WASHINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - A scam in which telemarketers targeted elderly victims' bank accounts - stealing more than $20 million by impersonating government and bank officials through fake companies - was shut down by a U.S. court, the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday.
The scam took advantage of tens of thousands of people, many of them elderly, between May 2011 and December 2013, the FTC said. Some of that money was returned to the victims, the FTC added.
The FTC accused Ari Tietolman, Marc Ferry and others of setting up a boiler room in Canada to cold-call senior citizens and others, saying they were from the government or from the victim's bank and were selling fraud protection and pharmaceutical benefit services or other services.
Once the seniors were convinced to give their bank account information, the group would withdraw money without authorization, the FTC said.
The FTC said consumers often learned of the defendants' unauthorized debits only after noticing them on their bank statements, the complaint said.
Ferry and two defendants agreed to court-issued preliminary injunctions on March 27. Judge J. Curtis Joyner from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania imposed a preliminary injunction on a fourth that same day, ordering Tietolman to shut down pending trial.
The FTC said that the defendants violated the FTC Act and the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule.
"They targeted and called senior citizens and lied to them to get their bank account information. Then they used this information to withdraw money from their bank accounts," said Jessica Rich, director of the commission's bureau of consumer protection.
The shuttered companies had names such as First Consumers LLC and PowerPlay Industries LLC. Those companies, and the defendants, were not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernard Orr)