Your Telephone, the Booby Trap

Posted in Predator State at 4:26 pm by George Smith

One daily feature of life in a country that’s a corporate predator state is the takeover of technology meant to make life easier by businesses which view it as a tool for robbery.

At DD’s abode in Pasadena, we have the daily robocall(s). Sometimes there are two or three a day, most often one, all varying examples of fraudulent offers and illegality, all aimed at tapping your credit card, getting into your bank account, or making off with something else so as to steal from you.

There’s the give us your vital statistics because we’ll help you refinance your upside-down home loan call. (One just came in, masquerading as the government, while I was updating this post!)

And the give us the keys to your temple so we can get you out of the credit card debt you’re in arears on. Nothing that surprising. Isn’t it every American’s civil right to hear it?

But the best one has been: You’ve just won a new television, and bunches of new equipment to be delivered today, plus an account with the satellite Dish Network and an already-paid-for trip to DisneyWorld. Say or promise anything, just to get you to divulge a credit card number.

According to yesterday’s Los Angeles Times: “The despised robocall companies that send out illegal recorded calls nationwide to try and get people to buy car warranties or apply for credit cards are among the most secretive operations outside the CIA.”

“Employees are told they can be fired just for mentioning the name of their employer.”

(DD made a cynical joke the other day about the need when searching for a job to convince your potential employer you’ll break the law for the firm.)

Sadly, there are many people, apparently normal, who will work for firms they know to be obviously engaged in lawbreaking. It’s just part of the social contract in a country that’s a corporate predator state. It’s acceptable to work for a criminal organization, if that’s what it takes.

However, according to the Times, one employee’s declaration in a Federal Trade Commission case against a robocall firm has broken open some of the practices. What’s remarkable and dismaying is that more employees don’t squeal, giving some weight to the idea that when the chips are down in a bad economy, quite a few will take jobs they know rip off their fellows, desperately trying to make some career of it. The whistle-blower is the outlier. Paradoxically, one wagers that due to the mass action and indiscriminate nature of the robocalling industry, some cubicle workers must be engaged in calling their own homes: “I’ll get a commission if we get Grandma on the line. The closer can shwick her out of a credit card or social security number, maybe both. She has Alzheimer’s.”

And to think poor Soupy Sales was once drummed off the air long ago by the FTC for asking kids to sneak into their parents’ bedrooms, collect all the paper with green faces on it, and send it to him. That was just a joke!

Anyway, the company in question in this story is named Transcontinental Warranties, Inc. and it’s based in Florida.

“A declaration from a former employee describes how he was supposed to go through hundreds of calls in a shift, trying to sell autoservice warranties which the FTC said typically cost $2,000 to $3,000 … ‘Transcontinental’s company motto was Hang Up, Next’, said Mark Israel, who worked the evening shift with about thirty other employees … [Israel’s] description of the calls mirrored those received by angry people nationwide, the FTC said, who complained to government agencies and consumer organizations … all recorded sales calls are illegal with the exception of those that go to people with whom there’s an established business relationship.”

If you don’t have the name of the firm calling you, the newspaper writes — rather obviously, it’s tough to get anything done about it.

“On May 14, the US District Court in Chicago, where the FTC investigation into recorded telemarketing calls was based, imposed a restraining order on Transcontinental, freezing its assets and putting a reciever in charge of the company,” reported the Times. Another hearing was set for this week.

In any case, this has apparently had no effect here in Pasadena. And almost everyplace else.

“But recorded calls have not stopped,” writes the newspaper. “Alison Southwick, spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus, got one at work last week … ‘I just got a call that my satellite dish is going to be delivered … and I get a free vacation.'”

At Disney, don’t forget.

Update: The Dish Network was sued by the FTC over robocalls. In the corporate predator state, however, this is of little consequence. Fifteen minutes ago DD received yet another fraud robocall advising me of all the free Dish Network stuff which had allegedly been delivered and installed at my home.

During the 1980’s there were large, sustained budget cuts at the FTC. Despite some increases in recent years, the number of full-time employees at the FTC today is only up to 1987 levels, and well below the 1980 level. The FTC is thus smaller today than it has been historically, despite its success at consumer protection and the unprecedented new tasks that face it.Funding the FTC, February 2007.

Obama budget would boost FTC funding five percent, claims Forbes.

Next week: Your TV, the Booby Trap

1 Comment

  1. CWA said,

    March 17, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Well, Dish Network is at is again. There is a “local independent dealer” sending out illegal robocalls (don’t have their name in the robocall, no call back number, and calling people on the do not call list) and Dish Network refuses to take responsibility for their dealers. It should be a condition of being a dealer that the dealer must adhere to the written rules for telephoning people and FTC regulations. I don’t think that passing the buck smacks of corporate responsibility. I have received two identical robocalls in the past two days. So who is ultimately responsible for robocalls from and “independent dealer” that is selling your product in violation of your own rules? HMMM??? Answer me that Board of Directors of Dish Network!