Posted by Tamara
A judge has ordered several telemarketing firms, including one in Wyoming, to permanently stop doing business in violation of Wyoming fraud laws and pay $1 million in civil penalties, restitution, and fees and costs, the State Attorney General announced today. The judgment involves companies that offered bogus “Government Grants” to unsuspecting consumers.
The judgment, issued by Judge Janet L. Sanders, stems from an October 2005 lawsuit AG Reilly filed against Consumer Grants USA, Inc., a Florida company, along with James T. Lovern, its president, and Leo J. Corrigan, its vice president; Freedom Grants, Inc., a Nevada company, and Evelyn Hernandez, its president and director; and Your Choice, Inc. a Wyoming company.
The lawsuit alleged that the companies used deceptive telemarketing tactics to swindle consumers out of hundreds of dollars in violation of Wyoming fraud laws, usually by withdrawing the funds directly from consumers’ bank accounts. Consumer Grants and Freedom Grants used telephone solicitors who claimed to be calling on behalf of the United States government or government affiliated organizations, using fake names, such as “Government Grant Award Company” and the “Government Grant Processing Center.”
The telemarketers told consumers that they had been “chosen” or “approved” for a government grant, typically for as much as $8,000. They then convinced the consumers to authorize withdrawals from their bank accounts to cover “processing fees” of typically, $249 to $259. After the fees were withdrawn, the only thing the consumers received in return was a booklet with listings of available government grant programs.
The State Attorney General advises consumers that the government never solicits applicants for grants or loans over the telephone, will never give out a grant over the phone, and will never ask you to give confidential financial information, such as your credit card or bank account number, over the phone. There is a lengthy, written, official application process for applying for a grant or loan from the federal government.
Consumers also need to be wary of phony sweepstakes and lottery schemes where telemarketing calls or letters claim they have won a prize, but require them to send money in order to collect.
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