Cross Border Credit Card Scams Prey On Ny Consumers
In a major effort to combat international credit card scams, Attorney General Spitzer today announced a series of lawsuits against Canadian companies accused of targeting financially-strapped consumers in New York and other states with false promises of easy access to credit cards.
"All too often, debt-burdened consumers are targeted with solicitations for financial products and services, " Spitzer said. "Consumers must be extremely skeptical of such appeals. These companies clearly are not in business to help consumers. Instead, they are seeking to profit from the financial problems of others."
The lawsuits accuse three Montreal-based companies of engaging in deceptive, fraudulent and illegal business practices. Hundreds of consumers across New York and other states complained that the companies deceived them into paying approximately $200 in advance for an all-purpose credit card such as a Visa or MasterCard.
Instead of providing the promised credit cards, these companies sent consumers so-called "financial benefits" packages which were of little or no interest to the consumers. Many consumers received nothing at all for their payment.
The lawsuits are as follows:
- Alini International Marketing, Inc., and its officers Nicole Bertrand and Neil Haboush, are accused of running an advance fee credit card scam since at least December 1999. Instead of sending a promised credit card, this firm sent consumers a package containing: a catalog from which consumers could purchase overpriced merchandise in installments; a credit repair manual; and a promise that the consumers would be approved for a major credit card after making consistent timely payments to Alini.
- Telehublink Corporation, doing business as Triple Gold Benefits, and its general manager Jacques Dion, are accused of tricking consumers into paying almost $220 for credit cards, but instead providing consumers with a booklet purporting to enable them to purchase goods and services at discounted prices. Customers also received a merchandise catalog, a credit repair manual, and applications for credit cards from unrelated financial institutions.
- "3557561 Canada" Inc., doing business as Platinum 2000, Continental Benefits Group and the Alliance for Family Security, and its president Shawn Jacobs, are accused of running a fraudulent operation tricking consumers into paying between $150 - $200 for credit cards between the Fall of 1999 and the Spring of 2000. Instead, consumers received "free" airline tickets with the purchase of a vacation package, a list of creditors to which consumers could apply for credit, credit card applications, and a credit repair manual.
To give the appearance of legitimacy, each company represented that its business was located in upstate New York. However, all three firms merely rented post boxes in either Plattsburgh or Champlain.
Lois Aronstein, State Director of the AARP: "AARP commends Attorney General Spitzer for his continuing pursuit of protecting older persons and all New Yorkers from illegal financial scams. Attorney General Spitzer's record in fighting fraud continues to be exemplary. Protecting consumers from predatory loan practices and fraudulent telemarketers is a top propriety of AARP in New York, as well as nationally."
The Attorney General is seeking refunds for consumers who were victimized by the companies' deceptive and illegal practices. Spitzer also is requesting that the court bar the Canadian companies from operating in New York State unless they post performance bonds to secure funds in the event of future consumer problems. The lawsuits also seek civil penalties and court costs.
Spitzer noted an alarming number of solicitations - through advertisements, telemarketing or direct mail - targeting individuals with financial problems. His office has combated these credit card scams and other predatory lending practices in a number of ways.
These cases are being handled by Assistant Attorney General Mark Fleischer of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.
Individuals with questions or concerns about advance fee credit cards are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.