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FTC Refunds Small Business Owners Defrauded By Robocall Scheme

A cell phone reciving a call from an unknown number.

Phone call from unknown number late at night. Scam, fraud or phishing with smartphone concept. Prank caller, scammer or stranger. Man answering to incoming call. Hoax person with fake identity.

According to a press release published on Tuesday, the FTC is sending refunds totaling more than $700,000 to small business owners swindled by a widespread robocall scheme. The FTC first lodged complaints against the Florida-based entities and individual defendants in May 2018, alleging that their deceptive means of extracting money from innocent businesses violated the FTC Act.

Specifically, the Commission’s complaint recounted how the defendants reached business owners by phone and falsely informed them that they were acting on behalf of Google. The telemarketers then claimed that, if the businesses did not act, Google would label their establishment “permanently closed,” in search results. They also claimed that they “could associate keywords with these businesses, and falsely promis[ed] first-place or first-page placement in Google search results.”

The complaint further contended that the defendants had no relationship to Google, despite their assertions that they were service providers or “authorized Google My Business agencies.” Victims reportedly received a bevy of pestering robocalls. When business owners spoke to telemarketers, they were told that they could avoid adverse action by paying a one-time fee ranging between $300-$700, which some businesses did.

According to the Commission’s March 26, 2019 press release, some defendants entered into settlement agreements, comprising both monetary and injunctive relief. In May of that year, the FTC won summary judgment against the majority of the remaining defendants and the court entered a default judgment against the others. This “officially end[ed] the massive Pointbreak Media robocall scheme,” the FTC said in a May 15, 2019 statement. Now, the Commission is mailing refunds to 4,467 small business owners. The average refund amount is $158.32.

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