Canadian telemarketers have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that they fraudulently marketed and sold credit card loss protection and healthcare discount plans to US consumers in violation of federal law. Their telemarketing boiler rooms have been shut down, and they will pay $200,000.
According to the FTC’s complaint, six Toronto-based individuals and their companies targeted US consumers, telling them that their company was affiliated with credit card issuers or banks and that consumers needed to buy “credit card loss protection” in order to avoid being held fully liable for unauthorized charges on their credit cards. In reality, under federal law consumers cannot be held liable for more than $50 of unauthorized charges on their cards – consumers do not need to pay for this protection. Operating as “National Credit Card Security,” the defendants charged consumers $249, often without authorization. The only things consumers received were useless “anti-fraud” stickers to put on their credit cards, and forms they were supposed to fill out and return to the defendants, listing all of their account numbers.
The defendants’ second scheme, as described in the FTC’s complaint, targeted elderly US consumers with promises of large discounts on prescription drugs and medical services. Their telemarketers used a variety of deceptive tactics to get consumers’ money. They led consumers to believe they were calling from insurance companies or government agencies. They persuaded consumers to divulge their credit card or bank account numbers by stating that they already knew the numbers but needed to “verify” them. They misrepresented that consumers would receive a free trial period before being charged the $349 enrollment fee. They also charged many consumers without authorization, and ignored most requests for refunds. The Canadians operated this scheme under a series of different names, including “Med Plan,” “Global Discount Healthcare,” and “MDI.”
The defendants will pay $200,000 in consumer redress as part of the settlement. The order contains a judgement of $14 million, which is suspended based on the defendants’ inability to pay. If the court finds they misrepresented their financial status, they will be liable for the full amount. The settlement bars the defendants from making any misrepresentations about goods or services in the future, and from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
The FTC received invaluable assistance in this case from the Attorneys General of Missouri and New York, and from the Toronto Strategic Partnership, a cross-border fraud law enforcement partnership which, in addition to the FTC, includes the Competition Bureau of Canada; the Toronto Police Service – Fraud Squad; the United States Postal Inspection Service; the Ontario Ministry of Government Services; the Ontario Provincial Police – Anti-Rackets; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and the United Kingdom’s Office of Fair Trading.
The defendants covered by the settlement are STF Group, Inc.; STF Group; STF Group (Burlington); STF Group (Newmarket); Start to Finish Consulting Group, Inc.; Start to Finish Consulting Group; Start to Finish Marketing, Inc.; 1363883 Ontario Limited, doing business as STF Consolidated; Q-Prompt, Inc.; 487948 Ontario Limited; 1363942 Ontario Limited, doing business as National Credit Card Security Centre; Korn Land Corporation, doing business as National Credit Card Security; Med Plan, Inc., doing business as First Med, Inc.; Medical Discount, Inc.; Medplan Burlington; Medplan Mississauga; Medplan Newmarket; Medplan North York; Medplan Scollard; Chembe Management, Inc., doing business as Medplan Scarborough; Great Sailing Management, Inc.; Thunderchild Consulting, Inc.; SMAKK Consulting, Inc.; GTCQ, Inc.; Global Discount Healthcare Benefits, doing business as Global Discount Healthcare Benefits, Inc. and First Med, Inc.; 1108114 Ontario Inc.; 1349927 Ontario Inc.; Alex Korn; Allan Shiell; Sean Zaichick; Julian Shiell; Chris Quilliam; and Nicholas Bridges.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the stipulated final order was 5-0. The stipulated final order for permanent injunction was entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on July 21, 2006.
NOTE: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. A stipulated final order requires approval by the court and has the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the stipulated final order are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Guy G. Ward,
FTC’s Midwest Region