Monday, July 11, 2005

Here We Go Again; FTC Lets Another Scammer Deny Wrongdoing

This latest case is a perfect example of why the species continues to proliferate.

Some people may have already heard about the Alyon scam, but for those unfamiliar with it, one very clever Stephane Touboul set up a web site back in 2003 that when a consumer clicked on a button, a download ensued which the consumer supposedly had agreed to.

So far, so good, right? People download stuff all the time.

But Alyon’s program was also a Trojan horse; it disconnected the user’s normal Internet connection then unknowingly reconnected them on a $4.99 per minute dial-up network link to the service they had signed up with. Clever these ‘net schemers are, eh?

Needless to say, a lot of the consumers found the ridiculous scam charges on their phone bills and challenged them. Some rightfully refused to pay.

Enter Echeneidae Collectoris – TelCollect, Inc., who took over the collections of the illegally-charged accounts as if they were legitimately past due, sending out thousands of letters and going after people who were victims of a scam.

Over a year later, in December 2004, the FTC finally got them to drop $17M in bogus charges.

Gosh – what a deal. Now Alyon is barred from billing a consumer unless it has “verification that the consumer is an adult who has expressly agreed to purchase the services…” as well as being barred from “planting software on consumers’ computers without their consent.”

As for the Echeneidae Collectoris? The stipulated order is similar: TelCollect is “…permanently barred from billing a consumer for any videotext services unless it has verification that the consumer is an adult who has expressly agreed to purchase the services…” Oh, and the real supposed “teeth” of this order: “The defendant is also required to obtain written agreement from each vendor it works with that the vendor will comply with the terms…” And they’re supposed to "investigate consumer complaints and take appropriate action." Right.

Once again, the FTC let’s them both off the hook: “Note: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation.”

Y'all in Washington know how many minutes it takes to get a few million scammed bucks stashed away into a Caribbean bank? Trust me, it aint a year. And letting them off without them having to admit they broke the law only makes it easier for the next one.

Had they pulled this ILLEGAL crap on this side of the Pecos, neither company would have survived 2003, let alone still be operating in 2005. Oh, and while we were at it, we’d a found the money. The Court could use a little beach time.

The Honorable Judge Roy Bean

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