At the Federal Trade Commission’s request, a federal court has halted an operation whose telemarketers in Peru allegedly used deceptive and abusive tactics to sell products for learning English to Spanish-speaking consumers throughout the United States. The court froze the defendants’ assets pending resolution of the case.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants sold booklets, CDs, DVDs, tablets and a Spanish-English dictionary, and threatened to sue, arrest or jail consumers, or seize their homes, if they didn’t pay. They pretended to be affiliated with the government, centro de ayuda (non-governmental “help center”), well-known companies such as Walmart, or a Spanish-language radio station.
The defendants’ telemarketers allegedly “spoofed” phony caller IDs to get people to answer their phones, giving the impression that the calls were from emergency responders or people they had listed as references. They falsely told people they were specifically chosen for a language course and would receive personal instruction for $199 to $799, which they claimed was up to 80 percent off the regular price.
The telemarketers allegedly often told consumers they had won a Samsung or iPad tablet computer they could have by paying $200 for shipping and handling, taxes, insurance, or a warranty. But the tablets were generic brands and older models, and there was no insurance or warranty.
When consumers declined a sales pitch or canceled delivery, the telemarketers allegedly said they were lawyers or government officials and made threats for nonpayment. In some cases, even after consumers paid, the telemarketers kept calling and making false claims and threats.
ABC Hispana, Inc., ISB Latino, Inc., ABC Latina, LLC, Gonzalo Ricardo Bazán Jiménez and Milagros Raquel Urmeneta are charged with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The Commission seeks to permanently stop their allegedly deceptive conduct, prevent future law violations, and provide refunds to consumers.
The FTC thanks AYUDA for bringing this matter to the FTC’s attention.
For consumer information about dealing with phone fraud, see the FTC blog Phone Scams. To stay informed about fraud, sign up to receive FTC Scams alerts at consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. All of the FTC’s consumer education information is available in Spanish at consumidor.ftc.gov.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 3-0. The FTC filed the complaint and the request for a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on February 13, 2017.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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