Older Iowans unwittingly charged for services such as cloud storage and identity theft protection
(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller’s office this week is finalizing a months-long effort to refund $85,000 to more than 350 Iowans, based on two older Iowans’ complaints last year about unauthorized withdrawals from their checking accounts.
A Consumer Protection Division investigation revealed four related schemes.
The office this week sent refunds ranging from $390 to $790 to 43 predominately elderly Iowans who had been the targets of unauthorized charges by Globe Marketing Group Inc. of Woodland Hills, California.
The refunds follow a settlement agreement reached in April between Miller’s office, Globe Marketing Group, and its owner, Deanna S. Stone (aka Stone-Nasser), currently of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and formerly of Brooklyn, New York.
The case stems from two complaints last August, one from a 93-year-old Colfax woman and one from a 66-year-old Lamoni man. Both complained that out-of-state operators used remotely-created checks to debit their bank accounts for hundreds of dollars.
The Consumer Protection Division issued several investigative subpoenas to determine who was behind the charges, which ultimately led to four settlements and $85,000 in refund mailings to 359 Iowans between January and April. In addition to the Globe Marketing Group refunds issued this week:
- A January agreement with Global Media Source Inc., dba Advantage Consumer Savings and Merchants 411 Services, and its owner, Khalid Ismail of Brossard, Quebec, involved a $46, 218 payment distributed as refunds to 105 Iowa consumers.
- A January agreement with Dubord Marketing Inc., dba Cover One and Direct Way, and its owner Spiro Tzicas of St. Laurent, Quebec, resulted in refunds to 44 Iowans totaling $12,257.10.
- A February agreement with Global Service Group LLC, a Northbrook, Illinois-based payment processing company, involved $8,819.92 in refunds to 167 older Iowans.
The products charged to consumers ranged from club memberships to services such as cloud storage and identity theft protection. What the marketers had in common, according to Miller, were dubious telemarketing practices, a focus on the elderly, and unexpected charges to bank accounts through remotely-created checks created by the same payment processor, Global Service Group LLC.
“This case illustrates how important it is for consumers to be on guard against unauthorized charges, especially to their bank accounts or credit cards,” Miller said. “Older consumers in particular may be targeted by operations that place such charges in the hope that they’ll go unnoticed – which is too often exactly what happens.”
TIPS FOR CONSUMERS:
- Examine your credit card bills every month, your checking account and debit card statements, other financial accounts, and phone bills.Watch for unauthorized charges, and dispute them at once, in writing.
- Be skeptical of telemarketing promotions that offer a “free” gift card or other attractive incentives.There will likely be strings attached -- like a trial membership that leads to unwanted charges -- and you may end up losing more money than the value of the incentive that drew you in!
- Be wary of “free trial” offers, particularly free trial memberships.Will you be billed if you don’t cancel within a certain period?How do you cancel?Will it be difficult to cancel?Remember, they may already have your bank or credit card number to charge you.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 1-888-777-4590.