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U.S. FTC halts robocalls from five companies that stole $30 million

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal judges in Arizona and Florida have temporarily closed five companies which allegedly used robocalls to find victims to defraud to the tune of $30 million, the Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday.

The move was the latest in an attempted crackdown by the agency on companies that pitch products, via autodialed phone calls, such as fraudulent credit card services or medical discount cards.

The companies, with names like Green Savers and Key One Solutions, LLC, hired dialing companies who used a woman who identifies herself as "Rachel" to pitch help in securing a lower credit card interest rate.

But people who agreed to use the companies' services paid several hundred dollars to $1,000 for what turned out to be little or no assistance, said Charles Harwood, deputy director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Judges agreed to temporarily shut down two companies in Arizona and three in Florida. The FTC's aim is to close them entirely.

The five companies made about $30 million in the two or three years that they were in operation, said Harwood, citing "early estimates."

Visa, which was sometimes contacted by credit card holders to get refunds after being defrauded, helped the FTC with its investigation, Harwood said.

The agency is also pursuing the companies which actually dialed people in their homes. "We are going after them. We have been going after them but it's hard to find them," said Harwood.

Officials with the companies, which also include Treasure Your Success, Ambrosia Web Design and A+ Financial Center, could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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