Editor’s note: This is the first of four parts about the annoying “Rachel” from Cardholder Services telemarketing calls.
Back in January, I spotlighted the nightmare that is “Rachel”, and a court case to stop her. Little did I know, that I was only scratching the surface, and the facts in this case go much deeper.
Since I wrote about it in January, I’ve gotten a couple of more calls from “Rachel”, who promptly got the hang up treatment. Thinking that as the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission’s case went forward against Roy M. Cox and Castle Rock Capital Management, they would ultimately stop. But, as others have shared through the comments on my earlier post, this is not the end.
I set about to thinking about an operation like this, I came up with several questions, and set about trying to get answers. Hopefully with what I expose here, it will help readers understand it is going to take patience to end this scam.
What, exactly is this scam about?
In the scam, the caller presents themself as being from a debt/interest rate reduction service, operating on behalf of your bank or credit card. They tell you that if you have more than a specified amount of debt, they want to “work” with you to lower your interest rates to “better than most” levels.
Under the guise of this service, they ask for your credit card numbers, social security numbers, balances and bank contact numbers. By this point, any intelligent person is suspicious of this activity. Using this information, they claim they will work with your bank/credit card to lower the rate.
The cost for this service? Reports say anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500. Working directly with the bank and/or credit card company may not make as extreme rate reduction as they promise, but will cost you $0 – and you would likely save what you would have paid the scam artists in interest fees.
If you show any sign of intelligence up front (remove me from your list, violation of do not call lists, etc.), they immediately hang up on you. Likewise if you select from the automated system that you want them to remove you from the list, you are immediately hung up upon, and they flag it as a live number to call and harass again later.
Who are the players?
Roy Cox and Castle Rock Capital Management are only one of several organizations that likely are employing this scam, and at the rate the DOJ is shutting them down, potentially new players are popping up (or is it the same players just changing their name?) as quickly as the courts place permanent injunctions on others.
I use the term “player”, just like they are all playing a big game of poker, each one trying to outdo the next. It is also based on the fact that there are only so many “seats” at the table, otherwise the market would be too saturated for the scam to profit. As one player leaves the table, another can step in and take that seat.
The fact that there are so many players leads me to believe that this racket must generate money, albeit illegally, to call for continued operations.
The players we know that are now involved, including names and cities are:
- Ambrosia Web Design LLC, Chris Ambrosia, Mesa, Arizona
- American Debt Negotiators, Ran David Barnea, Boca Raton, Florida
- Associated Accounting Specialists Inc., William R. Page, Port Saint Lucie, Florida
- Castle Rock Capital Management, Roy M. Cox, Laguna Niguel, California
- Concord Financial Advisors LLC, Lee Cestine, Mesa, Arizona
- Financial Services Solutions LLC, CEO Unknown, New York, New York
- PHL International, Mark Burton, Deerfield Beach, Florida
- Premiere Debt Solutions, CEO Unknown, Orlando, Florida
- Red Leaf Capital LLC, Leroy Castine, Mesa, Arizona
And there are likely others as well.
In researching this, the three Mesa, Arizona based companies seem to all have corporate addresses of a single private residence. The names Lee Cestine and Leroy Castine are likely aliases used by Chris Ambrosia.
Likewise, some of the companies above, including Castle Rock Capital Management, use a number of other shell companies extending this business outside the United States, likely with the thought of being out of reach of the Federal Government.
Who is “Rachel”?
“Rachel”, “Michelle”, “Heather” and others in these robocalls are likely voice talent for hire. Much like the announcements you hear on your voice mail, or at the airport, these women were likely employed at one time to record the announcements for the robocalls.
If the women still get paid for the use of that recording, and if they (or their employer) is selling it to companies directly, is hard to say. The recording could also be shared among the players, bypassing the original producer.
“Rachel”, for as far as we know, could be a 78-year-old grandmother that makes extra income by recording these voice announcements.
Who is “Cardholder Services”
There actually was a company called “Cardholder Services” that may have started this robocalling promotion. In March 2007, the Federal Communications Commission forced the Huntington Beach, California company out of business for violating the telemarketing rules.
It is my belief that the “Rachel” and other recordings may have been originally produced for them, and is now being used by the other players.
To create the cash for settling with the Government, the equipment was likely sold to some of the other players. This could explain for the Rachel recordings continuing unchanged.
Next time: I’ll present my theory on what makes “Rachel” work, and what it likely costs.