The Federal Trade Commission shut down an operation, pending trial, that allegedly tricked consumers into paying hundred of dollars based on empty promises of lower credit card interest rates. It's the FTC's sixth advance-fee telemarketing complaint in just more than a month.

A federal district court in Arizona temporarily halted the scheme, known as National Card Monitor LLC, which charged consumers up to $599 up-front to supposedly secure a new low-rate credit card on their behalf.

The defendants sought out consumers seeking relief from high credit card interest rates, according to the FTC's complaint. In the scheme, telemarketers working for National cold-called consumers and told them the company could reduce their credit card interest rates to as low as zero percent by obtaining new lower-rate cards on their behalf, onto which they could transfer existing balances.

Consumers who accepted the offer were required to pay an advance fee, typically ranging from $499 to $599. National also claimed it had a 100 percent money-back guarantee, and that consumers who did not get the promised cards would receive a full refund.

After paying the fee, however, most consumers found out that National failed to deliver on its promises, and that getting a refund of their payment was difficult, the FTC alleged. The agency’s complaint also alleges National called consumers whose numbers are on the Do Not Call Registry and never paid the fees required to access registered phone numbers in the area codes its telemarketers call.

The FTC charged National with violating the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by misrepresenting or making unsubstantiated claims that consumers who bought its credit card interest rate reduction services would receive a new low-interest rate credit card and that it would provide full refunds to anyone who did not. 

Other charges included calling consumers on the Do Not Call Registry, failing to pay Registry fees, and requesting or receiving an advance fee for a credit card via telemarketing.

The case follows last month's announcement of an FTC-led joint enforcement effort against five companies that allegedly made deceptive "cardholder services" robocalls. That announcement, which included cases brought by state partners in Arizona, Arkansas and Florida, came just weeks after the FTC held a summit in Washington, D.C. to review the robocall problem and announced a $50,000 cash prize for the best technical solution to block illegal robocalls on landlines and mobile phones.

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