Court Action Requires Companies to Comply with Telemarketing Sales Rule and Halt Deceptive Practices Against English and Hispanic Consumers
The Federal Trade Commission has charged Platinum Universal, LLC, its principals, and its successor, Pulsar Data, Inc. with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”) in connection with the offer of credit cards to consumers for an advance fee. The FTC alleges that the Hollywood, Florida-based defendants falsely represented to English- and Spanish-speaking consumers that they would obtain a credit card after paying the defendants a fee, when, in fact, consumers did not receive a credit card. The defendants have stipulated to a preliminary injunction, which was entered by the Court on November 18, 2003. The injunction, which will be in effect until the court issues a final ruling on the FTC's allegations, addresses the practices alleged in the FTC's complaint. The injunction will prevent the defendants from misrepresenting that after paying the defendants a fee, consumers will or are likely to receive a credit card; from requesting or receiving payment of a fee in advance of consumers obtaining a credit card, when the defendants have guaranteed or represented a high likelihood of success in obtaining or arranging the acquisition of a credit card for such consumers; and from failing to comply with the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Under the terms of the injunction, the court appointed Gerald Wald to monitor all of the past, present and future activities, assets and financial transactions of the corporate defendants. Accordingly, the Monitor shall have unfettered access to all information he deems necessary to carry out his duties as outlined in the order.
The FTC’s complaint names as defendants Platinum Universal and Pulsar Data, both doing business as Universal Card Services and Universal MasterCard (collectively “Platinum”), and Jeffrey A. Ullman and Steven M. Ketover. The complaint alleges that the defendants offer guaranteed, pre-approved “Universal MasterCard” credit cards through cold calls and advertisements on television, radio, and over the Internet, including ads directed at the Hispanic community. The defendants tell consumers that if they pay a one-time processing fee in advance, they will receive a credit card with a credit limit up to $2,500, regardless of credit history and without a credit check, according to the FTC. The fee ranges from $99 to $200. Consumers who pay the advance fee, according to the FTC, do not receive the promised credit card. Instead, some consumers received a “stored value” card – a reloadable prepaid card rather than an extension of credit – while others receive nothing at all. In some instances, the defendants send instructions to consumers on how to obtain the stored value card. None of the consumers receive the promised “Universal MasterCard” credit card, the FTC alleges.
The FTC alleges that the defendants violated the FTC Act by representing falsely to consumers that they would obtain a credit card after paying the defendants a fee, when, in fact, consumers did not receive a credit card. The Commission also alleges that the defendants violated the TSR by requesting or accepting a fee in advance of the consumers obtaining the promised card and by falsely promising consumers that they would receive a credit card.
To help consumers avoid advance fee credit scams, the FTC has developed a “Facts for Consumers” document that is available on the Commission’s Web site, in both English and Spanish, as a link to this press release. The FTC warns consumers:
- That legitimate lenders never "guarantee" or say that you are likely to get a loan or a credit card before you apply, especially if you have bad credit, no credit, or a bankruptcy.
- Never give your credit card account number, bank account information, or Social Security Number over the telephone or Internet, unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is needed.
- If you don't have the offer in hand -- or confirmed in writing -- and you're asked to pay, don't do it. It's fraud and it's against the law.
The Commission vote authorizing staff to file the complaint in the federal district court was 5-0. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, in Fort
Lauderdale, on November 6, 2003, under seal. The court granted the FTC’s request for a temporary restraining order on November 10, 2003.
The FTC received assistance in its investigation from the BBB of Southeast Florida, the BBB of West Florida, the United States Postal Inspection Service Florida Division Headquarters and the Hollywood Police Department.
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 complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint 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, 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. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs
Barbara Anthony, Ann Weintraub or Elvia Gastelo
FTC Northeast Region - New York
(FTC File No. 032-3143)
(Civil Action No. 03 61987)