Originally created 09/07/00

Credit card scam hits Georgia mail

When Mary Toole went through her mail Tuesday, she came across a letter from what she thought was another credit card company soliciting new customers.

Ms. Toole, 49, usually throws away such gimmicks, but this one caught her eye: She had been pre-approved for a gold card with a $10,000 limit and a 12 percent annual percentage rate.

She thought the deal seemed too good to be true.

It was.

A closer look at the letter revealed this gold card had no Visa or MasterCard insignia, no bank affiliation, and no detailed terms of contract, a flyer that normally accompanies credit card offers.

There was no phone number to call for more information, and a second read of the offer raised even more suspicion: "Mail your $29.95 annual fee by check or money order by Sept. 18, 2000 along with this notice for immediate activation."

"It sounded like a scam: They wanted me to mail the proof back to them," Ms. Toole, an Augusta resident, said. "My boyfriend didn't believe me that this was a scam. I jumped on the Internet and came across the Web page."

It was not a Web page for CrediCorp Inc. of Dallas, Texas. It was a Web page from the Bad, Better and Best Business Bulletin Board warning consumers to beware of CrediCorp. Inc.

Published on the page were nine pages of complaints, concerns and confessions by people who felt they had been taken advantage of by this company.

The e-mails posted on the Web site were from Illinois, Michigan and other states, and almost all of them had the same basic message: Buyer beware.

One person who wrote in said the "credit card" that came in the mail was made of cardboard and the prices in the catalog that came with it were three times the price of the same item in local retail stores.

Ms. Toole said her boyfriend, confronted with the truth, admitted he probably would've sent the money and fallen for the scam.

"He couldn't believe it was a scam," Ms. Toole said.

Jere Bennett, president of the Augusta office of the Better Business Bureau, said it's the same old adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Mr. Bennett said the Dallas office of the Better Business Bureau lists the company in the "unsatisfactory" category.

CrediCorp opened in June 1990. The Dallas Better Business Bureau opened a complaint file in November 1990.

The Dallas file states: "The company offers to sell you a card to order merchandise from their catalog. It is not a general purpose credit card."

In putting the company in its "unsatisfactory" category, the Dallas bureau states the company has poor marketing practices. Specifically, it does not disclose that the gold card can be used only for ordering merchandise from the catalog.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the practice of guaranteeing a loan or other type of credit - but requiring the consumer to pay a fee before they apply - is illegal.

State Deputy Attorney General Daryl Robinson said he did not know of any complaints filed against the company, but that could be because the letter is just now circulating through the Georgia area.

CrediCorp does not have a listed phone number in the Dallas directory, and the number for the company listed in the Dallas file has been disconnected.

"I just hope no one gets taken advantage of," Ms. Toole said.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.


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