FTC targets scammers in federal crackdown on illegal robocalls

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CHICAGO, Ill. – A federal crackdown on robocalls targeted operations around the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill was among those discussing “Operation Call It Quits,” which resulted in 94 actions against illegal robocalling operations.

The crackdown included four new cases and three new settlements from the Federal Trade Commission. Collectively, those perpetrators were responsible for making more than a billion illegal robocalls to customers around the country. In addition to action from the FTC, 25 federal, state and local agencies brought enforcement actions.

Americans lost an estimated $10.5 billion to phone scams last year. In Indiana, Hoosiers reported losing more than $16 million. Those amounts are likely higher because many people—embarrassed, intimidated, or unaware they were scammed—didn’t report their losses.

The calls pitch everything from bogus credit card interest rate reduction services to fraudulent “investment opportunities,” health insurance and medical alert systems.

During a news conference in Chicago Tuesday, consumer Jeri Wilds spoke about her experience, saying she received a call from a company that claimed they could help get her out of credit card debt. In an initial call, she gave them personal information but declined their services. She said despite having no written contract, the company tried to open a credit card in her name and called her dozens of times demanding payment and threatening to send her to collections.

“Even when you think you’re smart … they talk fast, they make it sound real,” Wilds said.

Wilds started ignoring the calls and they eventually stopped. The FTC has since taken action against the company, which was operating in Florida.

“Every year, our office gets more consumer complaints about unwanted robocalls than just about any other issue,” Hill said.

Hill discussed a civil complaint against a Maryland company at the center of dozens of complaints from Indiana residents.

Anthony and Michael Valenti, doing business as American Health Services, called Hoosiers from Maryland to pitch insurance products. The calls began with prerecorded messages; of the residents who filed complaints with Hill’s office, all but one had registered for the Do Not Call List.

In addition, the Valentis lacked valid Indiana insurance licenses and never registered the business with the Indiana Secretary of State, Hill said.

According to Hill, the men and their company violated three Indiana statutes and could face up to $1.17 million in civil penalties in addition to fees and costs.

You can read the complaint below:

The FTC recommends consumers take the following actions if they receive an unwanted call:

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