FTC Obtains Court Order Halting Telemarketing Scheme that Preyed on Spanish Speaking Consumers

the defendants sold booklets, CDs, DVDs, tablets, and a Spanish-English dictionary—and threatened to sue, arrest, or jail consumers if they didn't pay

FTC Obtains Court Order Halting Telemarketing Scheme that Preyed on Spanish Speaking Consumers
Image: Pexels
April 27, 2017

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 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. In reality, 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.

The defendants in this case—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 FTC says that it plans to permanently stop the defendants' allegedly deceptive conduct, prevent future law violations, and provide refunds to consumers that were affected by the scam.