Beware of Calls Offering “Free” English Courses Paid by Federal Government

Spanish-speaking consumers are being targeted on their residential and mobile phones by scam artists offering a “free” English course. According to recent complaints to the Office of the Attorney General, callers are posing as employees of a purported nonprofit agency and claiming that call recipients could qualify for a “free” federal government English course. The scam artists ask unsuspecting customers for their personal information and the personal information of three friends as references.

A few days later, a representative of the phony nonprofit organization calls interested customers and tells them they did not qualify for a “free” course after all. Call recipients are asked to pay $500 for the so-called course. In some cases, customers are told they did qualify, but they nonetheless need to pay $500 for the course. In either case, if the customers decide not to take the course after initially agreeing to take it, the scam artists insist a binding, verbal contract exists and that the customers must pay.

In some instances, the scammers will tell call recipients the course has been sent to them through an express delivery service, even though customers never receive any merchandise. The scammers call customers repeatedly to insist on payment. To add further pressure, some call recipients are told they have been sued by the nonprofit for non-payment and that they now have a court date.

The Office of the Attorney General urges Texans to exercise caution when dealing with telephone sales calls.

To stop calls from telemarketers, Texans should register residential and mobile telephone numbers with both state and federal do-not-call lists. Enroll with Texas’ do-not-call list at www.texasnocall.com and the federal government’s list at www.donotcall.gov. The registrations are effective several weeks after enrollment.

Scam artists do not respect customers’ legal right not to be called after their phone numbers are registered, so Texans should always be suspicious of unsolicited sales calls. The best way to deal with unsolicited calls is to hang up on them.

Texans who believe they have been victimized by a fraudulent telemarketers or suspect violations of the Texas no-call list can file a complaint with the OAG at (800) 252-8011 or online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

General Abbott's signature
Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

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ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.

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