Strategia / Suntasia Marketing, FTN
Promotions, Florida Travel Network, Travel Promotion Scam
A Huge Telemarketing Fraud Operation Gets
07/06 - SEATTLE - When a telemarketer calls you up and mentions
Costco, that gets your attention. But in this case, Costco says watch
This tip comes from Rachel Randall of Shelton who says she got a
call from a Suntasia Marketing. The caller told her she's get $100
in free gas and $400 in airfare if she would try out some products
Rachel says what really freaked her out is the caller already had
her bank account information - both her account number and the routing
number of her bank.
Coscto Vice President of Membership Paul Latham wants you to know
that Costco is not not involved in any telemarketing promotion.
"We aren't doing any kind of promotion with a telemarketer," Latham
said. "We do not allow our membership base to go to anyone."
Suntasia Marketing's web site says it's a full service marketing
company. But telemarketing seems to be the primary focus. Suntasia
Marketing is actually part of another company called FTN Promotions,
based in Saint Petersburg Florida.
FTN stands for Florida Travel Network and according the Better Business
Bureau, Florida Travel Network operates under more than half a dozen
names, including, Suntasia Marketing, Florida Travel Network, Confirmation
Center, Sea Escape, Platinum Plus Travel, Classic Enterprise and
It's travel promoter, but that's about all I could get when I called
Suntasia to find out how they got Rachel's account information.
The customer service rep told me Rachel must have done business
with one of Suntasia's affiliates.
A young woman who identified herself as "Miss Reed" told
me the company offers different promotions and calls customers who've
done business with their affiliates. She declined to say who those
Rachel says she was told the company buys or shares lists with other
companies but no one would tell her the names of the companies that
might have shared her information.
I tried to get a supervisor or owner, but was told there was no
one else I could talk to.
From talking with the Florida State Attorney General however, it
would appear Rachel is not alone in her concerns.
FTN Promotions, Inc. is the subject
of an active investigation by Florida State, based on dozens
of complaints about unfair and deceptive practices and unauthorized
debiting of consumer bank and credit accounts.
Further background investigation turned up government action in
multiple states dating back to 1997, including settlements in 2000
with the states of Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Washington,DC,
Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina,
Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The settlements involved misleading and deceptive practices in the
sale of vacation packages. At that time, Florida Travel Network agreed
to modify its marketing but did not admit any wrongdoing.
I made several attempts to call both Suntasia and FTN Promotions,
but either got no answer or the lines were disconnected.
If you get an unsolicited call from Suntasia or any company you've
never dealt with who already has your account numbers or other private
information, get as much information from the caller as you can and
report it to the Washington
State Attorney General's office or the AG for your state.
Then, notify your bank and let them know your account has been compromised.
One Year Later The Authorities Finally Act
07/07 - LARGO - Gayla Scott, a single mother, thought of her 11-year-old
son's upcoming birthday celebration when she got a telephone call
from a telemarketer offering a four-day vacation package in Orlando.
Because the caller already knew the name of Scott's bank, the bank's
routing number, and had called her company cell phone, Scott thought
the offer was legitimate.
It wasn't, federal authorities said.
When Scott received information on the getaway in the mail, she
thought she had a 10-day grace period to make a final decision on
the package. But the telemarketing company started taking hundreds
of dollars out of her bank account in two days, she said.
The Fort Myers woman is among more than 5,000 consumers nationwide
who have complained about the company, which goes by its current
name of Strategia Marketing. It is more commonly known locally by
its previous name, Suntasia Marketing, authorities said.
On Wednesday, federal and local authorities swooped down on the
company's building at 8751 Ulmerton Road and shut down the business,
if only temporarily. More than 700 employees work there.
"This may be the biggest telemarketing fraud I've ever seen," said
C. Steven Baker, the director of the Federal Trade Commission's Chicago
office, which is spearheading the investigation.
The FTC estimates consumers have been defrauded of tens, and perhaps
hundreds, of millions of dollars.
Dozens of telemarketers showing up for work Wednesday were left
dumbfounded as they were handed notices about the shutdown while
Largo police officers, U.S. postal inspectors and FTC investigators
entered the building.
"I don't know what to think," telemarketer Timothy Harvey
said. "I come here to do an honest day's work for an honest
day's pay and we get shut down, so it makes us think maybe we weren't
doing such an honest job."
"I am very up forward, with telling people the truth and things
like that," said Sherry Wise, another telemarketer. "I
was under no impression that any laws were broken, so it's kind of
Company's Assets Frozen
At the request of the FTC, U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr.
on Monday entered a 10-day temporary restraining order that puts
a stop to the company's operations, freezes the assets of the six
men the FTC says run the company, and appoints a receiver to oversee
the corporation as the case begins to wend through court. Among the
assets is a yacht, Baker said.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the man who runs the company
is Bryon W. Wolf. He, along with his brother, Jeffrey P. Wolf; the
two men's father, Alfred H. Wolf; the company's general counsel,
Donald L. Booth; and two other men, Roy A. Eliasson and John Louis
Smith II, are the six men identified in court papers by the FTC.
None of them faces criminal charges.
The six have used at least 15 company names, in addition to Suntasia,
when charging consumers' bank accounts, "an approach designed
to prevent the public and law enforcement from realizing the scheme's
true scope," according to the FTC's 53-page request for the
temporary restraining order.
Ostensibly, Suntasia is marketing buyers' and travel clubs, but
because company officials realize most consumers wouldn't pay to
belong to them, the company uses a range of deceptive practices to
trick consumers into revealing their bank account numbers, the request
Free Gifts Come At A Price, FTC Says
That's what Scott said her telemarketer did to her. Often, the telemarketers
pretended to be associated with a consumer's bank and purported to
be calling to offer free gifts, the FTC's request says. But to obtain
the gifts, the consumer was asked to "verify" bank account
information the telemarketer pretended to already possess, the document
And the so-called free gifts weren't free, said Baker, the FTC regional
director. To receive the gift, consumers unwittingly agreed to sign
on with one of Suntasia's clubs for a year, with more than $100 a
month getting plucked from victims' bank accounts, according to the
The "gifts" were typically $400 in American airline savings
vouchers, which consumers mistakenly thought was an American Airlines
voucher, or $100 in gas coupons, or two free nights in a hotel, the
FTC says. There are so many conditions, however, that the vouchers
and coupons essentially are worthless, the FTC says.
As with Scott, many consumers didn't think the trial period for
a particular offer began until they received the information in the
mail. At Suntasia, unknown to the consumers, the trial period begins
when the telemarketing call is made, so money is withdrawn from a
person's account before the consumer expects it to be, FTC officials
And it is difficult to get out of one of Suntasia's programs, Baker
said. Suntasia sometimes ignores cancellation requests altogether,
or refuses to issue refunds until a consumer complains to the police
or another entity, according to the federal agency.
Scott said she didn't get back the $293.30 taken out of her account
until she complained to the Better Business Bureau.
Tampa Bay Tribune