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Consumer Alert: Telemarketing scam threatens victims

The words "telemarketers" and "nuisance" are often used in one breath. But some telemarketing firms cross the line, into outright fraud and deception.

Petry Urbina was the target of a telemarketing company. First item up for sale: Aprenda Ingles, an english speaking course costing $300. The telemarketer told Petry she was chosen because she watches Univision, the spanish-language television channel.

"The moment they mentioned they were from Univision and Don Francisco, who is the show host, I felt comfortable, I felt confident this was actually legit. I had no reason to doubt it was not…" Urbina explains.

Though Petry was initially interested in buying the course, she told the telemarketer she had changed her mind.

That's when the caller became a little forceful. Feeling pressured, Urbina bought the course but the telemarketers didn't back off.

"These companies would continue to send shipments or packages to the consumer, that were never ordered by the consumer," says U.S. Postal Inspector, Bryan Masmela.

Before those packages arrived, Petry got a call telling her a new shipment was on its way and demanding a money order be ready for the COD payment.

"When the consumer told them they never ordered a package, the telemarketer would begin their threats," explains Masmela, "they would say if you don't accept the package and make payment then they would send the police to their house or call immigration authorities on them."

The telemarketers were also selling other products, including electricity savers, vitamims, even a version of phony medical insurance.

"That was probably the worst of the lies that we saw, because these were people who were actually sick and they didn't have any health insurance," says Masmela.

The victims were given a number to call.

"The telemarketer on the other phone, posing as a doctor on the phone, would ask them what their symptoms were and what their problems were and would tell them 'hey, I have there products you can purchase that will help you,'" says Masmela.

Univision tipped off Postal Inspectors to the scam when it learned the telemarketing firm was using its name without authorization. As inspectors began tracking the case they realized the telemarketers were using the television network to lure in victims who they then coerced into buying useless items.

"No company has a right to threaten you with deportation or arrest simply for not accepting one of their packages," says Masmela.

The owners of the telemarketing firm in this case were sentenced to 10-years in Federal Prison and ordered to pay more than $4 million to victims in restitution.


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