Here’s the catch: Shady telemarketers call consumers looking to make money with a “risk free” or “100 percent guaranteed” investment offer. For a few hundred dollars, they claim investors would reap lavish returns in a few months time. Swayed by the offer, consumers give over their credit card numbers believing they will quickly strike it rich. After a few months pass with no money, anxious investors try to reach out once again to the company, only to find disconnected lines. This is the story for many seniors, veterans, and disabled individuals that trusted an outfit operating under several aliases, including Advertising Strategies, LLC.
The FTC took action in October 2016 in an effort to shut down the scam that swindled over $9,000,000 from victims. The companies and the three operators behind the lucrative scheme, Matthew Rodriguez, Susan Marie Rodriguez, and William Matthew Whitley, were hit with a temporary restraining order and have had their assets frozen. The complaint filed by the FTC claims the con artists cold called consumers, urging them to buy into or invest in e-commerce websites or websites that link to popular e-commerce websites, such as Amazon.com. They collected payments ranging from several hundred to more than $20,000 from vulnerable consumers who believed they would see large returns in no time.
For the first 90 days after payments were made, company representatives responded to consumers, reassuring them that their accounts were making substantial amounts of money and they would see payments at the end of the quarter. During this time, some investors were coerced into paying even more money to yield higher returns. The swindlers even helped some people move their now massive credit card balances to new accounts that offered temporarily low or zero interest balance transfers, assuring them that they would be able to pay off the balance when they received the first quarterly payment.
Advertising Strategies used stall tactics and put on an “all is well” front to discourage skeptics from disputing the charges on their credit cards, telling worried investors that money was accruing in their accounts. After about 90 days, outside of the timeframe for the victims to file a dispute, they cut off all communication. They also used mail forwarding services to hide their locations and changed addresses and names frequently to avoid detection.
The FTC has filed a temporary restraining order against the company and has put a freeze on their assets for potential victim compensation. They are seeking injunctive relief for victims of the scheme.
Back in 2014, Business Consumer Alliance reported complaints to an Oregon Attorney General who was investigating the company at the time. The complaints we received were similar, with the company promising generous returns on investments in a few short months—and the consumers receiving nothing. One 87-year old senior citizen lost over $5,000 of his savings to the scheme. You can read details of some complaints by checking BCA’s Advertising Strategies, LLC Reputation Report.
Kim’s Advice: If you’re thinking of entering into a home-based business opportunity or investment, do your homework before paying any money. Research the offer, the individuals, the company behind it, and any promises or guarantees that come along with the pitch. Check with BCA to see if it is a scam or if there are any concerns regarding the solicitation. And, if you decide to go ahead with the offer, pay with a credit card. For more tips and information, check out BCA’s Resource Guides on “Work-At-Home Schemes”.