Iowa Attorney General’s Office
Campaign Against Telemarketing, Internet, and Mail Scams
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office places high priority on resisting such schemes – partly because they often tend to target older Iowans.
In the late 1990s, the Iowa AG’s Office pioneered the device of the “undercover telephone sting” – which snagged fraudulent telemarketers by receiving calls from them, taping the calls, and pursuing enforcement actions (often with cooperation of US authorities or officials in other states.) The “undercover” telephone numbers were obtained from Iowans who were on “target lists” (sometimes called “mooch lists”) bought and sold and traded among deceptive telemarketers, and who received repeated calls from questionable schemes. When the Iowans finally needed to change their phone numbers to avoid constant calls, the phone numbers sometimes went to the AG’s Office for its “undercover” line – so con-artists unknowingly were calling the Iowa AG’s Office. Federal and other state consumer protection units adopted the “undercover sting” approach, which was extraordinarily effective and was crucial in “busting” major telemarketing scam operations in Las Vegas, Florida, and elsewhere.
One consequence of this effective enforcement in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that many telemarketing and related con-schemes moved to Canada and elsewhere abroad.
Iowa responded to this movement “off-shore” of deceptive telemarketers by shifting focus to the “facilitators” of telemarketing fraud and related scams – namely, the so-called “legitimate” U.S. companies used by the con-artists, such as list-brokers and “third-party” financial processors that withdraw money from consumers’ accounts on behalf of deceptive schemes.
Here are some of the actions in recent years against the “facilitators” of telemarketing fraud and related schemes: