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Scam Watch

July 29, 2007|David Colker

The alleged pitch: We just need to verify the last set of numbers of your bank account.

The reality: The Federal Trade Commission charged a Largo, Fla., outfit last week with defrauding people nationwide out of tens of millions of dollars with a telemarketing scheme that tricked them into divulging their personal bank account numbers. A typical call from the company, Suntasia Marketing Inc., said offers of "free gifts" and discounts were being made to "valued customers" of a selected bank, according to the charges. The company representative would then read off the bank's routing number -- found at the bottom of checks -- to make the offer sound legitimate. But that number is public information. The caller would then ask a person to "verify" the last set of numbers, which are unique to the personal account. If the victim supplied the numbers -- thinking the caller already had them -- Suntasia could make charges to the bank account. The company, according to the FTC, would then enroll individuals in ongoing services they would have to pay for and find hard to cancel. Also, according to the charges, the free gifts often turned out to be bogus.

FTC action: At the agency's request, a U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., issued a temporary restraining order that halted operations of Suntasia and froze the assets of several defendants. The defendants could not be reached for comment.

-- David Colker

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