SEATTLE - The Washington State Attorney General's Office and the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General today joined forces to seize assets and close down a Vancouver, BC telemarketer. The cooperative effort is part of crackdown by law enforcement agencies in both nations to stop cross-border telemarketing fraud.
"Cross-border telemarketing fraud has become a serious problem," Washington Attorney General Christine Gregoire explained. "We estimate telemarketing fraud victims, many of them our vulnerable elderly citizens, lose $40 billion a year."
The targets of Thursday's operation were Final Round Services Limited and Golden Packages Services Limited, both of Vancouver.
According to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Seattle by Gregoire's office, the two companies have run telemarketing operations which deceptively and illegally sell foreign lottery tickets to U.S. residents. The companies are operated by Nuraldin Shareef Karim (also known as Dillon Sherif) and Nanda Duraisami.
The Washington lawsuit alleges the companies engaged in a number of illegal and deceptive practices. The suit alleges the companies:
- Failed to disclose to victims that the sale or trafficking in foreign lotteries is a crime; misrepresented the chances of winning;
- failed to disclose that only a small percentage of payment would be applied to the purchase of lottery products;
- charged more than authorized on some victim's credit cards;
- engaged in harassing phone sales tactics; and,
- illegally used a third party to process credit card charges.
"These telemarketers would say whatever was necessary to make a sale," Gregoire said.
"Telemarketers need to know they can't hide on the Canadian side of the border and ignore our laws," added Gregoire. "With the legal resources of both Canada and the United States working together, we can and will stop this cross-border consumer fraud."
Led by the BC Attorney General's Office, teams including members from Washington's AG's office and Canadian police searched multiple locations in the Vancouver, BC area owned by the telemarketers.
An estimated $412 billion is spent each year on goods and services marketed by telemarketers. While the vast majority of those sales are legitimate, the amount of telemarketing fraud is growing, Gregoire said.
"Many of those being called are elderly consumers who have been targeted by other telemarketers before," said Gregoire. "One 83 year-old woman from Houston, Texas spent more than $35,000 on lottery tickets in just a few months."
According to the state's lawsuit, consumers in Washington and throughout the U.S. are being called and solicited by the defendants to buy individual chances or group shares in the Australian or Spanish lotteries. In addition to stopping the telemarketers from calling into the U.S. , Washington is seeking restitution for consumers and reimbursement of attorney costs and fees.
Canadian cross-border telemarketing fraud was recently brought into sharp focus when President Clinton and Prime Minister Chretien formed of a bi-national work group to investigate the problem in depth. The work group is expected to issue its findings and recommendations within the month.
Consumers who want to file a complaint against a telemarketer should contact the Washington Attorney General's Office at 1-800-551-4636 or click here.