Okla. AG Files Suit Against Telemarketer Selling Identity Theft Protection

September 29, 2004

The Oklahoma attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against an Arizona telemarketing company after the company allegedly offered Oklahoma consumers a bogus identity theft protection service, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.

The lawsuit, filed today in Oklahoma County District Court, accuses Consumer Benefits Group Inc. (CBG) of violating the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act, the Commercial Telephone Solicitation Act and the Oklahoma Telemarketer Restriction Act.

“Under Oklahoma law, all telemarketers must register with the attorney general’s office before doing business in Oklahoma,” Edmondson said. “Consumer Benefits Group was not registered, and they were also placing calls to Oklahomans who are registered on the state’s Don’t Call list.”

The attorney general’s office filed the suit after receiving complaints from two consumers, Edmondson said.

“Telemarketers for CBG were referring to themselves as ‘head agent’ and ‘inspector,'” Edmondson said. “The caller then informed the consumer that they had been placed on a list of consumers targeted for identity theft or that the consumer’s credit card information had been given to a third party without the consumer’s permission.”

According to the state’s complaint, the telemarketer then offers to provide the consumer with identity theft prevention services for a $299 fee.

“Identity theft is an increasing concern among consumers,” Edmondson said. “We allege that CBG took advantage of the public’s concern about this crime and employed scare tactics to turn a quick buck.”

In addition to civil penalties and court costs, the attorney general’s office is asking the court to issue a permanent injunction that would bar CBG from conducting future business in Oklahoma. The state is also asking the court to issue a temporary injunction against CBG to prevent the company from doing business while legal action is pending. Each alleged violation potentially carries a $10,000 civil penalty.

The attorney general also issued a reminder for consumers.

“Never give out personal information over the telephone,” Edmondson said. “If you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft, contact local law enforcement or the attorney general’s office. You do not have to pay a fee to fight identity theft.”

The lawsuit was filed after an investigation by the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Unit. Edmondson’s Consumer Protection Unit has statewide jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Anyone with information regarding suspected fraud or scams can contact the attorney general’s consumer protection hotline at (405) 521-2029.

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