Robocall Operation That Falsely Claimed Affiliation with Google and Targeted Small Businesses Halted

The defendants barraged consumers with robocalls threatening that Google would label their business 'permanently closed' unless they paid a fee

Robocall Operation That Falsely Claimed Affiliation with Google and Targeted Small Businesses Halted
Image: Pexels
May 24, 2018

A Florida-based robocalling scheme has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with deceiving small business owners by falsely claiming to represent Google, falsely threatening businesses with removal from Google search results, and falsely promising first-place or first-page placement in Google search results.

False Threats Based on False Google Affiliation

According to the FTC, the defendants have no relationship with Google, and yet they barraged consumers with robocalls threatening that Google would label their business as "permanently closed" unless they "press one" to speak with a "Google specialist."

Those who pressed one were transferred to telemarketers who told them that for a purported one-time fee ranging from $300 to $700 they could "claim and verify" their Google listing and have unique "keywords" so their business would appear prominently when people search for their products or services.

Consumers who paid the fee received a follow-up call from the defendants' telemarketers, pitching a second program that the defendants falsely claimed could guarantee top search result placements for a one-time payment of $949.99 and recurring monthly payments of $169.99 or $99.99.

Took MOney from customers' checking accounts without authorization

In October 2017, the defendants temporarily lost the ability to accept payments by credit card due to high chargeback rates (when consumers dispute credit card transactions). As a result, they took money, usually $100, from at least 250 of their customers' checking accounts without the customers' advance knowledge, consent, or authorization, and with no apparent reason or justification.

The Defendants

The defendants in this case are Pointbreak Media, LLC, also doing business as (d/b/a) Point Break Media, Point Break Solutions and Kivanni Marketing; DCP Marketing, LLC, also d/b/a Point Break; Modern Spotlight LLC; Modern Spotlight Group LLC, also d/b/a Modern Spotlight; Modern Internet Marketing LLC; Modern Source Media, LLC, also d/b/a Modern Source; Perfect Image Online LLC; Dustin Pillonato; Justin Ramsey; Aaron Michael Jones, also known as Michael Aaron Jones and Mike Jones; Ricardo Diaz; Michael Pocker; and Steffan Molina.

All of the defendants are charged with violating the FTC Act.

The FTC says that the court has appointed a temporary receiver over the operation and has frozen the defendants' assets during litigation. The agency is seeking to end the alleged illegal practices permanently and obtain redress money for consumers duped by the scheme.