FTC sending refund checks to victims of 'Card Services' telemarketers

By , CardRatings contributor
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Victims of a fraudulent credit card interest rate reduction operation have started receiving refund checks after a three-year wait, according to Federal Trade Commission officials. Operators of JPM Accelerated Services settled with the FTC in 2010 after investigators alleged that the telemarketing firm failed to deliver on promises of credit card balance transfer deals and lower finance charges.

The FTC investigation revealed that JPM made unlawful robocalls to consumers, even when targeted phone numbers appeared on the national Do Not Call Registry. Voice-over actors appearing in the recorded messages identified themselves as calling from "Card Services," leading some consumers to mistakenly believe that JPM represented their existing credit card issuers.

Consumers who responded to JPM's offers paid advance fees of up to $995 in exchange for the promise of thousands of dollars in saved finance charges. In statements to reporters, FTC officials claimed that JPM "routinely refused to honor its money back guarantee," even after delivering no real results for customers.

The agency retained the BMC Group to process redress checks to as many known customers of JPM as investigators could confirm. The processing company will mail checks drawn from as much as $9 million in judgements obtained from JPM and related companies during the course of the investigation. Consumer victims must cash their checks within 60 days of issuance or risk forfeiting their funds. FTC officials advised victims with questions about the process to call 855-529-6827.

Although most credit card companies operate hardship programs that can reduce interest rates after a job loss or illness, banks rarely inform their customers of these options until an account has entered a delinquency cycle. Even then, FTC officials advise consumers to contact banks using only the official phone numbers and websites listed on their cards or on previous printed correspondence.

Qualifying for a hardship program may require a larger-than-usual payment toward an impacted account, but does not require the sizable service fees touted by JPM and similar telemarketing operations. Consumers without accounts in delinquency can often qualify for balance transfer offers that include processing fees of up to 5 percent, billed directly to a new account instead of charged as an upfront cash payment.

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