FTC: telemarketing firm targeted the elderly

March 14, 2013 6:57:38 PM PDT
The Federal Trade Commission has shut down the Brooklyn-based telemarketing company "Instant Response Systems," which is accused of using deception and threats to sell elderly consumers services that they never wanted.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has ordered a temporary shutdown of the company on Thursday after an FTC complaint.

Officials say that Instant Response Systems targeted and called consumers over the age of 70 years old, regardless of whether or not they were on the National Do Not Call Registry. According to the complaint, many of the victims were in poor health and were living on fixed incomes when they were contacted.

Instant Response Systems would allegedly claim that they were calling as a response to a request by a loved-one and would ask personal questions before trying to sell elderly consumers an $800-$1600 medical alert service.

Even some people who claimed never to have ordered the service received bills, reading "Congratulations! In a few short days you will receive your monitoring system... As you agreed in your conversation, please send a check for $1,196 in the enclosed stamped envelope."

The FTC claims that the company sent a bogus police report to a consumer who refused to pay a phony bill, referring to the medical tracking pendant as “stolen property.”

One customer received the following letter when ordering a stop-payment on a check to the company:

"You gave us your banking information by telephone and authorized us to use it to collect your promised payment. However, when we submitted the payment to your bank, it 'bounced...' You have embarrassed us and damaged our reputation. We had to pay bank fees, in addition to accounting, manpower, and other costs. We will NOT absorb these costs or pass them on to our paying subscribers. We suggest that you consult an attorney and ask about the criminal and civil consequences of bouncing checks."

Instant Response Systems and its principals, one of whom has been sued by the FTC in the past for selling phony licenses and diplomas, have been charged with several infractions by the FTC, including violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule and violating the Unordered Merchandise Statute.