She calls him almost every day. “This is Rachel from Cardholder Services,” the calls say.
It’s a robocall recording that Phoenix resident Joe Hopper says he has gotten for years.
“It’s always Rachel,” said Hopper. She’s offering services to help lower your interest rate.
If you say you’re interested in the service, you’ll be connected to a real person. But, the first thing they’ll need is your credit card number. That’s so they can find out if you qualify for their services, they say.
But, turn over your credit card number, and you’re in trouble, according to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
“They check it on the spot to determine how much you can afford or how much you can put on your credit card, and they charge you anywhere from $500 to $1,500,” he said.
STATE AND FEDERAL LAWSUITS
Horne joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in suing some of the businesses behind these illegal robocalls late last year.
In the state’s lawsuit, Horne accuses half a dozen companies of violations of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act, Telephone Solicitations Act, and Credit Services Act for trying to get consumers to buy into a “credit card interest rate reduction scheme that has defrauded thousands of consumers nationwide out of millions of dollars through illegal robocalling,” the suit says.
The suit is part of a larger sweep of robocall operations by the FTC last year that shut down five companies based in Arizona and Florida that were all making “Rachel” robocalls.
The suit shut down one Mesa business for its part in the scheme before we could confront the telemarketers behind it. Now, there is a notice on the empty building saying ELH Consulting, LLC (doing business as Proactive Planning Solutions), Purchase Power Solutions, LLC, Allied Corporate Connection, LLC and Complete Financial Strategies, LLC has been placed under temporary receivership due to the lawsuits.
But, we did track down one of the business’s owners, Emory “Jack” Holley IV, outside of his Chandler home.
He told us he and his businesses had done nothing wrong – “There was zero robocalling ever done by our company,” he said. He also denied his company had ever intentionally called anyone on the National Do Not Call Registry.
But, we found Holley has been in trouble before. Last year, the Mississippi Public Service Commission found, he and his partner Lisa Miller’s businesses violated the state’s do-not-call law more than 1,000 times and fined them a record $5.7 million.
Holley is fighting those charges, as well as the FTC’s charges and those from the Arizona Attorney General.
The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office also settled with one of Holley’s companies, Allied Corporate Connections, after accusing the company of charging advanced fees for credit services that they say were never provided.
Now, Holley says the FTC has got the wrong guy and defends his businesses. “We helped clients learn how to manage their credit better, we did software with an educational program, and we showed people how to manage their finances better,” he said, “and we were very good at it.”
THE CALLS DON’T STOP
But, despite the lawsuits, Hopper is still getting “Rachel” robocalls.
“If they agreed to stop doing it, then Rachel’s working for somebody else and she took her recording with her,” he said.
Attorney General Horne says Hopper may be right. “There could be other companies making Rachel calls,” he said.
The Attorney General’s Office told us “Rachel” and her recording can be bought and used by any company making calls like this.
In the meantime, Hopper will keep practicing his own unique way of screening calls.
First, he makes sure there’s no sound in his house. Then, “I answer the call, and I watch the countdown seconds and, within about 10 seconds from the time I answered the call,” he said, “the call drops off.”
Hopper is hoping this practice will eventually convince whoever’s on the other end of those calls that his number is no good.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
It can seem impossible to stop calls like this, but you can slow them down by signing up all of your phone numbers for the National Do Not Call Registry.
And, if you do get a robocall, you can report it to the FTC or the Arizona Attorney General . Keep the phone number they called from and try to ask what company is making the calls, if you get a hold of a person.
The Attorney General’s Office told us the only way they were able to track down the companies behind these calls, though, was through the credit card transactions for those customers whose cards were charged.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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