Eric Tabor ,
Chief of Staff
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, October 11, 2013
Judge Bars Arizona Company Accused of Deceptive Telemarketing from Calling Iowans
(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Polk County judge today ordered a Phoenix-based telemarketing company and its owner to permanently cease all contact with Iowans in connection with its telephone sales of household products using sales pitches focused on helping disabled workers.
Polk County Judge Richard G. Blane II issued the order against American Handicapped & Disadvantaged Workers Inc. (AHDW) and its owner, Adli Najib Dasuqi, 62, who has recently listed addresses in Waterford, Michigan and Scottsdale, Arizona.
The order, through a consent judgment, covers both telemarketing calls and charitable solicitations to Iowa residents. The order resolves a consumer fraud lawsuit that Attorney General Tom Miller filed in September.
Miller’s lawsuit against AHDW, a for-profit company with locations in Arizona, California, and Michigan, had alleged that the operation telemarketed light bulbs, trash bags, and other household items using sales pitches in which callers claimed to be “handicapped.” The suit accused AHDW of misleading Iowans about the callers’ disabilities to get Iowans, including many older Iowans, to make a string of purchases at premium prices.
“The undercover phone line in our Consumer Protection Division caught AHDW telemarketers in the act of making highly misleading sales pitches,” Miller said. “We also learned that the company repeatedly exploited the generosity of some older Iowans. For example, the company pitched one Iowa senior three times in less than five months, each time collecting $200 for high-priced household items.”
Miller’s suit included a recording of one of the three AHDW sales pitches recorded on the Consumer Protection Division’s undercover phone [click here for the audio]. The lawsuit alleged that the recorded pitches displayed a number of illegal features, including:
- Claims that callers are “handicapped” by severe physical conditions, when in fact their primary limitations may be a record of crime, addiction, or unemployment;
- Pressuring consumers by literally begging for help, and by saying that the caller hopes to earn a food voucher to help feed dependent family members;
- Falsely claiming that as much as 75% of the purchase money goes to cover the caller’s medical expenses or other needs;
- Misleading Iowans about what are the least expensive items, in order to extract more money with bigger purchases;
- Telling consumers that they’ll be contacted only once a year to help, when in fact a number of older customers were contacted three or four times a year.
In addition to barring any future Iowa telemarketing, the consent judgment requires AHDW and Dasuqi to refrain from making any future use of its list of Iowa customers, or even transferring the list to anyone else. The consent judgment also required the defendants to pay $10,000.00 to be used to make refunds to some of the older Iowans who were the targets of repeated calls.
In resolving the case through the consent judgment and agreeing to the Iowa ban, AHDW and Dasuqi denied any wrongdoing.
How to handle phone calls asking for support
- Don’t be fooled by a sympathetic name. Some operations use names that promise more than they deliver. Many causes clearly deserve generous public support, including veterans, law enforcement, fire fighters, and people with disabilities, but some marginal operations claim connections with such groups yet provide them with very little support. Don’t be pressured into helping out until you have checked out a worthy-sounding organization.
- Show healthy skepticism. Be wary of claims that most of the money you send goes to a worthy cause, or that your donation will be used locally.
- Get it in writing. Check out the operation before you make a decision. Be suspicious if they insist on a pledge before they’ll send you information. Charities can be checked out at the national Better Business Bureau’s “Wise Giving” site – www.give.org.
- Don't give your credit card or checking account numbers over the phone to someone you don't know.
- Give wisely! Giving to a charity you know and trust is often the best option.
Older Iowans are frequent targets of deceptive telemarketers
Older people often are the targets of fraudulent telemarketers who take advantage of the fact that many older people have assets, and some may be especially susceptible to sympathetic and aggressive sales pitches.
National Consumers League warning signs that an older person may be a fraud victim:
If an older person is:
- receiving lots of junk mail for contests, “free” trips, prizes and sweepstakes,
- getting frequent calls from strangers offering valuable awards or great moneymaking opportunities, or asking for charitable contributions,
- making repeated and/or large payments to out-of-state companies,
- having payments picked up by private courier services,
- receiving lots of cheap items such as costume jewelry, small appliances, pens and pencils, beauty products, water filters, etc.,
- getting calls from organizations offering to recover money that they have paid to telemarketers, for a fee,
…then he or she may be a target of fraud.
Advice from the FBI
Seniors who are isolated and have little contact with family, friends, caseworkers, and other concerned parties may be at increased risk of being victimized by fraudulent businesses. Decreasing this isolation through police welfare monitoring, neighborhood watches, and in-person outreach efforts can help to ensure that elders are aware of available resources they can turn to with questions and concerns about potential scammers. Further, ongoing contact with family members can provide the means to monitor an elder’s financial matters.
There are many good charities soliciting contributions in Iowa, and the Office of the Attorney General upholds the integrity of our system of giving by stopping fundraising abuses. If you think you may have been cheated by a fundraising scheme, write to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Hoover Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926, or 888-777-4590, toll free. The website is: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov.