Bikram Bandy, coordinator of the FTC's Do Not Call Program, says he is concerned that many people are falling for the scam—and losing money—when offered the "too-good-to-be true" promise of unrealistically low interest rates.
"It's disheartening that this scam continues, and it does continue because the scammers are still making money from it," Bandy told NBC News.
Like most telemarketing frauds these days, this scam typically starts with a recorded message from "credit services" or "card member services," often in the voice of "Rachel" but also from others, saying you qualify for a special interest rate reduction program that will help you pay off your balance sooner.
Respond to the message and you'll be connected to a representative who falsely claims to work for your bank or credit card company.
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Victims who take the bait either get nothing for their money or the scammer does something that they could have done on their own—for free—such as asking the credit card company for a hardship rate reduction.
In recent years, the FTC has sued more than a dozen boiler-room operations making these bogus credit card rate reduction offers. And yet, the calls keep going out. In fact, when it comes to robocall complaints, these rate reduction calls top the list.
Several weeks ago, the FTC and Florida Attorney General sued an Orlando-based telemarketer that allegedly had been bombarding people across the country with rate reduction robocalls since 2011. A federal district court judge agreed to temporarily shut down the company.
"Too often the services promised were never provided, and the consumer faced even more credit card debt through charges made without their consent," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.
They may say it's 'free,' but it's not
Rosa Pagan, who lives near Philadelphia, got one of these calls last year. She wound up talking to "Eugene," who claimed to be associated with her Sears MasterCard. He claimed that because of her good payment history, she was "pre-qualified" to have the interest rate on her card reduced from 24 percent to zero.
"He had my complete credit card number and account information, so I really thought he was calling from Sears," Pagan told NBC News. "And he assured me there was no charge for this; it was free."
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Once Eugene "verified" that she was qualified, he transferred Pagan to a "supervisor" who told her the service would cost $1,900, but he was willing to give her a special deal of $1,400. Pagan said "no," and told him she didn't want anything to do with the company.