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Canadian Telemarketer Faces Ban, Penalty

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-2153

December 4, 2008 - A Canadian telemarketer has agreed to submit to a lifetime ban on telemarketing in or into the United States, and to pay $20,000 in civil penalties. According to a lawsuit filed by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, Wolfgang Loss-Wells of Montreal, Quebec, made fraudulent offers of assistance to consumers to obtain government loans. An earlier ruling in the suit resulted in refunds to consumers throughout the country in the amount of $46,000.

The settlement comes in a case originally filed in 2006 by Attorney General William H. Sorrell against a Vermont check processor, A & S Collection Associates, Inc., of Williamstown, Vermont. According to the State’s court complaint, A & S printed unsigned checks (called “demand drafts”) without written authorization from consumers on behalf of Callcom, a Montreal telemarketing company of which Loss-Wells was chief officer and major shareholder. Issuing demand drafts without prior written authorization is a violation of Vermont law. Loss-Wells and Callcom were later added as defendants in the case.

In all, Callcom charged 360 consumers throughout the United States about $300 each, ostensibly to assist them in obtaining government grants. In fact, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for such a company to offer a service that will actually result in the award of government grants to consumers.

Of $107,000 originally charged by Callcom to American consumers, about $61,000 was promptly credited back to the consumers’ accounts through the banking system for lack of authorization and other reasons, and the remainder was returned to them following a 2005 court-ordered freeze of funds then held in a Vermont bank.

In recent years, fraudulent telemarketers have succeeded in obtaining money from consumers’ bank accounts, using only the numbers at the bottom of the consumers’ checks. The Attorney General’s Office has two recommendations to prevent this from happening: Vermonters should never give their bank account information to people they do not know; and they should routinely review their bank account statements to make sure that there are no unauthorized charges.

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