Former employees at Golden Senior Advisors said they were uncomfortable with the company’s telemarketing practices. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
Former employees of an embattled San Marcos company say accusations that the firm made illegal phone calls have merit.
Golden Senior Advisors (GSA) is the defendant in a civil suit filed by Oklahoma Attorney General W.A. Drew Edmondson in the Oklahoma County District Court Tuesday. GSA is accused of calling at least 28 Oklahomans who were registered with the state’s Telemarketer Restriction Act Consumer Registry (TRACR). The suit also alleges GSA violated state law by using automatic dialing devices. Oklahoma law requires live operators to initiate telemarketing calls.
“I felt uncomfortable to do some of things that were going on,” said Christine Amaral, former marketing director who terminated her employment with GSA months before the suit was filed. “I just didn’t feel comfortable in the atmosphere there. Several things would go on that we shouldn’t be doing.”
Amaral said she and other employees voiced concern on several occasions about the legality of the company’s telemarketing operation.
“I was uncomfortable doing what we were doing, and other employees were worried, as well,” Amaral said. “But management told us ‘It’s okay. Just do what we’re asking. If anyone will get in trouble, it’ll be us, not you.’ But no one ever got in trouble.”
On the website whocallsme.com, several United States residents have posted disapproving messages about GSA’s calling policy since the summer of 2008. Posters said GSA representatives blame computer glitches for the business tapping into numbers registered with the Do Not Call List.
A poster identifying himself as “Steve” wrote that he received 18 calls in three weeks. He notified AT&T, which was able to trace the number back to GSA. Steve said he spoke with GSA owner Cal Hero, informing him that GSA was in violation of the Do Not Call List.
“I called him and he gave my(sic) some sob story about ‘our computers are messed up and is having an error and dialing do not call numbers,’” Steve said in a post. “I informed him that there were numerous complaints posted and that if there is a ‘problem’ with his software then he needs to shut it down. I also informed to cease and stop any further calls from his company, or branches of his company. I also informed him that the phone call was recorded and that one more call from his company and I would sue. I also sent a cease and desist letter certified to him today. I will sue and everyone else should also. Also filed a complaint for each incident with the FCC and state’s attorney general.”
Chad Austin, a former GSA employee, said the company would knowingly use numbers off the “National Do Not Call List,” in efforts to attain more clients by producing employees with a bigger calling field.
“At least 25 percent of the calling leads would say, ‘I’m on the Do Not Call List, please don’t call again,’” Austin said. “We had automatic dialing computers calling numbers 12 hours a day, every day except on Sundays.”
Austin said four computers, each containing 48 calling lines, would continuously dial numbers providing employees with “leads” they could personally call back to set appointments with insurance agents.
“I would personally ask the owners if they wanted me to use the ‘National Do Not Call’ list when I started an auto dialer,” Austin said. “Sometimes they would say ‘yes’ and sometimes ‘no.’”
A GSA employee said Hero would not speak to the media about the accusations. Two other current GSA employees refused comment.
Oklahoma law indicates that GSA could face up to a $10,000 fine for each TRACR violation, and up to a $10,000 fine for each auto-dial violation.
“Oklahomans have made it clear that they do not wish to received unsolicited sales calls,” Edmondson said in a news release. “We are asking the court to enjoin GSA from further illegal telemarketing in Oklahoma and to assess a civil penalty against the company for the calls already made.”
GSA was founded in 2003 as a senior life and wholesale health marketing organization in the United States, according to its website. GSA claims its success is based on a relationship of “trust” with its brokers and agents, which is built on service.
“We assist agents in determining the appropriate senior life and health products for their clientele, and supply all the required information and support to bring a case to completion,” according to the GSA website.