Two telemarketing companies shut down, fined nearly $500K for robocall fundraising scheme

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.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 40 attorneys general have shut down a telemarketing scheme that spammed people with more than 1.3 billion robocalls, fining them $495,000 to be paid to legitimate charities.

In Washington alone, people were harassed by more than 1.7 million robocalls from the two companies involved in the scheme — Associated Community Services (ACS) and Directele — which operated under the pretenses of raising money for charity.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office says they instead “pocketed 90 cents of every dollar” they claimed to raise.

ACS and Directele told people they called they promoted organizations that claimed to support homeless veterans, house fire victims, breast cancer patients, children with autism and more. These organizations would then only receive a fraction of the donation, in many cases as little as 10%.

“Everybody hates finding themselves on the receiving end of harassing robocalls – and that’s especially true when those harassing call are promoting scams” Ferguson said. “My office will hold anyone accountable who cheats hardworking Washingtonians out of their money, wherever they operate.”

These calls led 113 Washingtonians donating $2,867.

The lawsuit from the FTC and attorneys general have now barred the company managers from any fundraising or nonprofit consultation work, barred them from using robocalls for any form of telemarketing. ACS shut down in 2019 due to a previous lawsuit, and effectively immediately Directele must dissolve, and the companies must pay $495,000 out to the charities their unwilling clients originally intended to support.