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Economy & Business

Open letter to Rachel of Cardholder Services: Stop calling me!

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Are you sick of those sometimes daily phone calls from "Rachel from Cardholder Services" promising lower rates on your credit card — especially if you've already signed up on the national Do Not Call registry? If so, you're not alone. The Federal Trade Commission is trying to crack down on these telemarketers. In the meantime, one Beacon reporter has a message for Rachel: Stop calling.

Dear Rachel from Cardholder Services:

Stop calling me.

And stop calling my friends, my relatives, my co-workers, the people down the street, the people across the state and every human being with access to a phone.

You claim to want to help us reduce the high-interest rates on our credit cards, and you pretend to work for our credit card companies. But we know that you are a faceless, soul-less Robocalling Voice fronting for any number of boiler room telemarketing operations that hide behind fake telephone numbers on our caller IDs.

You call two and three times a day. You interrupt breakfast, lunch and dinner. You call our home phones. Our cell phones. Our office phones.

Your promise is always the same: Press 1 now to speak to a representative because this is our FINAL NOTICE to take advantage of this offer. But you don't mean it. You will call back in an hour. And again tomorrow. And the next day.

We're on to you, Rachel of Cardholder Services.

We've registered our phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry to make it illegal for you to call us, and we've filed complaints galore about you with the Federal Trade Commission.

Your many, many phone numbers have been widely posted on the internet, and your name is mud on sites such as www.whocallsme.com and www.800notes.com.

There's even a Facebook page started by frustrated people who have banded together to shut you down.

The FTC's Wanted List

Last week the Federal Trade Commission announced it was taking another in a series of actions against illegal telemarketing robocallers who call numbers on the Do Not Call Registry and mask their caller ID information. This latest FTC complaint names one Roy M. Cox Jr. who lives in California but runs his operation through multiple foreign corporations. The FTC alleges that Cox's companies use robocalls to sell credit card interest rate reduction programs, extended automobile warranties and home security systems masked by these caller IDs: "Card Services," "Credit Services,'' and "Private Office."

The FTC has also been dogging Asia Pacific Telecom, a foreign shell company for SBN Peripherals, based in Los Angeles, that allegedly made more than 370 million calls to consumers in 2009. Many of those calls began with recorded greetings from "Stacey at Account Holder Servicers" and our personal favorite, "Rachel at Cardholder Services."

James Davis of the FTC's midwest region said the "Rachel message" is actually an audio file that has been popular with illegal telemarketers for some time. He adds that the credit card interest rate reduction "service" sold by the telemarketers can cost hundreds of dollars and is often ineffective — or something the consumer can do for himself for free by contacting a credit card company directly.

"The Rachel message has been used by a lot of different dialers and a lot of different boiler rooms," Davis said. "It's very effective in getting people to press 1 and get transferred to the boiler room. One of the misperceptions about this kind of conduct is that there is some monolithic entity out there named 'Card Services' or 'Cardholder Services' that's responsible for all the calls when in fact it's multiple different people or entities engaged in different conduct in different places."

Davis said it is almost surprising that these operations continue to use the Rachel recording because it is so well-known. (We'd say, despised.)

Robocalls violate telemarketing sales rules and are illegal unless a consumer has authorized in writing that he/she want to receive them, Davis said.

He encourages recipients of robocalls to file complaints with the FTC at www.DoNotCall.gov, providing specific information about the date and time, the phone number, the name that appears on caller ID and the content of the call.

"They should be very skeptical of anyone using robocalls, and certainly if it's anything related to debt consolidation or debt reduction," he said.

Davis said the FTC is working to shut down robocalling operations, but it is a complicated process. He understands the frustrations of consumers.

"I get the calls, as well," he said. "I get them on my home phone. My cell phone. Even occasionally on my FTC Blackberry."

Sounds like Rachel. She just won't take no for an answer.

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