The Federal Trade Commission is mailing 16,590 refund checks totaling more than $700,000 this week to consumers who lost money to a “Rachel from Cardholder Services” scheme that allegedly promised to reduce the interest rate on consumers’ credit cards for an up-front fee. Each check will be for $42.95.
The FTC has also gone after "Rachel" and friends for allegedly making illegal robocalls to consumers.
“At the FTC, Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy number one,” said then-FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in November 2012 “We’re cracking down on illegal robocalls by bringing law enforcement actions and pursuing technical solutions to the problem.”
The refunds are being made from funds collected through a November 2013 settlement with six corporate defendants, including ELH Consulting d/b/a Proactive Planning Solutions, and Purchase Power Solutions, LLC and a June 2013 settlement with four other defendants, which include Key Tech Solutions, LLC, d/b/a Key One Solutions, and 3Point14 LLC, d/b/a Elite Planning Group.
Analytics, the redress administrator for this matter, will mail refund checks to eligible consumers this week. The checks must be cashed within 60 days of the date they are issued or they will become void. Recipients should note that the FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide information before redress checks can be cashed.
In 2012, the FTC reported receiving more than 200,000 complaints each month about telemarketing robocalls, including calls from “Rachel” that pitch consumers with a supposedly easy way to save money by reducing their credit card interest rates. After collecting an up-front fee, however, the FTC said the companies do little if anything to fulfill their promises.
The FTC alleged in the robocall cases that the defendants place automated calls to consumers, typically with a prerecorded message from “Rachel” or someone else from “Cardholder Services.”
The calls purport to have an “important message” regarding an opportunity to reduce high credit card interest rates. Consumers are urged to “press 1” to connect with a live representative, or “press 2” to discontinue getting such calls. Consumers who press 1 are connected to live telemarketers.
According to the FTC, consumers who reach a live telemarketer are then pitched allegedly deceptive offers to have their credit card interest rates substantially reduced, sometimes to as low as 6.9 or even zero percent.
Most consumers have no way to screen the calls using Caller ID, as the incoming number allegedly is often “spoofed,” or displayed as a false number. In many cases, the name displayed on the Caller ID is so generic, such as “Card Services,” that it provides little information about who is calling.