Suntasia to reimburse $5.7 million from marketing scam

business man looking shocked at phoneHundreds of thousands of consumers victimized by a nationwide telemarketing scam are receiving a second round of reimbursement checks, the Federal Trade Commission announced.

The telemarketing scheme was run by Suntasia Marketing of Largo, Fla., which deceived nearly one million consumers nationwide into joining buyers' and travel clubs between 1999 and 2007. The FTC will send approximately $5.7 million to consumers illegally charged for one or more Suntasia programs, with the average check totaling $33.17.

The first round of redress checks totaling $14.1 million were sent in January 2010 to more than 356,000 victims. Those who received and cashed a check for more than $10 during the first round are eligible to receive a second check.

The reimbursement checks stem from a December 2008 settlement in which Suntasia defendants agreed to pay more than $11 million in cash to the FTC and surrender various properties for sale, including the Largo facility where they operated their fraudulent business.

The FTC accused Suntasia of calling consumers to offer supposedly "free" trial memberships in its programs. The company then deceived consumers into disclosing their bank account information, which it used to debit unauthorized funds from their bank accounts. Relying on what are commonly known as "negative option" programs, Suntasia took consumers' silence or failure to cancel as acceptance of their offer and permission to siphon funds from their accounts.

When unlawfully debiting consumers' bank accounts, Suntasia used several different names, including: Distinct Advantage, Freedom Gold, Variety!, Credit Life, Capital Vacations, Agents Travel Network, Florida Passport, Travel Agents Go Direct, Floridaway, Freedom Ring ULD, and Lucid Long Distance.

Wachovia Bank, which processed many of the unauthorized debits, has already mailed out $33 million in restitution to Suntasia victims. Consumers who received a check from Wachovia may also receive an additional check from the FTC if some of their payments to Suntasia were processed by a bank other than Wachovia.

The Suntasia redress checks must be cashed by November 15, 2010, after which they become void. The FTC assures consumers the checks are legitimate and should be cashed. Consumers with questions should call 1-800-427-5290.

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