Starting January 6, 2010, more than 356,000 checks will be mailed to consumers who were victimized by a fraudulent telemarketing scheme operated by Suntasia Marketing in Largo, Florida. An administrator working for the Federal Trade Commission will send approximately $14.1 million to consumers nationwide who were charged for one or more Suntasia programs, with the average consumer check totaling about $40. These are legitimate checks, and the FTC urges consumers to cash them.
The reimbursement checks stem from a December 2008 settlement in which the Suntasia defendants agreed to pay more than $11 million in cash to the FTC and also to turn over various property to be sold, including the Largo facility where they operated their business (see press release at: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/suntasia.shtm). According to the Commission, between 1999 and July 2007, Suntasia deceptively marketed a series of memberships in buyers’ and travel clubs to nearly one million consumers nationwide.
The FTC charged that Suntasia called consumers to offer supposedly “free” trial memberships in its programs. The company then deceived consumers into disclosing their bank account information and later debited funds from their bank accounts without authorization. Using what are known as negative-option programs, Suntasia took consumers’ silence or failure to cancel as acceptance of the offer and permission to debit funds from their accounts. In debiting consumers’ bank accounts, Suntasia used several different names, including: Distinct Advantage, Freedom Gold, Variety!, Credit Life, Capital Vacations, Agents Travel Network, Florida Passport, Travel Agents Go Direct, Floridaway, Freedom Ring ULD, and Lucid Long Distance.
Wachovia Bank, N.A., which processed many of the remotely created checks, or “demand drafts,” used in the Suntasia scheme, already has mailed out approximately $33 million in restitution to Suntasia victims (see press release at: http://www2.ftc.gov/opa/2009/01/wachovia.shtm). The FTC has been waiting to distribute its additional restitution to Suntasia victims until Suntasia’s Largo telemarketing facility and other property could be sold. It is possible that consumers who already received a restitution check from Wachovia may receive an additional check from the FTC claims administrator if some of their payments to Suntasia were processed by a bank other than Wachovia.
The Suntasia redress checks are valid for 45 days from the date they are issued. Consumers should call 1-800-427-5290 with any questions.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.