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'Rachel' callers settle with feds

One of the companies using robo-calls from 'Rachel at Cardholder Services' to scam consumers is penalized $9.2 million.

By Mitch Lipka Jul 12, 2013 5:51PM

Image: Toy robots © Antonio M. Rosario, Tetra images, Getty ImagesAt some point or another, a pretty large swath of Americans have gotten a call from "Rachel." She has come and gone over the years -- coming to us with a recording that chirps: "Hi! This is Rachel from Cardholder Services."

What follows that greeting is an offer that has proven tempting to many -- to lower your credit card interest rates. But, in reality, it's a ruse to collect upfront payments using illegal robo-calls, according to the Federal Trade Commission. One of the perpetrators of the Rachel calls settled charges filed by the government, the FTC announced today.

A+ Financial Center, LLC was one of five companies originally charged last year as part of a crackdown on Rachel calls. 

A+ Financial Center would tell those who expressed interest in the call that if they paid a fee that ranged from $495 to $1,595 their credit card interest rates would be lowered -- or even dropped to zero, the FTC said. Once they got the money, however, "the defendants did little if anything to help consumers lower their credit card interest rates, or obtain the promised long-term savings," the FTC said.

The company and individuals associated with it were charged with misleading consumers, collecting up-front fees illegally, making illegal robo-calls and calling people whose numbers were in the national Do Not Call Registry.

The government won a judgment of $9.2 million against the defendants. The judgment, however, will be suspended after the defendants forfeit all assets with the exception of $25,000.

Among the items being turned over to the government include a 2007 Mercedes Benz CL, a  boat worth about $45,000 and another boat valued at about $17,000.

In addition, the defendants -- A+ Financial Center; Accelerated Financial Centers, LLC; Accelerated Accounting Services LLC; Christopher L. Miano; and Dana M. Miano -- are forbidden from using robo-calls, misleading consumers about financial products and using "abusive telemarketing tactics." They are also forbidden from profiting by selling their customer lists or from collecting from any consumer who had ordered their service.

What do you do if you get a robo-call? Hang up. No good can come from even pressing the buttons that supposedly will remove you from their dialing list.

Here are some tips from the FTC about dealing with robo-calls:
  • Hang up the phone. Don't press 1 to speak to a live operator and don't press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robo-calls.
  • Consider contacting your phone provider and asking them to block the number, and whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.
  • Report your experience to the FTC online at or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
More from MSN Money:
Jul 15, 2013 11:37AM
Take the opportunity to vent any frustration you have...or my favorite is pretending to have alzheimers and discuss the tawdry date I had with the telemarketer's mom
Jul 15, 2013 12:35AM
I just received a call from Rachel yesterday.  I wonder when this went into effect.  I did my usual, I hung up.  The call came in from either Nevada, Md., or Nevada, Mo, but no company name was listed.
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