Feds sue robocall companies

Posted May 12, 2009 by jim c
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NY Senator Charles Schumer was talking about the calls at the weekend. And now it looks like federal prosecutors are stepping in. This from the AP:

Federal regulators are close to filing lawsuits against companies believed to be behind a national wave of spam “robocalls” warning people that their auto warranties are about to expire and they need to sign up for new service plans.

Schumer says the message “Your Car Warranty Has Expired” already has brought some 300,000 complaints nationwide.

The auto warranty company is after me!

Posted May 8, 2009 by jim c
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I’m sitting in a bar on a Friday evening and I get a call from a Kansas number. It’s Jimmy from the factory warranty company that called me the other day (Fidelity National Warranty). I had pressed 1 to speak to a representative and got transferred to him. I spoke to him long enough to find out information about his company so that I could complain about them calling my cell phone with a recorded message.

After speaking to Jimmy that time, I complained to the FCC, the FTC and the Better Business Bureau of Kansas State. I also blogged about it here and I can only assume that one of those complaints got back to him somehow and now he’s trying to get back.

Here’s what happened:
Jimmy calls me and says he needs to talk to me. I try talking to him, but he tells me that he can’t hear me because I am in a bar. I tell him I would be out of the bar in about an hour (I didn’t want to leave my friends). Right before hanging up he tells me this:

“I’m going to post your personal information on the complaint you wrote about us! (click.)”

What the hell? I thought he was calling to follow up on my questions about getting an auto warranty. But he was calling out of anger. Poor Jimmy. Must be aggrieved that I only spoke to him so long so that I could get information about his company. I don’t have anything against Jimmy – he’s just trying to earn a living. Probably has a family and probably likes to get a drink after work on a Friday evening, just like me.

But then, 10 minutes later, my cell phone rings again with a Kansas number. It’s Jimmy calling back already. So this time I leave the bar to talk to him. I want to know why he’s going to post my personal information. But all he wants to do is ask me a question over and over. Here’s what he asked:

JIMMY: Did you want me to call you back in an hour?
ME: The bar was too loud and I didn’t want to leave until then.
JIMMY: Can you just tell me that you wanted me to call you back in an hour?
ME: I wanted to talk, but I couldn’t leave until then, but I can talk now.
JIMMY: Can you confirm that you wanted me to call you back in an hour.
ME: Yes, because that’s when I thought I’d be able to leave, but I’m willing to talk now. What did you want to talk about?
JIMMY: I just wanted you to confirm that you wanted me to call you in an hour. I’m recording this (click!)

That’s it! Was Jimmy from Fidelity National Warranty – one of the auto warranty telemarketing companies – actually calling me to get me on tape telling him that I wanted him to call me? I presume that was to counter my complaint, but for God’s sake, of course I wanted to talk to him if he was threatening to post my personal information.

Let’s get this straight: I’m the consumer – one of millions it seems – getting harassed with calls telling me I have to extend the factory warranty on my vehicle and the company that makes money from these calls is calling me when I’m at a bar on a Friday evening to get me on tape saying that I wanted him to call me back in an hour.

I didn’t quite know where this investigation would lead me, but I had no idea it would lead to this.

I don’t know about the legality of a telemarketing company recording a telephone conversation with a consumer without the consumer’s consent, but a quick search online tells me this:

“The FCC requires that all parties in a recorded interstate call must be notified either verbally or through an intermittent beep.”

Either way, I stand by the complaints that I filed in my pursuit to put an end to these harassing calls that I receive on a regular basis. I have not been belligerent. I have not violated any laws. I simply tried to get the name of the company behind the illegal calls so that I could file a complaint as is my right as a consumer. I can only assume a company would be irate after that complaint because of the negative affect the complaint would have on its reputation. For the company to threaten me like this seems like another threat to that company’s reputation.

For the record, I have not encouraged anyone to post personal information about people involved with these companies. All I wish to do is put an end to the calls (and perhaps get reimbursed for the minutes used on my cell phone plan). Also for the record, I have blocked comments posted on this site from people who attempted to post the personal phone information of people who they suspected were involved with these companies. I had no proof of those claims, so as a responsible person, I did not allow their comments to stay online.

I’m waiting to see if Jimmy from Fidelity National Warranty will follow through on his threat. We’ll see what happens next.

Complaining to the FCC

Posted May 6, 2009 by jim c
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fcc_complaint_redact

I filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. I understand they enforce complaints made regarding unsolicited phone calls that violate the TCPA. I was encouraged by their questions (e.g. was this call pre-recorded, to a cell phone, expressing urgency, etc.). We’ll see what happens.

Here’s the link to do this yourself.

Complaining to the FTC

Posted May 6, 2009 by jim c
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ftc_complaint

Filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission with the information on the two companies I connected to the robocalls. Whatever the outcome might be, it certainly feels satisfying.

I’m also encouraged by this notice: “Your complaint has been entered into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to thousands of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.”
Here’s the link to do this yourself.

Tracking another company

Posted May 5, 2009 by jim c
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I found another company behind one of the auto-warranty calls! I realize it’s not hard to do now, so I suggest anyone who gets these calls to do the same. That way you can file a complaint against the company. Here’s the info:

fidelity_mag

Fidelity National Warranty
804 Meadowbrook Dr., Suite 100-B
Olathe, KS 6602
1-877-847-7799

Here’s what happened:

I get the call. I press 1. I speak to a rep. I tell them a car model and year (VW Passat, 2000).
I get transferred to a representative named Jimmy.
Jimmy asks me the same questions, tells me he can get me a warranty.
I tell him my battery might die, so I need his number to call back.
Jimmy tells me he can call me.
I tell Jimmy I don’t know the number of my landline, so Jimmy gives me his number: 1-877-847-7799 x128
I ask Jimmy the company, he tells me it’s Fidelity National Warranty.
I look it up. Bingo, it’s a company based in Oathe, Kansas.

Here’s info I gleaned from the Kansas business directory

Entity name: FIDELITY NATIONAL WARRANTY, INC.
Entity ID: 4268728
Previous Names: PATRIOT WARRANTY COMPANY, INC.
Current Status: ACTIVE AND IN GOOD STANDING
Current Mailing Address: 804 MEADOWBROOK DR SUITE 100-B , OLATHE, KS 66062
Date of Formation in Kansas: 12/22/2008
State of Organization: KS
Resident Agent: MICHAEL J. FISCHER
Registered Office: 11000 KING , OVERLAND PARK, KS 66210

So it’s a company registered in Kansas that formed in December 2008. I wonder if they were something else before then. A search for Patriot Warranty (the previous name listed) comes up with the same entity on the Kansas directory.

What this means:
As theorized by a commenter, there seems to be some kind of third party service responsible for the illegal auto-dialing that connects to various companies that want to sell auto insurance. One time it connected me to Automotive Warranty Protection Services, aka National Dealers Warranty Inc., (based in Missouri, currently being sued by Verizon – although not the company that settled). This time it connected me to Fidelity National Warranty (not to be confused with US Fidelis, aka National Auto Warranty Services, which WAS one of the companies that just settled with Verizon).

I agree with that commenter that the company in The Netherlands that was named in the Verizon suit is probably behind this third-party company. A search for that company – Tele Europe, B.V. – comes up with a couple of different phone numbers. I tried one and it gets to a different company, but apparently that company is in the same building as Tele Europe. I just spoke to the guy who answers that phone and he gave me the building’s reception number. I tried calling, but it’s after business hours in the Netherlands, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

In the meantime, I will ask the Verizon rep who was on the Brian Lehrer Show if he’ll give me a contact for Tele Europe. Then we might get closer to the source of these illegal calls.

If anyone has any other suggestions, please keep them coming.

If you’re interested, here is some other information I got from the call:

Read the rest of this post »

Tracking the call: Advice for you.

Posted April 30, 2009 by jim c
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Yesterday National Auto Warranty Services, one of the companies that sells warranties through telemarketing (also known as US Fidelis), settled a lawsuit with Verizon for $50,000 and a promise to stop calling Verizon customers. Some news outlets are suggesting this will put an end to the calls. It will not. As I showed on this blog, companies other than NAWS/Fidelis are behind the calls.

Because of that story, I was on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, talking about my story, along with a rep from Verizon.
I thought that by telling my story, other people would be able to track down the calls and file a complaint once they could prove which company it was. But I realize it’s not easy to get the information you need to file a complaint, so I figured I’d post this advice.

When you get the call,

1) Press 1 to speak to a representative.
2) This representative is unlikely to give any info about the company, so just tell them you are interested in the warranty. If they ask for a make and a model of a vehicle, give them one.
3) You will be transferred to a person who can give information about the company, so do whatever you can to get his phone number. I told them I had to call back with the mileage of the car and that my battery was dying. Only then did he give me his number.
4) Google the number. It should lead you to a website for one of the companies.

Now you should have the info you need. If you’re unsure of which company it really is, post it here and I will help (I’ve done lots of research into the various company names).

I tracked my factory warranty call!

Posted April 28, 2009 by jim c
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carphonenew

Today I did it! I tracked down the factory warranty call!

It’s Automotive Warranty Protection Services, aka National Dealers Warranty Inc., of St. Peters, Missouri.

A call today led me down a path of research that turned up the company’s name and details of  legal action for shady practices going back years that include the use of illegal telemarketing calls like the ones I and everyone else seem to be getting.

The company was even sued by the Missouri State Attorney General last year. They  settled for a moderate sum and a requirement that the company never use illegal automated calls again. Well I got a call from them today, so they appear to be continuing the practice in violation of this settlement, not to mention federal law.

[Note, this is not US Fidelis, a different warranty services company mentioned on many blogs as being behind the calls.  (not saying they don't do it themselves, but it's not the one I tracked down today). There was also a report on NBC's Today program about US Fidelis, as well as two investigative stories about its founder in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.]

Here’s exactly what happened today:

Read the rest of this post »


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