The words telemarketers and nuisance are often uttered in one breath. But some telemarketing firms cross the line into outright fraud and deception. Petry Urbina of South Florida was the target of a telemarketing company. The first item for sale: Aprenda Ingles, an English-speaking course costing $300. The telemarketer told Urbina she was chosen because she watches Univision, the Spanish-language TV channel.
"The moment they mentioned they were from Univision… and Don Francisco, who is the show host, I felt comfortable I felt confident this was actually legit. I had no reason to doubt it was not," said Urbina through an interpreter.
Urbina says she was initially interested in buying the course, but she told the telemarketer she had changed her mind.
"On second thought, I don't need it. When she was actually negating it, rejecting it, then that's when they became a little forceful and said, 'No, you need to actually need to receive this product,'" Urbina explained.
Feeling pressured, she bought the course but the telemarketers didn't back off.
"These companies would continue to send shipments or packages, to the consumer, that were never ordered by the consumer," said US Postal Inspector Bryan Masmela.
And before those packages arrived, Urbina got a telephone call telling her a new shipment was on its way and demanding a money order be ready for the C.O.D. payment.
"When the consumer told them they never ordered a package, the telemarketer would begin their threats… they would say if you don't accept the package and make payment then they would send the police to their house or call immigration authorities on them," said Masmela.
The telemarketers were also selling other products. including electricity savers, vitamins, even a version of phony medical insurance.
"That was probably the worst of the lies that we saw… because these were people who were actually sick and they didn't have any health insurance," said Masmela.
The victims were given a number to call.
"The telemarketer on the other phone posing as a doctor on the phone would ask them what their symptoms were and what their problems were and would tell them, 'Hey, I have there products you can purchase that will help you,'" Masmela added.
Univision tipped off postal inspectors to the scam when it learned the telemarketing firm was using its name without authorization. As inspectors began tracking the case they realized the telemarketers were using Univision to lure in victims who they then coerced into buying useless items.
"No company has a right to threaten you with deportation or arrest simply for not accepting one of their packages," warned Masmela.
The owners of this telemarketing firm were sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $4 million to victims in restitution.