DAYTON, OHIO, June 19, 2009 - People across the U.S. and Canada are sounding off to your Better Business Bureau about incessant automated telemarketing calls promising to lower credit card interest rates. Not only do the calls violate U.S. and Canadian Do-Not-Call laws, but some companies behind the calls are scamming people by charging large upfront fees to negotiate lower interest rates with credit card companies, something people can do free.
In January, the White House reported credit-card debt increased 25 percent in the past 10 years, totaling $963 billion – with current per household credit card debt at nearly $9,000. Knowing so many families are drowning in debt, shady telemarketers offering financial assistance are taking full advantage of the situation. People have reported receiving calls as early as 3 a.m., on both cell and home phones, even when they’ve registered numbers with federal Do-Not-Call lists. They’ve also told your BBB calls continue despite requesting telemarketers to stop.
"Similar to telemarketing calls claiming your auto warranty is expiring, calls offering to lower credit card interest rates also seem to have complete disregard for federal laws," said John North, BBB president and CEO. "These telemarketers aren’t forthcoming about companies they’re calling on behalf of, but your BBB has identified some offenders by working with people who, unfortunately, paid for assistance in reducing their interest rates."
Your BBB has received numerous complaints about two Orlando-based companies, CSTR Solutions, Inc. and Genesis Capital Management and a Tacoma-based company, Mutual Consolidated Savings. All are behind at least some of the robocalls and promising to save people anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000 by negotiating lower interest rates with credit card companies.
Robocalls generally begin with recorded messages including statements like:
"There are no problems currently with your account, however it is urgent that you contact us concerning your eligibility for lowering your interest rates to as little as 6 point 9 per cent"or "This is our final attempt to reach you since you’ve not responded to our other calls to discuss your credit card debt."
The automated message invariably doesn’t include the company’s name, but may claim to be with card services or card holder services. Complainants note to your BBB they believe the calls were designed to deceive them into thinking their credit card companies were contacting them.
The initial recorded message instructs people to dial another number and be connected to a live person. The live operator usually starts the sales pitch by asking for the caller’s credit card number and whether he or she is interested in lowering interest rates. From there, the operator begins closing the sale, asking if the person is willing to pay – usually from $700 to $1,000 - to have the firm contact the credit card company and negotiate lower rates.
"The alleged negotiation undertaken by these companies can be as simple as calling the customer service number listed on the back of the person’s credit card and asking a customer service representative to lower the interest rate," John added. "Card holders are fully capable of talking to credit card companies on their own, for free, and getting similar results. They don’t need to pay any company a thousand dollars to negotiate lower rates on their behalf."
According to BBB complaints, companies are failing to uphold money-back guarantees and not refunding money when they’re unsuccessful in lowering rates.
Your BBB offers the following advice for people who receive robocalls from companies offering to lower interest rates:
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