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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 09, 2005
Consumer Alert: Callers Promising Coupons, Prizes Asking for Bank Info


SPOKANE – The Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana today warned consumers to be wary of callers who either offer coupons or claim you have won a gift certificate from a local business, then ask for personal bank account information.

Consumers in the Spokane area have reported receiving calls from telemarketers who ask them to provide their bank account number and other personal information. The calls appear to originate from a company in Canoga Park, Calif., that uses the names Star Communications, Spark Communications and Consumer Rewards Network.

“Consumers should never provide personal information to an unknown caller,” Attorney General Rob McKenna said. “Legitimate businesses will not ask for a bank account over the phone. These callers are asking for personal information that could be used to steal funds or otherwise commit identity theft.”

The scams work like this:

Consumers contacted by Star Communications are asked to sign up for a membership of some sort on a trial basis. As an incentive, they will receive $500 worth of coupons for gasoline, restaurants, automotive services, movie passes, long-distance services, etc.

To claim the coupons, callers are told they need to supply a bank account number in order to withdraw a $4.95 processing fee. They’re also told that they have up to seven days to cancel their membership or they will be charged a membership fee between $19.95 and $99.95.

Consumers who accepted the offer said they were unable to cancel their membership before the company withdrew funds on their account, they were charged hundreds of dollars and they never received the coupons.

In June, the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau alerted consumers to a similar scam connected to Star Communications. At that time, Spokane residents received cold calls indicating they won a gift certificate for $500 from a local mall or grocery. The caller then claimed that the amount was too small to issue a money order, and asked for a bank account number in order to withdraw a $4.95 transaction fee.

This month, Spokane residents reported the same sort of calls originating from Spark Communications. The only difference is the caller claims the gift certificate can be used anywhere.

Consumers who receive such calls can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.atg.wa.gov or by phone at (800) 551-4636, and with their local Better Business Bureau. In Eastern Washington, call (509) 455-4200 or (800) 356-1007 or visit www.thelocalbbb.com.

Here are some “red flags” to help identify telemarketing fraud:

  • Does the caller fail to identify himself or the company she works for?
  • Does the caller refuse to give you time to make up your mind about the offer?
  • Does the caller refuse to mail you information?
  • Does the caller pressure you for your credit card number or ask for personal information?
  • Do you have to pay to win a "free prize" or enter a "contest"?
  • Does the caller offer to send a courier to your house to pick up money or a check?
  • Does the offer sound too good to be true?
  • Are you buying something based only on what the caller tells you?

Don’t be afraid to hang up and request your name be taken off the company’s calling list. You also reduce telemarketing calls by adding your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. Register online at https://www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.

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For more information contact:
Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, Attorney General’s Office, (206) 464-6432

Jan Quintrall or Zan Deery, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana, (800) 248-2356 or (509) 838-3841

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