'Pre-Approved' Platinum Ploy

Mayumi Heene, left, leaves her home escorted by Larimer County Sheriffs Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009 in Fort Collins, Colo. Richard Heene, a storm-chasing inventor, met with sheriff's officials Saturday amid lingering questions about whether he perpetrated a big hoax when his 6-year-old son vanished into the rafters of his garage for five hours while the world thought he was zooming through the sky in a flying saucer-like helium balloon. (AP Photo/Will Powers)
AP Photo/Will Powers
Louise Seright never thought she'd qualify for a platinum credit card, but a postcard in the mail said she'd been pre-approved for a $4,000 credit limit.

"A stupid postcard!" she says.

As CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, she called the 800 number and got a line saying, "We are pleased to welcome you as a new platinum credit card holder."

Shiela Vives trained to read scripts like these to people like Louise, but quit the job when she realized the pitch was a scam.

"Thank you and use your credit wisely," she would say at the end of the pitch.

It would have been wiser to just hang up, but Louise gave them her bank account number and paid a $200 dollar "activation fee".

"They had my bank account number, you might as well say they had my money," says Seright.

"It was very deceptive," says La Shannon Bailey, who also worked the phones in the scheme targeting poor people with bad credit.

According to Bailey, those people would never get a credit card.

What customers do get is a platinum card -- but it's not a credit card at all. It comes with a catalog of overpriced trinkets. Customers can only use the card to buy these products -- that is if they put cash down first. In other words, the card is pretty much good for nothing.

A lawsuit filed last month accuses a man named Ricardo Martinez and three others of running this scam under many names: American Credit Solutions, Hartford Auto Club, Capital Choice Consumer Credit.

La Shannon worked the day shift in a Florida office alongside 100 others who were each to bring in six bank account numbers a day which the company would use over and over again, charging people like Louise for all sorts of phony services like an auto club membership. Trouble was ...

"I didn't have a car! There was no one here but me my eight plants and six fish and they don't drive," says Louise.

So for $200 she got a useless plastic card. For $99 more she got a cardboard card.

Martinez wouldn't come out of his gated Miami Beach mansion to answer our questions. But the gates may be closing in on him in two weeks when he is sentenced for mail fraud in another scam. As for his credit card scheme, the FTC is trying to shut him down and says there could be hundreds of thousands of victims.

These are some of the company names allegedly used for the scam, according to the lawsuit filed against Martinez:

American Credit Solutions, AIM Warehouse, Alini, International Market, AllCredit Savings, American Financial Savings Benefit, Assail, C.M.S., Consumer Marketing Services, American Financial Saving Benefits, Capital Choice Consumer Credit, Central Intel Communication, Continental Auto Rescue, Comcard America, Consumer Credit Solutions, Credit Processing Center, CreditMart, Ecommex Corporation, E-Credit Solutions, G.B.I., Global Banking Investments, Global Retrieval Systems, Minute Mega Saver, Hartford Auto Club, Household Protection, Infinity, Millennium Communications and Fulfillment, Multi Media, National Credit Service, National Credit Shopper, National Research Group, Nationwide Cellular, NCS, Platinum Plus, Premium Mega Saver, Merchandise Credit Shield 2000, VISA World, and Zentel Enterprises.