Telemarketing Scheme Targets Employees

Hundreds of complaints filed against telemarketer elsewhere

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    A North Texas businessman is disputing monthly phone bill charges by a telemarketing company that claims one of the businessman’s own employees approved the charge.

    Jim Northcutt owns the Wing Stop restaurant at North Main Street and Harwood Road in Euless.   He luckily opened what looked like some junk mail recently.  It turned out to be membership literature from Merchant Technical Solutions of Schaumburg, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.

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    A business owner says he was charged for services he never ordered.

    The papers said Northcutt would be charged almost $50 a month on the restaurant phone bill for computer networking advice, even though he has no computer network.  “It’s a service that we have absolutely no need or use for,” Northcutt said.

    The papers named a counter worker at the restaurant who was not authorized by the owner  to make such a purchase.   But when Northcutt complained to Merchant Technical Services, the company played a recording of a portion of a telephone conversation with that employee where he seems to agree to the charges.  “They took advantage of my employee for sure,” Northcutt said.

    The businessman said the very same thing happened a few months earlier at his Hurst Wing Stop store.

    “So when it happened the second time, it really set me off,” Northcutt said.

    According to the Chicago Better Business Bureau, Merchant Technical Solutions is one of several business names with the same Schaumburg address, all operated by United Marketing Group, LLC, a telemarketing firm.   The Chicago BBB has recorded 386 complaints against United Marketing Group over the past 3 years.

    Dallas Better Business Bureau spokesperson Jeannette Kopko said many of the other complaints give a similar story as the Euless businessman, including tape recordings played back to persuade a customer the charge is valid.

    “The company does answer complaints and they’ll make refunds to those people who complain to the BBB, but they keep on making the same telemarketing calls that are causing the complaints,” Kopko said.

    The Illinois and Texas Attorney General offices also have complaints on file against United Marketing Group, according to spokespersons for both agencies.

    E-mail and telephone messages to the company requesting comment on Friday were not returned.

    Northcutt is disputing his charges and trying to be sure his phone bill will not be charged in the future.  He has warned his employees to discuss only customer orders for chicken wings on the telephone and nothing else.

    The businessman and the Better Business Bureau urge everyone to check their bank, credit card and telephone bills carefully for any charges they did not specifically request.

    “It’s absolutely sneaky,” Northcutt said.