At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has temporarily halted a telemarketing operation that allegedly sold bogus credit cards and took money from consumers’ bank accounts without their consent. The court ordered the defendants’ assets frozen and appointed a receiver to control the business, pending resolution of the case. As part of the FTC’s ongoing crackdown on schemes that prey on financially strapped consumers, the agency seeks to permanently stop the illegal practices and make the defendants pay refunds to consumers.
According to the FTC’s complaint and pleadings, the defendants have taken in at least $4.82 million in less than three years, including more than 10,000 sales during a recent two-month period. Doing business as Platinum Trust Card and Express Platinum Card, they operate in the Philadelphia area, but they engage in a variety of ruses to create the false appearance that they are based in Utah and Nevada.
The defendants call consumers who recently applied online for a payday loan and offer them a purported general-purpose credit card with a credit limit of up to $9,500, in exchange for an advance fee of up to $99 and a monthly $19 fee.
They falsely claim their cards can be used anywhere that accepts Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, and that the cards will help rebuild consumers’ credit ratings because the defendants report to the major credit bureaus. But according to the FTC, the defendants do not report to credit bureaus, and their “credit cards” only access an online store the defendants operate, which offers a variety of off-brand, outrageously overpriced products, most of which can be purchased only in bulk quantities. Examples of items for sale in the defendants’ store include a case of 3,240 “dolphin shaped craft embellishments” for $356.40, a case of 432 shower caps for $430.56, and a case of 144 “play flutes” for $573.12.
As alleged in the complaint, before the defendants contact consumers, in many instances they already have personal and bank account information about them, obtained from online payday loan applications. Using this information, the defendants often withdraw fees from the accounts of consumers who reject the “credit card” offer. Consumers who call the defendants to try to cancel their accounts or obtain a refund are subjected to an exhausting series of constant busy signals, endless hold times, and other tactics that limit refunds.
Additionally the complaint filed alleges consumers with no credit or bad credit were targeted as well with promises of 0% interest rate major credit cards with limits from $5,000 to $9.500. Consumer were told these were Visa, masterCard, or American Express credit cards that could help rebuild their credit rating. When consumers asked if the cards being sold could only be used through catalogs or only from specific online stores, they were told that was not true, when in fact it was. Even if card holders wanted to purchase items from the designated online stores they could not use the supplied credit cards to purchase the items. They instead had to provide a second form of payment to cover up to 51 percent of the item cost.
The FTC charged the defendants with making false claims in violation of the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, and withdrawing money from consumers’ bank accounts without their consent in violation of the FTC Act. The defendants also are charged with submitting billing information for payment without consumers’ express informed consent, and promising to deliver a credit card in exchange for an up-front fee, all in violation of the Rule.
The defendants are Blake Rubin, also doing business as Platinum Trust Card, Express Platinum Card, CR Ventures LLC, and Maxim Management Group LLC; Chase Rubin, also doing business under those names and as Oakmont Management Services; Apogee One Enterprises LLC, also doing business as Apogee Enterprises LLC, Platinum Trust Card and Express Platinum Card; Marquee Marketing LLC, also doing business as Express Platinum Card; Jules Shore; and Justin Diaczuk.