Sales takes the National Do Not Call Registry laws very seriously. We certify that any list we sell has been verified not only against the national list, but also against any relevant state lists. That’s why it makes our blood boil when we read stories of DNC abuse. Recently, a new scam was uncovered that tries to skirt around the DNC rules – specifically, the rule that exempts political surveys from DNC compliance. As of the current law’s status, political survey-takers cannot be blocked by DNC, although momentum is growing for the establishment of a Political DNC Registry.

Well, it seems an organization in Florida named “Political Opinions of America” (which is sponsored by The Berkley Group) has been caught making telemarketing robocalls to pitch real estate timeshares under the guise of conducting a political survey. The firm would call someone on the NDNC list and offer a three-question political survey. If the callee agreed, the automated voice would ask three really general questions like “What’s the most important thing to restore our economy?” After the callee answers the three questions, he or she is immediately transferred to a live telemarketer from “corporate travel services” who launches into the typical (and usually fraudulent) vacation timesharing pitch. In this one, a supposed anonymous donor is giving away free cruises. Up to four guests are “eligible” for the free cruise – if they each put up via credit card $60 in “port fees”!

Sale never sells lists to timeshare companies because of their questionable ethics, and this case vindicates our policy. The Boston law firm of Shapiro Haber & Ermy is preparing a class-action lawsuit against the Berkley Group for what it calls “unsolicited calls, purportedly as a political opinion poll…Then, one is offered a ‘free’ cruise, which is really designed to expose people to sales pitches for vacation timeshares.” The law firm states that callees may have a claim, whether or not any money exchanged hands. Also, a telemarketer who ignores DNC rules can be subject to a $16,000 fine per call.

The Florida attorney general’s office has received dozens of complaints regarding this telemarketing campaign. The Federal Trade Commission has not yet announced whether it is investigating this abuse. We think it should, pronto! In the past, two other companies that worked a similar scam have been on the receiving end of enforcement actions by the Department of Justice. Sales applauds the DOJ and FTC for cracking down on telemarketing scammers, and urges continued vigilance by law-enforcement officials.

Eric Bank