An ISP scam targets low-income people seeking government assistance


Traxler’s scam ran from May to August 2021, during which he “repeatedly engaged in conduct that violated the federal wire fraud statute and the Commission’s rules,” the FCC said. According to the commission, the proposed $220,210 forfeiture penalty is “the statutory maximum we can impose and reflects the scope, duration, seriousness and seriousness of Cleo’s apparent violations”.

When Clio applied to be in the EBB program, the FCC initially told the entity that its application would be “denied due to insufficient information for approval.” But Clio subsequently sought FCC approval, providing documents including copies of two invoices that “had customer-identifying information removed, which Clio claimed was ‘for reasons of CPNI and privacy.'” The Clio claims to the FCC that it “offers high-speed.” Wireless Internet for 500 users”.

Dozens of almost identical complaints

The FCC said it reviewed 41 complaints about Clio, all of which “focused on similar allegations. According to the complaints, consumers searched individual states’ Universal Service or EBB program websites, a list of participating EBB program providers through the FCC website, or USACs. [Universal Service Administrative Company] Followed links to website and Clio website. The complaints allege that Clio electronically accepted payment for EBB program discount broadband services or connected devices from these customers, failed to ship the ordered product or provide the requested services, and then failed to provide refunds.

The FCC interviewed eight consumers who filed complaints who live in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Washington State and Wisconsin.

An Illinois woman ordered a laptop from Cleo for $50 using the Venmo payment service. The woman received no response when she contacted Clio to report that she never received the laptop, the FCC said. She “attempted to contact Cleo via social media (Facebook) and telephone, but Cleo was unresponsive and blocked her on Facebook and telephone,” the FCC said.

A New York woman “ordered a tablet, laptop, ‘Wi-Fi box’ and hotspot service with an EBB program discount from Clio’s website on July 13, 2021 and arranged a $108.94 payment on the website via PayPal,” the FCC said. This consumer “said she emailed Cleo when the bureau staff didn’t receive the equipment she ordered and told her that Cleo staff were rude to her and that they didn’t have to provide her with service. She said someone at Cleo told her to ‘read the fine print.’ Exchanged some e-mails.”

Other complainants also said Clio stopped responding to messages asking for information on devices they never received. Some users were able to cancel payments made by credit card or PayPal.

“Eight consumers interviewed by the Bureau and other consumers who filed complaints with the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center all claimed that Clio did not deliver the EBB Program-supported services or equipment they ordered and that the company refused to issue refunds. Some of their complaints indicated that Clio would sue them when they asked for a refund. ,” the FCC said.

Shady terms of service prohibit refunds

The terms of service Clio cited when denying refunds state that the company “never suggests or accepts refunds, credits or other service returns and money owed back to you.”

“Clio Communications operates a prepaid service. All services are sold as such [sic] and without warranty. Under no circumstances shall Clio Communications represent any warranty or provide any refund for services rendered,” the terms state, according to the FCC. Clio’s terms additionally state that “charges reimbursed to us by any customer’s bank shall constitute a breach of contract.” At any time the agreement and disputed, any and all legal fees, court Fees, attorney fees, filing fees, interest in the amount of including but not limited to small claims court actions for breach of contract are subject to further legal action.9.9%, and a breach of contract fee in the amount of $300.00.”

Rude responses: “You will be taken to court”

The FCC document detailed incidents in which Clio responded to customers seeking refunds by threatening to sue or charge them with harassment:

For example, on August 2, 2021, when a customer emailed requesting a refund, Cleo responded, “[y]Our desire is to hide behind PayPal instead of contacting us. We will not issue you a refund. We do not allow you to use your benefits as we claim them. And you will be taken to court. Cleo Care.”

On August 10, 2021, when another customer requested a refund, Clio responded, “Refund denied. Please refer to the Terms of Service which explains your rights and our responsibilities and the rights that may be imposed. Also your EBB has been claimed. You will not use our credit anywhere and you will be invoiced and issued to collections.” . Clio Collections.” Clio told the customer in a later e-mail, “[n]Read more before you order. Now we don’t communicate anymore. Any further e-mails will result in harassment charges in Ohio. Cleo is legal.”

On August 12, 2021, Cleo told another customer, “[w]e is not ignoring you nor are we charging you. You requested a refund and the refund was not given and this has been notified and someone will decide [sic] Either one is issued or not. Please see- kyty.xyz/terms.html. Submitted to the FCC. You state your claims with documents that exist and are not ignored [sic]. Cleo Legal Affairs.


This story appeared first Ars Technica.

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