recorded calls which then transfer consumers to a sales agent.
• The sales agents convince consumers to pay a hefty fee up front — anywhere from $500 to $1,500 — with a promise to lower their interest rate. Typically, all the consumer gets is a three-way call with the scammer calling the customer service number on the back of the credit card. The scammer asks the bank to lower the interest rate, the bank predictably says “no” and the consumer still has to pay a fee for this “service.”
• The calls seem to be placed randomly — so no, you did not authorize them when you filled out a credit card application. Steve says many people with perfectly good credit have been hit with these calls.
• If you get one of these calls, please complain. You can file online by going to FTC.gov and clicking on “file a complaint.” It’s easy to fill out the online form, and it helps the FTC find patterns of activity and build law enforcement cases.
Dear Fixer: I purchased two vouchers from a Groupon-like company called Dealfind. The company was offering vouchers for a limo ride to either Chicago airport for $29.
The limo company that was supposed to provide this service left me stranded twice — going to Midway and on my return. On the trip to the airport, I was scheduled for a 4 a.m. pickup for a 6 a.m. flight.
At 4:10, the driver had not arrived. When I called him, he reported that he was “just getting on Lake Shore Drive.” Given that I live in Lincoln Park, that meant he was at least 10 minutes away. I decided that if I waited for him, I would miss my flight. I caught a taxi to the airport, ended up running to the gate and was the last person to board the flight.
I naively gave the limo company a chance to redeem itself when I returned to Midway.
I called the driver after retrieving my bags and he said he would be at the middle island outside the terminal in 10 minutes. Roughly 25 minutes later, I was still waiting. I called again, and the driver impolitely told me to “stop talking.” Once again, I had to take a cab.
I have cellphone records to verify all of these times.
Dealfind’s website advertises a satisfaction guarantee: “If you feel disappointed with anything you bought from Dealfind, let us know within 30 days and we’ll return your purchase — it’s that easy.”
It’s not actually easy. I contacted customer support and heard back from a “customer satisfaction expert.” He said it was customary practice to contact the vendor and give them 24 hours to explain the situation. That was a week ago.
This seems like a straightforward situation. I purchased a service that was not delivered satisfactorily. Dealfind claims to guarantee my satisfaction.
Dear Charlie: First, bravo to you for speaking up. No matter how low the price, a deal certainly isn’t a deal if you wind up missing your plane.
It was apparent you had a legitimate beef. Why would anyone pay $29 each way up front for a limo and then pay another 70 bucks in taxi fares?
Happily, the people at Dealfind agreed. They offered you a choice of “Dealfind Dollars” equal to 110 percent of your purchase or a refund to your credit card. You chose the credit card refund.
The Fixer’s Greatest Hits
The Fixer will talk about how to avoid common rip-offs and save money, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. April 21 at the Schaumburg Township District Library’s central location, 130 S. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg. The program, funded through a financial education grant, is part of the library’s celebration of Money Smart Week. To register, go to stdl.org and click on “events” or call the library at (847) 985-4000 for more information.
Getting the runaround about a
consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer
where you’ll find a simple form to fill out.