But I Never Ordered Anything…

What if a company called you, demanding you pay for a product they said you ordered? What if they threatened you if you didn’t pay? And what if you never actually ordered that product, never even saw it, and never promised to pay for anything?

A recently-filed FTC case claims that Instant Response Systems, a Brooklyn-based company, did all that and more.

The company used telemarketers to sell medical response systems – basically, a pendant marketed as a way for someone to get help in case of an emergency. The lawsuit says Instant Response Systems targeted older consumers across the United States. That’s just target marketing, right?

Except there’s no “just” about it. According to the lawsuit, the telemarketers would say they were calling in response to the consumer’s request – or a request by the consumer’s family – when that wasn’t true. The FTC says that sometimes, telemarketers would say the person had placed the order and now payment was due. Sometimes, the telemarketer would threaten the consumer with legal action if they didn’t pay, often hundreds of dollars.

What if that happened to you? If it happened to me, I’d probably get in touch with the company to dispute the charges. Seems reasonable, right? According to the FTC’s complaint, though, consumers who contacted Instant Response Systems either couldn’t reach anyone, or were faced with threats, verbal abuse, more demands to pay, and sometimes even threats of a lawsuit.

At the FTC’s request, a US District Court judge temporarily shut down Instant Response Systems. Stay tuned to see what happens next.

In the meantime, how about calling an older loved one, telling them a little about the case, and asking them to tell you if they ever see anything like this?

by Jennifer Leach

Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

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