Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved final amendments to its Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), including a change that will help protect consumers from fraud by prohibiting four discrete types of payment methods favored by con artists and scammers.
“Con artists like payments that are tough to trace and hard for people to reverse,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC’s new telemarketing rules ban payment methods that scammers like, but honest telemarketers don’t use.”
The TSR changes will stop telemarketers from dipping directly into consumer bank accounts by using certain kinds of checks and “payment orders” that have been “remotely created” by the telemarketer or seller. These two payment mechanisms make it easy for unscrupulous telemarketers to debit bank accounts without consumers’ permission, and can make it difficult to reverse the transactions with consumers’ banks.
In addition, the amendments will bar telemarketers from receiving payments through traditional “cash-to-cash” money transfers – provided by companies like MoneyGram, Western Union, and RIA. Scammers rely on cash transfers as a quick, anonymous, and irretrievable method to extract money from consumer victims – once it is picked up by the recipient, the money is gone.
The TSR changes also will prohibit telemarketers from accepting as payment “cash reload” mechanisms – such as MoneyPak, Vanilla Reload, or Reloadit packs used to add funds to existing prepaid cards. Scammers use the cash reload mechanism to apply the funds to their own prepaid debit cards and disappear with the money. In 2015, major cash reload providers replaced cash reload mechanisms with a swipe reload process, a safer alternative not affected by the TSR amendments.
As detailed in the Federal Register notice announcing the Final Rule, the amendments address changes in the financial marketplace to ensure consumers remain protected by the TSR’s antifraud provisions, but are narrowly tailored to allow for innovations with respect to other payment methods that are used by legitimate companies. According to the statement of basis and purpose accompanying the notice, the final rule also will:
In addition, the TSR amendments update several provisions related to the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry to, among other things:
The Commission vote approving publication of the notice in the Federal Register was 3-1, with Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen voting no.
Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Commissioners Julie Brill and Terrell McSweeny issued a Commission statement, which also was approved by a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Ohlhausen voting no and issuing a separate statement, dissenting in part.
Most provisions of the final rule will become effective 60 days after publication.